February 16, 2018

Michael Neubert | Movers & Shakers 2004


Goodwill Ambassador


Michael Neubert came by his interest in Russian studies naturally. His father was a foreign service officer who was stationed in the Soviet Union. But when he received his M.A. in Soviet Studies, Neubert wasn’t sure how he’d make a living–until he read about the job opportunities for area studies librarians. He won an internship to the Library of Congress (LC), which then hired him as a reference specialist for Slavic materials. As the person who reviewed all the Russian titles the library received, he was in hog heaven. His work, as he had expected, revolved around books and periodicals.

He’s a little surprised how fast things have changed. Now his primary work is presiding over the creation of international collaborative digital projects at LC’s Global Gateway.

Neubert led the development of the first of these projects, Meeting of Frontiers, a site that tells the story of ‘American exploration and settlement of the West, the parallel exploration and settlement of Siberia and the Russian Far East, and the meeting of the Russian-American frontier in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.’ His supervisor, John Van Oudenaren, says that without Neubert’s ‘extraordinary efforts and abilities, it is doubtful that the project would have succeeded.’

The site is a collaboration between LC, the University of Alaska–Fairbanks, Russian State Library, National Library of Russia, and more than 20 other libraries and museums in Siberia and Russia. Neubert, who appears to have inherited his father’s instincts for diplomacy, made countless trips to Russia to negotiate cooperative arrangements and selection policy, manage Russian participation, create digitizing centers in Moscow and Siberia, provide training for the Russian staff, and shepherd delegations of Congressional funders. Neubert is now making similar partnership plans to build digital collections exploring the history of the Dutch presence in America and the history of Spanish expansion in North America.

Neubert’s familiarity with Russia’s libraries helped build these collaborations. In 1997, as an American Library Association/U.S. Information Agency Library Fellow, Neubert and his wife and three children spent nine months in Yekaterinburg, Russia. He traveled around the region as a ‘one-person continuing library education program,’ visiting libraries, giving interviews, and offering programs ‘on everything from reference interviews to fundraising and how to use the Internet (or at that time in Russia, why to use the Internet).’

Nonetheless, Neubert saw himself as having much to learn from Russian librarians. Despite the economic crisis, he thinks ‘the Russian federal and local governments understand the importance of libraries overall better than the average American jurisdiction.’

The format Neubert uses may have changed, but his job is still spreading knowledge and, coincidentally, goodwill.




Current Position: Reference Specialist, European Division and Team Leader for Global Gateway, Library of Congress
Degrees: MLS, University of Washington (UW), 1990; M.A. in International Studies, UW, 1986
Web Sites: Meeting of Frontiers international.loc.gov/intldl/mtfhtml/mfsplash.html
A record of his stay in Yekaterinburg, Russia: book.uraic.ru/neubert/ekat.htm
Keeping Fit: Bikes the ten miles to work every day from his home in Virginia