Acting Consul General Dorj Bayarkhuu from the Mongolian Consulate of San Francisco formally presented the Order of Altan Gadas (the Order of the Polar Star) on behalf of the president of Mongolia to Wayne Richter of Western Libraries on May 6, 2015.
This award is the highest state honor given by the president of Mongolia to a foreign national in recognition of individuals who have provided exceptional assistance to Mongolia. Past recipients include Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and retired Western Washington University professor Henry Schwarz.
The quality and accessibility of the extraordinary Mongolian Studies Collection at Western Libraries is a result of the generosity of scholars such as Schwarz, Nicholas Poppe and John C. Street, and the valuable work of Wayne Richter. Richter is a nationally recognized expert in the creation and editing of bibliographic records for materials written in Mongolian and related languages, and he is the only cataloger in the United States who routinely creates national name authority records – work which involves considerable research in a field with only limited bibliographic and biographic resources.
Richter is an expert in the highly technical aspects of “MARC” encoding and the representation of non-Roman alphabet foreign language materials in online library catalogs. Using a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, ‘Strengthening Mongolian Language Resources in the United States’ in the early 1990’s, his work with bibliographic records allowed libraries worldwide to discover and request access to resources in the Mongolian Studies Collection at Western.
While noted for his great capacity for learning languages, including Mongolian, Uighur and Kazakh, Richter’s passion for the languages and cultures of Central Asia resulted from his undergraduate studies at Western, when he participated in one of the earliest “Western in Mongolia” summer programs. He later attended a Mongolian language course at Inner Mongolia University and then quickly transitioned from learning to teaching, introducing a credit course at Western in “Written Mongolian.”
His work in the highly specialized area of national standards for the Romanization of Mongolian and related languages has been recognized during his contacts with the Library of Congress, and the Committee on East Asian Libraries of the Association for Asian Studies. He has either developed or assisted in the development of Library of Congress standards for the Romanization of many languages and scripts, such as the Mongolian script, Uighur, Manchu, and Tod/Oirat/Old Kalmyk Romanization tables.
Richter also served as a consultant on the Unicode standards for Mongolian script for the International Standards Organization (ISO), which involved the encoding of Mongolian script for use in computer systems, a project made particularly complicated by the many disparities between modern pronunciation and traditional spellings encoded in Mongol script. Additionally, Richter developed some of the first fonts that allowed the display of Mongolian scripts on personal computers.
Richter has actively reached out to people who are interested in Mongolia and its cultures and languages, participates in meetings of the Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast, and is in regular contact with Mongolian scholars and librarians from other institutions who use Western’s collections. He regularly coordinates and leads tours of the Libraries’ Mongolian Studies Collection for a wide variety of individuals and groups, including Mongolian ambassadors to the U.S., U.S. Ambassadors to Mongolia, and many visiting scholars. Richter’s work to make resources available to scholars worldwide will impact Mongolian studies for decades to come.