A dynamic organization devoted to library services for the East Asian studies communities in North America since 1958.

Featured member: Cecilia Zhang

Photo of Cecilia ZhangCecilia Zhang (she/they), or Liuyi Zhang in Chinese, has been the Chinese Studies Librarian at the University of Kansas since August 2022.

How did your journey in working with East Asian libraries and collections begin? Were there any opportunities that encouraged you to step into the East Asian Studies Librarianship?

I studied at the University of Toronto for my bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies and a master’s degree in art history focusing on Chinese visual culture, so I was familiar with the East Asian library and was lucky to be acquainted with several librarians there when I was a student. Naturally, becoming an East Asian librarian is the best fitted career after my graduation due to my educational background and language skill. 

What do you enjoy most about your career in East Asian librarianship so far?

There are many things that I have been really enjoying doing since the beginning of my career, so I am going to limit them to two points.

  1. I enjoy doing collection development. As a book lover and a heavy reader, I always enjoy buying books for myself. Becoming a librarian allows me to purchase and collect books for our patrons, recommend books to students, navigate patrons on how to find useful books. 
  2. I enjoy answering reference questions. I enjoyed doing research when I was a student. As a librarian, I enjoy helping students with their research projects. I am happy to help them narrow down their research topics, suggesting some critical perspectives, and teach them how to find sources. 
What would you like to achieve/accomplish in the next 5 years? 

Currently, I am interested in two big topics. One is the diversity, inclusion, and equity (DEI) in both academic libraries in general and East Asian libraries in North America. I am interested in bringing up critical perspectives (such as Race, Class, Feminist and Queer approaches) within librarianship. The other one is the Digital Humanities project. Moreover, KU has several Chinese rare books in our collection, so I would like to seek opportunities to digitize these rare books, too. However, I do not believe these can be achieved within 5 years. 

What excites you in the development of East Asian librarianship in the future?

What excites me the most is the technological development in the future, such as AI technology and ChatGPT. Although it is still debatable and controversial, I believe that AI definitely will take part in shifting our information behaviors and research strategies in the near future, no matter in a good or bad way. I am, on the one hand, excited to witness this change, and on the other hand, feeling frustrated about how East Asian librarianship will be changed by recent technologies. We are standing on the threshold of a new information age currently, and I am both excited and worried about the future.  

Any particular professional area(s) or direction(s), ie. digital humanities, library consortia initiatives, etc. that catches your interest and that you want to further explore?

As mentioned earlier, I am interested in Digital Humanities and digitizing collections. I am also interested in Digital Humanities projects on archiving the history of East Asian libraries and East Asian librarians in North America, and the history of learning Chinese language in the Kansas area. 

Tell us some fun facts about you:

I am a heavy reader. Wherever I go, I always bring books or e-books with me. I read in English, Chinese and Japanese on diverse topics, such as literature, contemporary novels, non-fiction, history, social science, Feminism, nature, and Space. I am a host of a book recommendation podcast in Chinese named: 普通读者, or The Common Reader, taking from Virginia Woolf. I am a huge fan of the public library, too.

I also love Japanese pop culture and have been absorbing myself in it since I was a teenager. Japanese manga, anime, TV dramas, Owarai, and Variety shows are one of my identities.