Runxiao Zhu (she/her/hers) has been the East Asian Studies Librarian at the Oberlin College Libraries for seven years now.
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?
When I was a graduate student at Columbia, there was this great opportunity to work with the former Tibetan Studies Librarian Dr. Lauren Hartley on the Tibetan Collection at the C.V. Starr Library. I was extremely fortunate to have both Sarah Elman and Lauren as my mentors when I worked there. This unique experience made me realize that librarianship is a better and alternative path for me to work in academia.
I was also very lucky to work at the Elling O. Eide Research Library in Sarasota, Florida as my first professional librarian job. My mentor, Mrs. Cindy Peterson inspired me to better prepare myself in the field of East Asian Librarianship.
What do you enjoy most about your career in East Asian librarianship so far?
There are many things in my career as an East Asian librarian I enjoyed so much. Two things in particular:
At CEAL, the seniors (qian bei 前辈) in the East Asian Librarianship, their generous support always guide me through the highs and lows;
At Oberlin, the students, their wits, and wisdom always make me realize there is so much I don’t know about.
What would you like to achieve/accomplish in the next 5 years?
Big thanks to two of my predecessors Mr. Jiann Lin and Xi Chen. They helped to lay many good groundworks for me at Oberlin, I am able to move forward on other projects. I am hoping to prioritize two digital projects from our special collections in the next 5 years – Mary A. Ainsworth Japanese Illustrated Books Collection and Printing Culture Collection.
What excites you about the development of East Asian librarianship in the future?
It may sound weird. I find changes and uncertainty can excite me. Changes always bring challenges and opportunities, it depends on how we see the change. Uncertainty can help us prepared and motivate us to act proactively.
East Asian librarianship is a very niche field. We, as East Asian librarians, how to not only continue the legacy our predecessors left, but also to carry forward with changes and uncertainty in the future is very important.
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?
I think it will be great to have more involvement in library consortia initiatives. The market of ILS system is dominated by a very small number of vendors. I always want to know whether there is any interest/chance for medium to small-size East Asian collections/libraries to work together to explore more consortia opportunities in database subscriptions, printed collection acquisitions, etc.
Tell us some fun facts about you:
Fun facts are always difficult for me to pin down. Something I like may seem boring to others.
I like to travel in the Wild West or to a remote place in Asia or South America; I like British crime shows and podcasts on serial killers; I like cooking but hate baking because I never follow a recipe so precisely. I like art, but I am music illiterate. Oh, if you love antique furniture or vintage clothes, we should talk. My favorite eras for furniture are mid-century modern, and the clothes are from the 20s and the 60s.