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

Featured member: Sharon Domier

Sharon Domier (she/her) has been the East Asian Studies Librarian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for 28 years. She has also spent part of her time at Amherst College and Smith College looking after their East Asian language materials and helping faculty and students.

How did your journey in working with East Asian libraries and collections begin?

I graduated from the University of Alberta’s library and information science program in 1989. I started that degree in 1985 and in the spring of 1986, I went to the University of Library and Information Studies in Tsukuba on a Ministry of Education scholarship and earned a master’s degree. When I graduated from ULIS I went back to the University of Alberta and finished my degree there, so I was qualified to work as a librarian.

Just as I was about to graduate there were 3 jobs for Japanese studies librarians – a cataloging position, a reference position, and a collection development position. I took the cataloging position at the University of Oregon because I knew I had a lot to learn in the field. After a few years, I moved to cataloging at Ohio State University for a year. Then I had an opportunity to work as a public service librarian in Japan, so I took that job and spent 2 years in Miyazaki. When that post ended, I took the grant funded position at the University of Massachusetts and it turned into my dream job.

What did you enjoy most about your career in East Asian librarianship?

I love working with the undergraduate and master’s students who are just learning how to use Japanese language sources for their research. I also enjoy untangling research problems and finding unusual sources for scholars. The odder the question the more fun I have helping the person. I get questions from all kinds of people – on Facebook, Twitter, by email – and often get referrals from other librarians because I always think outside the box.

What did you regard as your achievements/accomplishments in the field?

I represented small collections on the National Coordinating Committee on Japanese Library Resources when we went to Japan to request access to Japanese databases and ILL. As a result of those efforts, we established the Global ILL Framework that let us request interlibrary loan from Japanese university libraries, which was a game changer for a small collection like the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Tied to those agreements, I also taught a lot of hands-on training workshops across the country on how to search Japanese databases and how to read citations correctly to request ILL.

More recently, I think that I was one of the leading proponents among the CEAL librarians to create extensive reading collections for Japanese, Chinese, and Korean language learners in academic libraries. It has been so much fun to see how different libraries have worked with the language instructors to get language learners into the library and to read in their target languages.

What change(s) and trend(s) in East Asian librarianship had you witnessed and envisioned?

East Asian librarianship has changed so much and yet not at all. We are less about building deep collections that only serve our own users and more about carefully stewarding our collections so that users can get what they need when they need it. There used to be a huge culture shock when newly minted Ph.D.s graduated and took their tenure track positions at smaller universities. They were so used to the librarians at Harvard, Yale, Columbia… looking after their every need, that they didn’t know what to do when they arrived at a small liberal arts college with no CJK collections.

There are now East Asian studies scholars at small colleges everywhere in North America, but very few of those librarians hire librarians who have the knowledge of Chinese, Japanese, and/or Korean publishing and research to help them. I had hoped that there would be more positions like mine that are shared among institutions so that the libraries could benefit from knowledge about the field. So far though, there have only been a few. I am probably the longest serving of them all.

Tell us about your favorite book or series:

Well, that is a good question. I tend to read middle-grade fiction and look for series that have librarians as heroines. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Tell us some fun facts about you:

I have since taken out U.S. citizenship, but for many years I was a Canadian living in the United States working as a Japanese librarian. Thanks to doing a favor for a Japanese librarian at an international conference, I was invited to serve on an editorial board of a Japanese academic library journal and had my way paid to attend editorial board meetings two or three times a year in Japan for almost 15 years. I have probably visited more libraries in Japan than any other Japanese studies librarian I know. Each year for 25 years I have given a talk to the Umass Amherst Introduction to Japanese Arts and Culture class on the Aesthetics of Japanese toilets. I have a lot of props and books and images. Let me know if you are interested in talking about toilets 😊