Anastasia Chiu was the Resident Librarian at the Samuel L. Paley Library at Temple University from September 2015 – June 2017. She now works as a Cataloging and Metadata Librarian at Stony Brook University.
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you attend college? What degrees do you have? What programs (undergraduate or graduate) prepared you for your current position? Tell me about your position and what you do?
I got my BA from Wesleyan University in East Asian Studies. Like a lot of 19-year-olds who grow up in the US being identified as an “ethnic minority” without full awareness of what that means and how to own that for yourself, I had a typical desire to “know my roots.” At the time, I thought that Asian Studies was the next-best thing to Asian American Studies, which we didn’t have as a major. I didn’t know then that these are two very disparate fields, in origins and in purposes. At my current institution, I am the liaison to the Asian American Studies program, which is folded into one department with Asian Studies; I often feel both under-prepared and super-prepared for this work.
I got interested in librarianship when I was trying to write a senior thesis in undergrad. Librarians were basically holding me up the whole way, because I wasn’t well-taught in what research can look like or how to do it. I went to St. John’s University for my MSLIS, originally intending to concentrate in youth services because of the 2 years I worked in a children’s library, but eventually switching to academic.
As a Cataloging and Metadata Librarian, I work on cataloging for a bunch of physical formats, mostly music scores, audio, and video. I also work on metadata for digital collections, including cultural heritage and scholarly communication. As a subject liaison, I also teach, do reference, and work with campus faculty.
What caught your interest about the residency that you were a part of?
I liked that it was a rotational residency; it seemed like a good way for me to rack up more extended experience in cataloging and metadata work than what I had at the time. I also liked that it was in Philadelphia.
Before you became a resident, what were you thinking about doing professionally or academically?
Before I became a resident, I was just trying to get a foot in the door in academic librarianship, on my own terms. I was really interested in metadata for cultural heritage and digital scholarship, and in cataloging, but I got absolutely no offers for positions with those responsibilities. So much of my resume showed public services experience and interest, and I only got on-campus interviews for jobs in reference and instruction. I actually turned down an offer during that job hunt because it was, at the end of the day, an all-public-services position, and I worried that I’d never be able to move through academic librarianship on my own terms if I took it. That felt like a pretty extreme risk at the time, and I’m glad it worked out with my residency.
How was the residency or job application process for you?
The job hunt process before I took my residency was long. At the time, I preferred permanent-track positions over limited-term residencies. It took about a year for me to consider residencies as not just a possible choice, but a probable one for me to get my foot in the door in library technical services.
The application and interview process for the residency I ended up taking was fairly smooth. It was similar to other academic interviews I had at the time.
Do you have any comments or advice for current residents?
For librarians of color in residency programs, I have two things to say.
There are always going to be at least a few people who are confused about the nature of the residency position, and this can feed impostor syndrome. This is only magnified if you are the only librarian of color, or one of very few. So one of my hopes for you is that you can stay grounded in the truth that you are credentialed and qualified, and therefore you belong. I hope you can find or build a community who can help you hold onto this truth, around you or online.
Also, I’ve met a lot of residents who experience tension between finding ways to pursue their own interest, and doing whatever they’re assigned/asked. It’s very easy to fall into thinking that we have to demonstrate gratitude for being “given” a position, and we sometimes don’t end up giving our own interests and goals appropriate space; it gets even more complicated when we try to balance this with the common (usually good) advice to keep an open mind. So I’d like to affirm that your existing needs and interests have a place in your professional work. And I hope that you will find ways to pursue those and discover new interests in the course of the residency.
How are you becoming or staying involved with the wider profession?
I have been working on a book on how to build a library residency, with Jason Alston, Jay Colbert, and Lorelei Rutledge. It’ll be part of Rowman & Littlefield’s Practical Guides for Librarians series. I’m a jury member for ALCTS’s Lois Mai Chan Professional Development Grant this year, and I can’t wait to see who is coming up in metadata and cataloging. I’ve been involved in various association committees and working groups, including a couple with RIG; it was great to connect with other residents this way!