Thinking it would be more relevant and rewarding to delve deeper into academic libraries as I am currently working in one of them, it was not a hard choice for me when I looked at the provided list of hyperlinked environments. It was a pleasant surprise to see that my own working place, NYU Shanghai, was addressed in one of the readings. It definitely helped me make the decision to share my own perspective when it comes to librarianship in global universities as so much of the content resonates with me.

As a joint venture of New York University and East China Normal University, NYU Shanghai is unique in its identity. On the one hand, it adopts the education system from NYU and offers almost the same services and resources to provide seamless experience for faculty and students in their teaching and learning activities. On the other hand, it distinguishes itself from other American universities by its Chinese characters – the campus is based in Shanghai and has to be localized to meet different needs of its diverse community.

One of the things that caught my attention in Kenny and Li’s article is “engaging international students directly” (2016). At NYU Shanghai, 49% percent of the student body are international students. They come from different countries with different cultural backgrounds, but when they start the four-year journey in China, one thing they all need to learn is Chinese. At our library, it is not uncommon to see an international student approach the circulation desk with their Chinese textbook/workbook and ask a staff member to check their assignment or teach them pronunciation. Sometimes, students will reach us, handing out their cell phone, and ask us to talk to the person on the phone (usually a delivery guy or a taxi driver) and help address some common communication issues. Very often, to make things easier, we also teach students to use WeChat or Alipay to pay for their library fines, as both mobile payment methods are now the most widely accepted way of paying for basically anything in China. As the student worker supervisor in the Access Services team, I am also aware of the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive working environment for students, so we always offer job opportunities to students with various backgrounds, which also helps our library team to learn more about the community and improve our services with new perspectives.

Here’s one of the students sharing his experience at the 2018 commencement, and the speech vividly depicts the daily lives of international students at NYU Shanghai.

Christian Lauersen said “when the conditions for academia changes it should lead to action” (2016). This is especially true for a transnational university like NYU Shanghai in the face of a global pandemic. The NYU Libraries, including NYU Shanghai Library, have been collaborating and cooperating in so many ways since February when COVID-19 had its first outbreak in China. Faced with unprecedented circumstances, the Research and Instructional Technology team at NYU Shanghai Library was the first in the NYU Global Network to develop toolkits for distance learning, which was later utilized by other campuses. Library teams also worked together in areas like resource sharing, reopening guidelines, copyright, e-reserves, etc. From a personal perspective, the most important lesson I’ve learned from these past eight months is that empathy, support and collective efforts will always get us through the unimaginable difficulties. Librarianship in global universities should also encourage such collaboration and connection in their many branches and locations.


References

Kenney, A. R., & Li, X. (2016). Rethinking research libraries in the era of global universities. ITHAKA S+R. https://doi.org/10.18665/sr.283378

Lauersen, C. (2016, March 8). Towards Rubicon: the academic library and the importance of making a choice. The Library Lab. https://christianlauersen.net/2016/03/08/towards-rubicon/?utm_content=buffer42d5d&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

NYU Shanghai. (n.d.). https://shanghai.nyu.edu/

7 Comments on Reflection on Hyperlinked Environments – Academic Libraries

  1. I took a week-long vacation during the Chinese National Holiday just to recover from a chaotic September and a crazy recruiting season for on-campus jobs. So this post is a bit late. Hope to meet you in the new modules very soon!

  2. @yezhai2020, the part of your post that struck me most was your matter-of-fact statement that the Access Services team always offers jobs to a diversity of students because it aids in your team’s understanding of the community you serve. It sounds so common-sense, and yet this approach to hiring practices still doesn’t seem to come naturally to many U.S. libraries. A key way to demonstrate to library users that libraries are for everyone and that every person is welcome is to have everyone–or as close to everyone as possible–represented on staff. This is more doable in academic libraries, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be an aspiration for public ones as well. What an exciting place NYU Shanghai must be!

    • Hi Kay,
      Thank you for your comment. I am fortunate that this is like a common sense for us because our library and our university has a culture of diversity and inclusiveness. It’s in our blood. In the library, our staff consist of people from different cultural backgrounds and we want that to be the same for the student team. This year, unfortunately, we are not able to hire international students because very few of them managed to come back to China due to the COVID situation.
      I do think it’s harder to have a diverse staff when it comes to public libraries, but improving our cultural competency and reaching out to the underrepresented community may be one way to achieve that goal as well!

      Be well,
      Ye

  3. I find it really fascinating that 49% of the student body are international. There are so many great institutions around the globe and I will now do some research on NYU Shanghai. I also think that having Alipay or WeChat as alternative ways to pay for fines is awesome. I will say that moving towards a cashless society will be a trek but not impossible. I want to move towards that goal as well!

    • Thank you Stratos! It’s almost cashless for us here but we really need to be careful about our mobile devices because if they are lost, we are basically doomed for that day…but I think the world is moving towards that direction anyway. Looking forward to seeing more innovations coming up in the next few years!

  4. @yezhai2020 This: “From a personal perspective, the most important lesson I’ve learned from these past eight months is that empathy, support and collective efforts will always get us through the unimaginable difficulties.”

    Wowza that resonates. Everyone should take that lesson to heart. 🙂 Thnaks for writing this post!

    • Thank you Professor! I hope empathy, support and collective efforts also get everyone through these trying times.

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