University of Illinois

Liu pursues interests in business, law, and librarianship

Posted: Aug. 21, 2013

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GSLIS master’s student Yan Liu has demonstrated time and again that she is dedicated to pursuing a career in librarianship and willing to put in the extra effort required to stand out from the crowd. Since moving from her home in Beijing to the United States to study library and information science at GSLIS, Liu’s dedication has garnered well-deserved attention and praise.

When Liu arrived at Illinois in 2012, she quickly immersed herself in the field of LIS. Taking four classes her first semester, she focused her coursework primarily on law and business librarianship. Her initial intention was to pursue a career as a law librarian, but she soon found that she enjoys business research and the variety and interactions that accompany work in the areas of reference and instruction.

“It seems that I’ve changed my original vision from when I decided to come here,” said Liu, who earned a bachelor’s degree in law at Harbin Engineering University and a master’s degree in law at Ningbo University before moving to the United States. Liu’s previous experience as a library research assistant at an American law firm’s branch office in China and as a content developer at LexisNexis China contributed to her career aspirations and also taught her that the profession of law librarianship is not as developed in China as it is in the US.

Liu chose to leave her home country to pursue her LIS education at GSLIS because of the course offerings in her interest areas and the reputation of the School’s faculty. “The courses that GSLIS offers are really dynamic and quite diverse in [terms of] the background of the professors here,” she said. “It’s very professional, and they have lots of experience both in research and as librarians.”

Liu has observed a wide range of diversity within the GSLIS student population, noting a variety of interests and educational backgrounds. “Many have PhD degrees . . . so I feel really inspired in each class. That was a surprise that I’ve enjoyed a lot.”

In addition to a heavy course load, Liu also works as a graduate research assistant at the University’s Online and Continuing Education office, handling copyright inquiries from faculty and instructional designers. Many online courses incorporate images and videos that must be usable under their copyright restrictions, and Liu identifies and contacts the copyright holders for permission. If no copyright holder can be found, or if permission is not given, Liu works to find a suitable replacement in the public domain or through a Creative Commons license.

Her experience and commitment to furthering her education have not escaped the notice of Liu’s instructors. “I enjoyed watching Yan Liu grow as a student in our section of 502 [Libraries, Information, and Society],” said Assistant Professor Bonnie Mak. “The other students in class quickly came to respect her for her serious and measured insights. Determined and motivated, she is not afraid to grapple with the challenges of librarianship in the twenty-first century.”

Liu’s achievements also have drawn notice from professionals through her membership in the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA) and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). She recently was awarded CALA’s Sheila Suen Lai Scholarship of Library and Information Science in recognition of her outstanding academic achievements. In addition to financial support, this scholarship provided Liu with opportunities to grow in a professional capacity: she was invited to volunteer at CALA’s recent annual meeting, where she networked with other CALA members.

“Lots of Chinese librarians share their experiences and insights about this profession. It’s really very helpful,” said Liu, crediting the importance of this group of professionals in career development, guidance, and mentoring.

With only one class needed to complete her master’s degree, Liu plans to spend time this fall working to gain practical experience through an internship or practicum. She hopes to graduate in December and pursue a position as a law, business, or reference and instruction librarian in the US.


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