Meet A Member: Whitney Zahar

Whitney ZaharWhere do you work?
Right now, I work in Taipei, Taiwan. But my family and I are world travelers, so who knows where we'll be next!

What is your current position?
I am currently an editor and writer at a publishing company that creates English learning materials. I am also a graduate student in Library and Information Science through San Jose State University's iSchool.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a librarian?
I've always wanted to be a librarian or some kind of cultural worker. When I was a kid, I arranged all of my books about space, my posters, and models on the dining room table to create my own "space museum." I've always felt comfortable in libraries and museums, where I was free to explore and read whatever I wanted. In middle school, I worked in the school library during my lunch period. So, the seed was planted very early!

What was your first library job?Technically, my first library job was when I was in 7th grade. I was in the school library a lot during my lunch break, reading books and hiding from school bullies. The librarians noticed and decided to take me under their wing. So, I was a library page in my school library during 7th and 8th grades. I haven't nailed a professional library job yet, but I have had a couple of volunteer positions. I volunteered as a librarian and archivist at an international school in Taipei and I've been a librarian for a grassroots art organization, also in Taipei.

What is your favorite part of librarianship?
So many things! I like the fact that being a librarian doesn't necessarily mean you have to be in a traditional library setting. That gives you so much flexibility to explore your interests. I love the number of different skills librarianship can give you to do the work you love. I also love the opportunities librarianship can provide to promote diversity and awareness of so many social issues. And yes, the books and working with people are great too!

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you on the job?
Maybe not so much funny, as very surprising and awesome. I volunteer with an organization in Taiwan called Red Room. It's an amazing group of expats and local Taiwanese who use the arts as a platform to cultivate active listening and tolerance. I edit their e-newsletter, I perform at some of their events, and I also function as their librarian. They have set up a small space in the room for their Reading Nook. We have filled it with books, games, art materials, and other items. We do children's programming, and what tickled me at our most recent event was seeing how many kids, including my son, using the Reading Nook and asking questions about it. It was amazing to see a place for learning and for creativity being used by our youngest audience!

If you could have anything in the universe installed in your office for your personal use, what would it be?
A replicator device like in "Star Trek," where I can request my favorite food and drinks, as well as any material I want for my library.

What is something your colleagues would be surprised to know about you?
There are quite a few things, but I think they would include: 1)I have four tattoos. 2)I am older than I look. 3)I do speak some Mandarin Chinese. 4) I am an avid and voracious Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy role-playing gamer.

Interview conducted by Gregg Grunow.
Want to be featured on Meet A Member? E-mail Gregg at [email protected].
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