Who or what is your pathfinder in life? One person claims it’s a book and the library is her treasure storage. She was recently appointed president of the Korean Biblia Society for Library and Information Science, an important position in Korean Library and Information Science. SMT reporters met Jang Yunkeum, Professor of Department of Library and Information Science, to gain a higher sense of academic learning passion.
What prompted you to major in Library and Information Science?
I’ve always been attracted to literature. Reading allowed me to enter a dream world and live through the characters in the stories. Because my love for reading and writing began early, I wanted to study literature. However, I also grew to love drawing as well, so when I combined my love of literature, art, information and technology, I realized my forte for library and information science, and hence chose this specialty.
What is the most interesting book you have ever read?
Park Kyungri’s ‘Land’ is the one that quickly comes to mind when asked this question. You can find it on display in the female author literature section at the Sookmyung Library as well. Seo Hee, the main character of ‘Land’, is a woman who survives her repressive era, living independently with a strong fighting spirit. The story clearly highlights the changing attitudes of women. The second book that impressed me is ‘What is History?’ by E. H. Carr. Many people say the author’s writing style is too difficult to comprehend, but I highly recommend it. To move from the present to the future, we need to know the past.
After graduating, instead of entering the workforce, you returned as a professor. What made you do so?
I didn’t see myself becoming a professor, but shortly after graduating I got married and left for the U.S. to study. My studies at Indiana University took me into the world of in depth learning and research about library and information science, especially as it relates to literature and information. The chairperson of the American Literature Committee has had a profound influence on me. I was really impressed by her passion for teaching, so I got inspired to complete my doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. It was from this time that I started teaching and fell in love with it. This passion brought about my decision to become a professor.
What was the first day of teaching like at Sookmyung?
I returned to Sookmyung as a professor 20 years after I’d left it as a student. It was quite an emotional time. My return also coincided with the department’s 30th anniversary and I was proud to be the department’s first alumna professor. In addition to personally taking pride in this fact, students in the department said it was exciting to take courses from an alumna of the department; the first time in 30 years.
What do the words ‘book’ and ‘library’ mean to you?
Last May, Sookmyung Women’s University held the exhibition ‘Happy Reading of my Life’. I participated in the exhibition along with 21 other professors. The exhibition introduced books recommend by professors and provided information on their significance. This is also mentioned in the exhibition as well. I hope you visit there. I personally think that the book means ‘Pathfinder’. The books in the series were guides to my path in life and developed my values and dream. When I think of the word library, I think of a place that is made up of a collection of pathfinder books.
Do you participate in any special program at Sookmyung? If so, please tell us all about it.
Yes. I started a book reading club when I was in my first year here. I read and participated in discussions on the books’ themes with others. It was great fun. I recommend reading at least 100 books before you graduate. However, go beyond merely reading the books. Also, don’t select books that will require deep analysis to understand the author’s intent, but instead choose books that will more enhance your appreciation and interest in the book. It will also strengthen your desire to actual want to read. Also, I recommend reading books that connect directly with your personality and or life. We are currently living in the 4th industrial era, so we need to nurture our pioneering spirit with creative ideas. Moreover, it is predicted that our life expectancy will now be 100 years, so to live pleasurably all those years, you will need various ideas and experiences. Books will be of great help. I firmly believe the first step down the road to one’s future is reading.
You’ve spent a long number of years studying outside of Korea. Would you please share with us any challenges or special encounters you had during those years?
As I mentioned before, I got married right after university and headed to the U.S. I had to balance my time as a student on one side and my time as a mother on the other. As a result, I suffered from chronic fatigue, but because I endured through the tiredness, others called me ‘tough cookie’. One day I felt so sleepy, I went to the ladies napping room to rest. I asked a friend to wake me in an hour. After tossing and turning for a short bit, I fell into a deep sleep. When my friend returned to wake me, I was so deep in sleep that I didn’t hear her, despite her pounding on the door. Fearing that I’d completely passed out from exhaustion, she got security to open the locked door. I was really tired at that time. In those days, I only cared about my studies and family. I neglected my health. I am trying to exercise, no matter how busy I am.
What would you say is the proudest moment in your life so far?
Last year, at the 66th UN DPI/NGO Conference in Gyeongju, May 30 to June 1, I participated in the conference along with 20 young spirited youths including many of our very own Sookmyung Women’s University students. It was the first time the UN DPI/NGO conference had ever been held in Asia. It discussed ‘global citizenship education’, and I was director of the next-generation department. Preparations required that the Korean representatives and the UN representatives have weekly Skype meeting. My accompanying 20 youths, besides participating in the conference, assumed important responsibilities like managing unexpectancies that popped up and leading small groups. I took great pleasure in seeing our future leaders develop and that those leaders were Sookmyung Women’s University students.
Is there anything you would like challenge in the future? We would like to know your goals and aspirations for the future.
Until recently, my job has led me to visit several ASEAN continents such as Africa and South America to head up leadership projects. I have met numerous children unable to attend school, but dream of doing so one day. I would like to actively help young girls from developing nations, those who are risk of being trafficked, achieve their dream of going to school. I’d like to host a variety of literacy programs as well as build libraries. Actually, I’ve already begun. This summer I went to Laos and Cambodia to host literacy programs.
Would you please leave some final words for Sookmyungians?
Dream. Whether it’s big or small, dream. Your days at university provide you with enormous opportunities to search for the hidden you. Consider how you can work for or change the world. Remember you will live to be 100, so keep a long-term view. Dream and passionately strive for your wants, big or small.
-Graduate of Department of Library and Information Science of Sookmyung University
-A Master’s degree from Indiana State University
-A Doctoral degree from University of Wisconsin
-Professor of Department of Library and Information Science of Sookmyung Women’s University