Chi Feng compares different versions of a same book. (Photo/Chi Feng)
Chi Feng compares different versions of a same book. (Photo/Chi Feng)
Published: May 22, 2020

This article is part of a series highlighting the graduate students selected for the 2020 Provost’s Fellowship for the University Libraries

Chi Feng, a graduate student in the Department of Asian Studies and Civilization, is a 2020 Provost Fellow with the University Libraries. A first-year graduate student pursuing her MA in Chinese, Feng used this fellowship to pair her interest in the academic scholarship of early China with strengthening records of rare Chinese books held in the Libraries’ collections.

Chi Feng

This semester, Feng researched the various editions of rare Chinese books held in the Libraries' collections. Feng saw this project as a rare opportunity to work with physical materials related to her field of study. 

“Nowadays, students get few chances to have physical contact with rare books unless they have received special training to work with primary source materials,” Feng said. “I believe this training would benefit all scholars wanting to study different editions of Chinese books, because each edition of a rare book contains subtleties that would be of interest to scholars.”

Feng's aim was to research the date, author, annotator and publisher, as well as identifying the edition and print method for each title. Feng received guidance from Chinese & Asian Studies Librarian Xiang Li and Head of Special Collections Deborah Hollis.

“This is a great example of what makes tactile learning with rare materials special,” Hollis said.  “Chi’s fellowship project underscores the Libraries’ unique role in creating teaching and research opportunities for CU Boulder students.”

Feng had to rethink her approach to working with the physical materials mid-semester as CU Boulder transitioned to remote learning. She knew she needed to spend wisely the little time she had left to work with the rare book collection.

“Before March, I had been working in Norlin Library for about two hours a day,” said Feng. “But when I heard about the pandemic, I spent about eight hours a day in Norlin with the Chinese rare book collection.”

Feng continued to catalog the collection to the best of her ability, taking images of important book details with her smartphone before the Libraries closed.  

“Chi’s passion, diligence and efficiency in her work on this project impressed me,” Chinese & Asian Studies Librarian Xiang Li said. “She has not only consulted a great deal of literature and research, but also actively reached out to experts and scholars in the Chinese studies field. She has successfully answered many difficult questions.”

Feng said that observing the daily work of an academic librarian has piqued her interest in library science. 

“Before this fellowship, librarians were sublime and mysterious people, but this semester I have experienced what it’s like to be a librarian,” said Feng. “Because of this experience, I feel in my heart that even more doors will open for me.”

The Provost’s Fellows for the University Libraries program is generously funded by the Provost, the Graduate Teacher Program, the Friends of the Libraries and the Dean of the Graduate School.