Snapshot: Jeremy Shaw-Munderback
By Katharine Dunn, Dean's Editorial Fellow
If you don't know Jeremy Shaw-Munderback, chances are you've seen him on campus. And if you see him on campus, chances are he'll say hello. Since enrolling in GSLIS in January 2008, Shaw-Munderback has been a visible, affable presence through his work as president of the ALA Student Chapter (ALASC) and other groups. This fall, he'll sit on one of the committees preparing the GSLIS Reaccreditation Program Presentation.
"The joke with some of my friends is that I now know everybody," he says. "That's not entirely true, but it's nice to be able to say hi to somebody, no matter where you are." Over spring break, he traveled to Berlin, Germany, where he met with librarians at the Free University and Humboldt University. Shaw-Munderback, who grew up in South Portland, Maine, works part-time at the reference desk aWheelock College and plans to work in academic libraries after he graduates in December.
Why did you decide to go to Berlin?
I have a longtime fascination with German culture. And I knew a little bit about how German libraries separate some books from their collections.
Where did you learn about that?
My ex-girlfriend was visiting my house for the first time. She was looking at my bookcase, and she spotted a copy of Mein Kampf on my shelf. This was less than a year after she moved back to the States from Germany, where she grew up. She said, "You can't have that book." She explained that in most parts of Germany, it's only for scholarly use. In some cases you need a professor to sign off, and you need to sign a waiver saying, "I need to read this book for such-and-such a purpose, and it's not going to be used for any ill or propaganda."
So Mein Kampf isn't for sale in Germany?
No. I bought it because I like to know all viewpoints of history. I knew what the Allies printed in terms of what Hitler was thinking. But I wanted to know what he was thinking, especially during his time in prison.
When you spoke with librarians in Berlin, what did they say about controversial materials?
They tended to bring up that they want to be extra careful because of their past. So anything having to do with WWII was pretty much in the special collections, anything with a fascist slant. At Humboldt, it's strict. They have the waivers, and you have to sit there with the book and return it before leaving.
"I'm a very firm believer that information should be open to anyone who wants it."
Do all the librarians speak English?
Yes, and some spoke more than that. One I met with spoke English very well, but she stopped and apologized that her English was poor because she had spent the last two weeks in Morocco speaking fluent French. In Berlin almost everyone speaks English. I wanted to practice my German, but as soon as they picked up that I was an English speaker, they'd want to practice their English.
Would you have to be fluent in German to work there?
How could you get a job there?
In Berlin, it's going to be very hard because there aren't a lot of openings, and there are a lot of people going into library school programs. One of the main reasons is that people are getting English degrees or history degrees and saying, "I can't do anything with that, let's go to library school." It's the same here. I was talking to the librarian at Humboldt, and he said that one of the jobs that might suit an American in Germany is negotiating with vendors, since most of them come from the U.S.
What kinds of jobs did you have before graduate school?
At the very beginning of college, I started working on cars. I did that for a year. Then I worked at a marina, cleaning boats for customers. I worked my way up to installing thousands of dollars of electronics equipment, like radar and GPS. Basically, the boats come in empty. The customers picked what they wanted, and I would put it in. I actually miss working with my hands now. When I moved down here, I set up my TV speakers/electronics in my apartment, and I never really took the time to make sure the wiring was nice and neat. It's really bugging me now. It's my project in the next week or so to go in and rewire everything so it looks nice.
You were the ALA student chapter president this year. What was your job?
When I came in [in summer 2008], it was almost a dead group. Most of the students had either graduated or moved on. At that time I was in my I-don't-talk-much phase, but I was working very hard on getting out more, which is one of the primary reasons I took over the position. I knew that I needed to meet more people.
I did raffles for ALA memberships for all the new student orientation days. I worked with several other groups last fall to do the Banned Books Week panel and set up a display in the library. Banned Books Week tries to bring attention to the fact that books in libraries are being challenged. I'm a very firm believer that information should be open to anyone who wants it. I get very irritated with people who say, "I don't like what's in this book so you should take it out of the library."