A Portal to Knowledge
Writer and literary scholar Shirley Geok-lin Lim is a distinguished professor emerita at UC Santa Barbara. During her tenure, from 1990 to 2012, Shirley used the UCSB Library regularly as she taught English, Asian American studies, creative writing, and feminist studies. By naming the library as a beneficiary of a percentage of her retirement plan, Shirley is establishing her campus legacy through two endowed funds that will support the library’s undergraduate student success programming and the California and Ethnic Multicultural Archive (CEMA) within Special Research Collections.
Shirley remembers annual trips to the UCSB Library with her 100-student classes. A librarian would guide her students through the Asian American studies research process, continually refining the resources and techniques. The Shirley Geok-lin Lim Fund for Undergraduate Student Success will help the UCSB Library provide students with innovative research services.
“My gratitude for the UCSB Library is deep,” said Shirley. “Faculty cannot teach without the library. If students never use library resources, they are not learning how to research. I am a strong believer in libraries from my own experience as a child and through my UCSB experience.”
As a child, the library was where Shirley went to read and learn. She would bike to the library in her seaside hometown of Malacca, Malaysia, where she could borrow two books from the children’s section and three books from the adult section. A few days later, she would bike back for another five.
She followed that love of reading to the United States as a Wein International Scholar and Fulbright Scholar to Brandeis in 1969, and earned her Ph.D. in British and American Literature in 1973. As a poor graduate student, she felt lucky to land a position in the South Bronx teaching community college, where she connected with her students’ eagerness to learn.
All the while, Shirley was writing poetry. With her book Crossing the Peninsula, she became the first woman and person of color to win the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. She has published ten poetry collections; three short story collections; two novels; a memoir; a children’s novel; and many critical academic contributions to her field. The UCSB Library houses her papers in the Special Research Collection’s California and Ethnic Multicultural Archive (CEMA).
Funds from the Shirley Geok-lin Lim Endowment for CEMA will provide annual perpetual support for CEMA-related activities, including collection acquisitions, preservation and digitization of CEMA holdings, plus increased programming that features notable CEMA materials and the research that is generated through collection access.
“On behalf of the Library, we are incredibly honored to be included in Professor Lim’s legacy planning,” said University Librarian Kristin Antelman. “As a faculty emerita, Professor Lim has seen over her long career the positive role the Library plays in student success and academic achievement. Her commitment to student success programming and CEMA is a testament to her deep belief in the academic library to nurture students in their scholarship and provide a place of community and connection.”
“The library is a completely open and welcoming space,” said Shirley. “Any student can go into the UCSB Library, and the research librarian will look up and simply see a student who needs help.”