Have You Met... Weiwei Shi?

Meet Weiwei, Associate University Librarian and sports enthusiast.


Have you met Weiwei, Associate University Librarian? Spend a few minutes getting to know her better.

What is your first U of A memory?

I came to the University of Alberta in 2003 to pursue my master’s degree in the School of Library and Information Studies. It was a time of drastic change in my life, so there are so many memorable moments, but a small detail on campus holds a special place in my heart. 

The first time I stepped onto campus looking for the school, I was overwhelmed and as disoriented as one can be. Lost and anxious, I found the pay phone in front of HUB and got the school’s secretary on the phone. With my broken language, I had a hard time trying to make sense of what she was telling me while looking down at the map in my hand. I was stressed out, hands shaking, sweat running down my face. Then she said, “Look up. Tell me if you see a big blue mural with bright colours on a white building. You can’t miss it.” It was that moment — seeing that strikingly colourful mural under the beautiful blue Alberta sky — that still lives vividly in my mind. All of my anxieties calmed down at once. I felt that I was okay. I was no longer lost, knowing what she was saying and where I was. To this day, every time I walk past the Education building and look up at the mural, it brings a smile to my face. A sense of deep warmth emerges from my heart. To me, that mural was like a beacon — a symbol of guidance on campus. 

What’s something your coworkers don’t know about you?

Probably a few of my coworkers already know about this. I am an avid sports fan. Although the primary sport I play is keeping up with my two energetic young boys, I enjoy watching almost any sport: hockey, soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, football, curling, golf, darts — almost anything that plays on sports channels. 

Although I’ve grown fond of hockey and the Edmonton Oilers in recent years — we are in Oil Country after all! — soccer is still my favourite sport. I cheer for the Italian national team whenever they compete because I grew up watching Italian soccer league games. 

What’s your favourite distraction?

I am drawn to anything related to nature, no matter if it’s a thirty-minute walk in the river valley or a week-long mountain retreat with hiking and camping. I enjoy hiking, camping, stargazing, aurora chasing, fishing, gardening and birdwatching. As long as I can connect with nature, I am one happy camper. It is my best stress reliever and favourite distraction. 

If you were enrolling in one course, program or degree right now, what would it be?

There are many different subjects or disciplines I want to learn more about. I am looking into an MBA focusing on organizational strategy to further my leadership skills. I would also love to learn more about artificial intelligence and its ethical concerns. 

What’s a weird pet peeve you have?

Stickers on fruits and excessive packaging really make me cringe. 

You can invite anyone — alive or dead, real or fictional — to dinner. Who would it be? 

I am a big fan of a famous Chinese novel, Dream of the Red Chamber. It is a magnificent masterpiece — one of China's four great classical novels. It was written some time in the middle of the 18th century by Xueqin Cao, but he was unable to finish the book. Forty chapters of the original drafted manuscripts were lost forever. The author left hints in the first eighty chapters. The book was later completed by others, but the completed version ignored many important clues, modifying endings for characters based on traditional values. Thousands of researchers, scholars and historians over the years have tried to decipher those hints and piece together some plausible assumptions. But no one has been able to create a satisfactory version. I had my own idea of how the book should end, too. It would be a dream come true if I could invite Cao to dinner and discuss the meanings of his poems and subtle hints and find out the destinies of his characters.

If you could see any live performance tomorrow, what would it be?

At this point in the pandemic, any live performance or event would do! But being a sports fan, I would prefer a live sporting event to a performance. It would be a blast to watch a Euro Cup game or an Olympic event. 

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Be more confident and express yourself, and spend more time with your parents. 

I started my school two or three years younger than my classmates, and I was always physically behind. I was full of self-doubt, thinking everyone was better than me. I was shy and afraid to express myself. If I could go back in time to talk with that young girl, I’d tell her that all the sleepless nights spent worrying about other people’s perceptions and worrying about how to blend in were for nothing. Please have faith in yourself, and know your opinion matters. Speak up and never give up on the things that are important to you in order to please others.

My parents are my cornerstone, my best friends and biggest supporters. I am their only child and have lived thousands of miles away from them for the past 18 years. With the pandemic, I haven’t been able to see them in person for over two years now. I would let the 18-year-old me know that time with parents is the most blessed time of your life. Cherish every moment and spend as much time as you can with them.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

Books. How can a librarian live without books? But many of the books I read are in Chinese and in an electronic version. So, I guess I can’t live without the internet to access those books either. 

What three words describe your U of A experience?

Transformational, rewarding, challenging.

About Weiwei Shi

Weiwei is the Associate University Librarian for Cataloguing & Metadata Strategies, Information Technology Services, Indigenous Initiatives, and Strategic Partnerships at the University of Alberta Library. She moved from China for her master’s in library and information studies in 2003 and has called Edmonton and the U of A home for the past 18 years. She loves Chinese literature and writes traditional Chinese poems in her spare time. She is a mother of two, a cat lover, a nature adventure-seeker and a sports fan.