Staff profile: Chew Chiat Naun

How is cataloging similar to philosophy and engineering?

Who he is: Chew Chiat Naun, director of cataloging and metadata services

What he does: I manage the Library’s cataloging and metadata services unit in Library Technical Services.. We construct and manage metadata to make our collections accessible to a variety of users.

It’s sort of like an engineering job. You know your tools, your materials, your standards, your technology, and you try to build a framework that’s going to last. You’re creating something that will work over time in a range of environments and for a range of foreseeable and unforeseen uses. You try to do that within your time and budget constraints, and you try to build something that’s going to stand up. That’s how I think about my job.

Why it’s important: We have these great collections that are either unique, not held by anyone else, or perhaps are held widely and are in great demand. Our unit makes sure people know about these collections, both here at the university and elsewhere, so that people can use what we have and will continue to do so into the future.

Where he comes from: I was born in Australia, but I grew up in Malaysia and spent my childhood there. After that, my parents decided to return to Australia. I came to the United States about 12 years ago.

Background: I’ve always liked travel and hoped for a chance to work overseas, and coming here was a great opportunity. Australia is a long way from anywhere, so living here gives me a great opportunity to travel more and see more places.

Education: I have a library degree and a master’s degree in philosophy from Monash University in Australia. I think there’s a good affinity between what catalogers do and what philosophers do. It’s thinking systematically and analytically about things, and sometimes looking at a problem in perhaps not the most obvious way – that’s part of the appeal of my job.

Years at Cornell: I’ve been here seven months now. My experience so far is that it’s a very healthy organization where people work well together and get a lot done.

Best part of his job: I can only give a boring answer to that, which is that this is such a talented group of people. They work very well together. It’s part of the reason I went into libraries in the first place — they tend to be full of nice people who care deeply about their work.

In his spare time: I lead a quiet life. Though I’m not a musician, listening to classical music is very important to me. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Bach and Beethoven. I’m fine with small-town life, and Ithaca is not so small you can’t get the things you need. I like being close to New York City, too. It’s the best of both worlds.

Dream job: I never dreamt about some particular job. I’ve been very lucky with the ones I’ve had.

In this LibeScope series, interviews with library staff reveal their skills, talents, interests and backgrounds.