VOL. 133 | NO. 148 | Friday, July 27, 2018
Glasgow Finds All the Answers in Her Second Home
Anna Cox Thompson
Memphis stands at the threshold of incredible possibility. In this series, we introduce innovative Memphians who are driving our city forward and forging its future success.
Born in Shanghai, China, Wang-Ying Glasgow always knew she wanted to come to the United States. Whether it was to advance her degrees, which she says is a must to be successful in China, or as an interpreter, it was only a matter of when.
But when she met American Jeff Glasgow while still a student in China, her path quickly changed course. They were married upon her graduation, and Jeff came back to America to teach in Virginia, bringing his new wife with him.
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Glasgow came to find that her passion for the English language wasn’t exactly a prerequisite for a job.
Wang-Ying Glasgow (Antwoine McClellan)
“I always wanted to have a job as an interpreter or language instructor teaching English as a second language. But when I came to the United States, I quickly discovered that no one wants to learn English from me,” she says with a laugh. “Everybody already speaks English.”
She landed her first job at a library in the early ’90s, and things started to fall into place. Under the guidance of her library director, she was able to attend conferences and learn about automated inter-library loan exchanges — a new technology at the time.
When her husband found another teaching job in South Carolina, Glasgow went happily. But she met another road block when she couldn’t snag an interview due to her lack of a library sciences degree.
“That made me so mad, and I decided right then to enroll for my degree,” Glasgow says. The decision proved fruitful as she landed a job offer in Memphis before she had completed the program.
“After graduation, we moved to Memphis. My husband’s family is from Middle Tennessee, so I applied thinking Memphis was the largest city nearby,” she says. “That started my career here, 24 years ago, and I never looked back.”
She began her career at the “LINC 2-1-1” department.
“This was in the mid-90s, prior to internet age, so everyone in the city called that place for answers to their questions,” she says. “We still answer a lot of questions, but then, there was no other resource. As a librarian, I didn’t have to know the answers; I just had to know where to find it!”
Her career with the Memphis Public Library system has included various positions and branches over the years before she took on her current role as adult services coordinator.
“We believe that learning and literacy improves people’s quality of life from cradle to rocking chair,” she explains. “We provide programs for all ages. I joke that my position is a ‘jack of all trades’ dealing with subject matters of all kinds. If you need to know the answer, (the library has) the answers.”
One such program is free tax readiness in partnership with AARP and The United Way of the Mid-South, offering services, and potentially refunds, to seniors and families who can’t otherwise afford them.
Another library service falls directly in line with Glasgow’s passion for immigration.
“The Cordova Branch Library started an international story time as well as ESL classes. Here at the Central Library, we have two naturalization ceremonies every year,” she says. “I’ve seen people from 50 or more countries come here to this location to become American citizens, which is powerful for me.”
Continuing this work, Glasgow secured a grant for the six-part documentary, “Becoming American,” accompanied by a scholar-led discussion available this fall.
“Memphis is my second home,” she says. “I’ve been here longer than I was ever in Shanghai. When I came here in 1994, I didn’t know many Chinese (people), but now there is such a network. The city has become so diverse. There are activities, restaurants and associations to plug into. It’s wonderful to see.”
Wang-Ying Glasgow is a graduate of New Memphis’ Fellows program. Learn more at newmemphis.org.