Review on Film Screening and Discussion: Mary Elizabeth Wood

On April 21, 2023, DKU Library held the film screening and discussion of Mary Elizabeth Wood (《韦棣华》), followed by the film advisor Dr. Huanwen Cheng’s commentary.

Film Screening and Discussion group photo (Photo credit: Jiayi Wang)

Dr. Cheng is a professor and a doctoral supervisor of the School of Information Management, Sun Yat-sen University. He had been the University Librarian of Sun Yat-sen University for twenty-one years (1998-2019). He is currently a Vice President of the Library Society of China, and Vice Chairman of the Steering Committee of Academic Library and Information Service of the Institution of Higher Learning, the Ministry of Education of China.

Mary Elizabeth Wood (August 22, 1861 – May 1, 1931) was an American librarian and missionary of the Episcopal Church. She was the pioneer in promoting Western modern librarianship practices and programs in China. She was the founder of the first library school in China, the Boone Library School, and she was eager in promoting the development of Chinese librarianship by giving courses on library science.  Ms. Wood was praised by the then President of China Li Yuanhong as “The Queen of the Modern Library Movement in China” for her significant role in Chinese modern education.

However, Ms. Wood’s personal life remains obscure and modest. Dr. Cheng was interested in Ms. Wood’s personal experience during his study in Wuhan University. Since there were not many accounts on Ms. Wood’s life, he was strived to reconstruct her life experience in the U.S. and China. The documentary follows his steps in finding traces of Ms. Wood’s life in various areas, from her early life in the U.S., to her devotion in modern librarianship in China. Dr Cheng visited libraries, archives for the original sources, and interviewed people for their knowledge and impression of Ms. Wood.

Dr. Cheng in the Film Screening (Photo credit: Jiayi Wang)

From Dr. Cheng’s trip and discovery, we can learn Ms. Wood’s great contribution in developing Chinese librarianship and promoting modern education. Her practice in librarianship also reflects the spirit of her philosophy in librarianship, showing equality, openness, and fraternity. 

The documentary proves to be a great practice for it fills the gap in the study of Chinese librarianship, and the story of Ms. Wood is a splendid example of friendship between China and the U.S.

Dr. Cheng shares his commentary (Photo credit: Jiayi Wang)

The commentary part was well-received by the fellow librarians. They were touched by Ms. Wood’s practice and her spirit in librarianship, and Dr. Cheng’s years of contribution to rediscovering and reconstructing her stories.