Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sept 11, 2005 IM chat: "Changing the World, One Friend at a Time"

Julian and Sarah beat me to the post. Julian even posted a transcript of the session.

Session started at 2pm (Singapore time). The session was scheduled for 1 hour but extended by 40mins because of the lively discussion.

We called the event "East Meets West" and the East did indeed meet the West (TRL in the East and JRL in the West; Singapore in the East and Sugargrove in the West). More than that, there was the meeting of minds, I think.

It wasn't even about September 11, per se.

In the end, it's clear that the adopted motto was, "Changing the World, One Friend at a Time" (adapted from Beverly's original comment: "maybe one friend at a time we can make the world more friendly and more like home")

Clinical analysis:
Total participants = 20 to 22, excluding NLB librarians/ staff. Of the 20 or so, 4 were from USA (offsite), 1 from Philippines (offsite), 15 from Singapore (2 logged in from offsite) and 2 offsite participants (location unknown).

Majority of the participants (75%) were under the age of 22 (so we had more teens!. The remaining were in the early 30s. The youngest was 11 years old, and the oldest was 45.
live Chat from Sugargrove
Beverly, Sugargrove PL, shares this photo of her at the laptop, IMing away. Her library stayed open at 1am on Sept 11.

If I were to categorise the discussion points, it might be as follows:
  • Food (favourite foods, what we consider as weird food, durian and how it taste like)
  • What we do in our free time
  • Difference between "Moslem" and "Muslim"
  • Do you think teens today have a goal in their life or just drift and get by?"
  • On teenagers leaving home when they reach adulthood
  • Influence of media on awareness of current affairs
  • On the recent hurricane disaster
  • What does it mean by making a difference in people's lives

I was moderator for the session and given the dynamics of the chat format, it could be tricky. I calculated that there were about 6 responses every minute, or one comment every 10 seconds.

Discussions did get sidetracked and there were side conversations but overall, participants stayed on track. Moderating the IM chat was essentially the same as a face-to-face discussion, except at a faster rate.

Selected quotes:
"the more we talk the more I see parallels in our lives - all these miles and cultures apart"

"Thanks for the clarifications re "muslim." we have a huge population in the philippines and there's been a lot of conflict--it's still there--but most of them live in the south, so i haven't had much contact."

The teens' response to the question of whether teens have goals in their lives:
  • "i think most teens i know, have some sort of goal...but its usually quite hazy"
  • "Goals seem to change as one grows up"
  • "parents are so caught up with their own work that they dont really give us much attention"

"i think that in Sugar Grove we understand very little of what life is like away from our country"

"understanding" seems to be such a BIG word now. i've been to the US and to singapore, but i don't remember actually having discussed cultural differences. i guess i just took it for granted that i was different... and left it at that."

"i think this was a great starting point for folks from singapore, philippines, india, and the US of A to meet and find out a little more about what it's like over in each other's country/culture, but maybe in future we could arrange for a more convenient time for those on the north american continent, so we don't outnumber them so badly."

"maybe one friend at a time we can make the world more friendly and more like home"

"thanks for presenting this idea to the world, or at least our corner of it"

I see the event as an example of the public library's role in proactively facilitating conversations and ideas beyond geographical boundaries. When we get comfortable doing that, the promotion of books, ideas and information can take place seamlessly. The number of participants isn't important. The quality of the conversations is. The transcript has a good record of that.

OK, it would be ungracious of me if I don't thank the following:
  • Kelana, Rachael, Hui Hong, Hwa Shan, Lin Li -- my colleagues who deserve ALL the credit for working on this event.
  • Beverly Holmes, Director Sugargrove Public Library, Chicago Illinois USA -- this inter-library event wouldn't have taken place without you.
  • Sarah & David, co-organisers of The September Project -- I'm indebted to your support thoughout.
  • Folks at, who posted about the event (or specifically, Preetam, ssf and cowboycaleb)
  • The participants -- Tracy, Alison, Vernon, Julian, Preetam, PJ, Alywin, Christopher, and those teens who didn't leave their names -- thank you for your participation. I truly, honestly think that you people are changing the world. You just don't know it yet.
I sound mushy, don't I?

Who cares?

Events like this humbles me. I realise -- again -- how small I am in the scheme of things. You don't pull such events off alone.

Events like this makes me proud to be a public service librarian.

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  1. Afterthought: This wouldn't have happened without technology/ Internet. And I didn't even think about it until now. A sign that IT is so much a part of our lives that we take for granted now?

  2. congratulations!

    it was truly mind-boggling. we can't change the world just like that, but we can certainly try.

    btw some of the links in the paragraph that starts with "The participants" seem to be messed up =)

  3. Thanks Von. Glad to have you in the discussion. It's the participants that made the event successful. [The bad links have been corrected]


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