Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Self-analysis of books & magazines read in 2005

Finally managed to compile a list of items I read in 2005. It started off as a simple list but after reading some other librarians' blogs (I forgot which ones), I noticed they included an analysis of the types of materials read, subjects etc. Pretty useful so I decided to take a bit more time to compile the list.

Summary as follows:
  • Total items read in 2005 = 91 items
  • Fiction Vs Non-fiction = 79% Fiction Vs. 21% Non-fiction
  • Subject composition (top 3 in terms of %) = Fantasy 23%, Science Fiction 23% (21 items each); Society/ Contemporary Fiction 15% (14 items); Military 4%, Art 4%, Science 4% (4 items each)
  • Items from Singapore Collection = 9 (10% of total read)
  • Formats = Books 48% (44 books), Magazines 12% (11 magazines), Graphic Novels 40% (36 graphic novels)
  • Value of items as per Amazon.com prices (excluding Out of Print items) = USD$1,019.13 (or SGD$1,654.35, as at 28 Feb 06 conversion rates)

I'm glad I took time to analyse my reading list. For one, it's apparent that I read a lot less Business-related materials compared to last two years.

Comics/ Graphic Novels made up 40% of total items read. I knew I read alot more Graphic Novels than previous years but I didn't know it was that much! In 2005, I deliberately picked Graphic Novels as a sort of informal "genre self-study". I must have enjoyed them so much that I read more and more of them. They were easy-reading materials (work was particularly stressful last

Fantasy and Science Fiction was still my choice of Fiction genres. I used the term "Society/Comtemporary Fiction" to broadly categorise works of fiction that dealt with social issues (maybe I need to delve deeper since the term could be too broad for analysis).

Out of curiosity, I decided to find out the value of the items (using Amazon.com as the guage), and it came up to be just over USD$1,000. Without our public libraries, I would never have read this much in terms of quantity and monetary value (and this dollar amount is just the purchase price, nevermind the intangible value of the ideas and leisure derived from them).

Another observation for 2005 -- I definitely read less books compared to previous years (excluding Graphic Novels), and one big reason was Blogging and reading RSS feeds. Looking at the books read per month, there was a huge gap from Jan to Mar 2005. My readings only picked up from April 2005 onwards.

Hardly surprising. Blogging and reading RSS feeds takes up whatever time available for reading. However I don't see this as a bad thing since my Reading Diet is a heck of alot richer now that it's supplemented by blogs, and by writing/ blogging.

Parting question - I wonder if other bloggers also find that they are reading less than before, because they are spending some of that time blogging.


Monday, February 27, 2006

MLA (UK) launches web resource on disability information and learning for public library staff

From "24 Hour Museum" (UK) webpage, 17 Feb 2006:
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) has launched a new web resource to provide information and learning for public library staff relating to access and equal opportunities for disabled people...

... the resource aims to improve access to libraries and library services for people with disabilities by supporting the staff who work with them. It does this through a range of resources including learning modules, case studies and background materials...

The resource includes a set of ten learning modules, which together form a flexible self-study package, to be used by individuals and groups from front-line staff to senior management.

Here's the full article.

Something that Public Libraries in Singapore could strive to do... in fact, it's something I'd want to incorporate into the workplans within the next five years for my team. I've got to give this more thought.


The National Museum is "Officially Sexy"

"Sexy" is what FHM called the new look of the soon to be re-opened 118-year-old National Museum. Read the post at Yesterday.SG.

FHM is better known locally for featuring sexy scintillating models on and within its covers, albeit considered tame by some when compared to international editions. Nonetheless, if FHM says it's gonna be sexy, I'm going to take their word for it.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Discovering Rajaratnam -- more books & other works

I learnt from the Singapore Heritage email list that the Singapore and Southeast Asian librarians from LKCRL have put together a display of works by and about the late Sinnathamby Rajaratnam (or S. Rajaratnam, as most people know him) on the Singapore and Southeast Asia floor (Level 11). Drop by the National Library at Victoria Street if you're interested.

My colleague, Timothy, also explained the following in his post to the email list:
Unfortunately we had to make the decision not to include his articles from the Tribune, Standard, Raayat & Straits Times - there were simply too many from his 11 years of journalism. We also skipped covering the a2o material.

I've taken the liberty of re-posting the list of works on display (list credited to Alex Ong). If you've questions on how to get hold of the items listed, please feel free to ask the librarians or staff on duty at LKCRL.



Ang Hwee Suan (Ed.). (1991). Dialogues with S. Rajaratnam: Former Senior Minister in the Prime Minister's Office (Lee Seng Giap trans.). Singapore: Shin Min Daily News. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 RAJ)

Chew, Melanie. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, pp. 151-158. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 CHE)

Hong Lysa. (1999). Making the history of Singapore: S. Rajaratnam and CV Devan Nair. In Lam Peng Er & Kevin YL Tan (Eds.), Lee's lieutenants:Singapore's old guard. Australia: Allen & Unwin. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)

Low Kar Tiang (Ed.). (2003). Who's who in Singapore. Singapore: Who's Who. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)

Rajaratnam, S. (1964). Malaysia and the world. Singapore: Ministry of Culture. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.5 RAJ)

Rajaratnam, S. (1966). Asia's unfinished revolution. Singapore: Ministry of Culture. (Call no.: RSING 950 RAJ)

Rajaratnam, S. (1987). The prophetic & the political: Selected speeches and writings of S. Rajaratnam (Chan Heng Chee & Obaid ul Haq eds.). Singapore: Graham Brash. (Call no.: SING/RSING 320.95957 RAJ)

Singapore Chronicles: A special commemorative history of Singapore (pp. 36-37). (1995). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine. (Call no.: SING/RSING 959.57 SIN)

Speeches and Journal Articles

ASEAN - slow and steady. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 1, no. 1, Jul 1977. (Call no.: RSING/RCLOS 354.5957035 S)

ASEAN in a changing world. (Speech at the opening session of the 10th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, 6 Jul 1977.) Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 1, no. 2, Aug 1977.

ASEAN demonstrates working system. (Speech at the Asia Society's Conference for American Business on ASEAN, New York, 4 Oct 1977.) Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 1, no. 5, Nov 1977.

Future role of US in ASEAN's economic development. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 1, no. 5, Nov 1977.

West Asia - Southeast Asia dialogue. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 1, no. 6, Dec 1977.

ASEAN: headway in regional cooperation (Speech at the 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting). Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 2, no. 1, Jul 1978.

Economics of the global contest. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 2, no. 3, Sep 1978.

Old maps in a new age. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 2, no. 8, Feb 1979.

Vietnam's designs. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 3, no. 1, Jul 1979.

Importance of individual and social morality. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 3, no. 9, Mar 1980.

What are the Soviets up to? Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 3, no. 10, Apr 1980.

The 21st century could be a Soviet century. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 3, no. 11, May 1980.

Which is the better system - capitalism or communism? Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 3, no.11, May 1980.

Vietnam: from construction to war. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 3, no. 6, no. 12, Jun 1980.

Vietnamese: victims of the rooster fallacy. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 3, no. 12, Jun 1980.

The man behind the camera. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 4, no. 1, Jul 1980.

Vietnam and the elephant problem. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 4, no. 1, Jul 1980.

It's later than you think, America. Speeches, vol. 4, no. 5, Nov 1980.

The basis of foreign policy. Speeches, vol. 4, no. 8, Feb 1981.

The weakness of Western democracy. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 4, no. 9, Mar 1981.

Everybody should be taught political morality. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 4, no. 10, Apr 1981.

How money ought to be used. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 1, Jul 1981.

Mass media - it gives what you ask for. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 1, Jul 1981.

Audio-visual photography - a new medium of expression. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 2, Aug 81.

It is our duty to look after our parents. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 3, Sep 1981.

Soviets are bent on world domination. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 5, Nov 1981.

Soviet bears and Yogi bears. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 5, Nov 1981.

Making the most of old age. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 6, Dec 1981.

Happy pigs or unhappy men? Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 7, Jan 1982.

How good government should be judged. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 9, Mar 1982.

The human factor in war. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 10, Apr 1982.

Singapore's method of governing. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 11, May 1982.

Role of the bureaucracy. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 5, no. 12, Jun 1982.

Who will dominate the era of the new technological society? Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 6, no. 1, Jul 1982.

The young shape and mould the future. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 6, no. 2, Aug 1982.

Leaders of men and leaders of hogs. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 6, no. 2, Aug 1982.

Nine months of "fun and games" politics. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 6, no. 3, Sep 1982.

Future-oriented and nationalistic leadership. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan-Jun 1983.

The non-aligned movement: analysis of its present development. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 7, no. 1, Jan-Jun 1983.

Asia should look realities in the face. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 7, no. 2, Jul-Aug 1983.

The uses and abuses of the past. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 8, no. 2, Mar-Apr 1984.

Life-and-death struggle with communists in 1950s-60's. (Speech delivered at the Pre-University Seminar on Birth of a Nation - Singapore in the 1950s, 18 Jun 1984.) Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 8, no. 3, May-Jun 1984.

The real issues of the aged. Speeches: A monthly collection of ministerial speeches, vol. 8, no. 4, Jul-Aug 1984.

ASEAN's economic role in the Pacific. Asia Pacific record, vol. 1, no. 8, Nov 1970, pp. 4-13. (RCLOS 320.95 APR)

The Commonwealth in the seventies. Asia Pacific record, vol. 1, no 11, Feb 1971, pp 12- 15.

Progress towards co-operation not negligible. Asia Pacific record, vol. 2, no. 1, Apr 1971, pp. 4-7.

South-east Asia after Vietnam. Asia research bulletin, vol. 2, Dec 1972, pp. 1375-1377. (Call no.: RSING 950.05 ARB)

Opening address in Vasey, L. R. and Viksnins, G. J. Economic and political growth pattern of Asia-Pacific, pp.10-18. Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1977. (Call no.: RSING 330.95 ECO)

International perspectives to Singapore's development (Speech delivered at the PAP 25th Anniversary Rally at National Theatre, 20 Jan 80). Petir, no. 4, Mar 1980, pp. 12 - 15. (Call no.: RSING 329.95957 P)


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Goodbye, Sir -- you've lived a good life

. 25 Feb - links to MICA news releases should be credited to Ai Lin, who first posted them in the Singapore Heritage email list;
. 27 Feb - three more links appended (from Ai Lin)

Back in primary school, we had to recite the Singapore Pledge everyday (they still do). It was only much later that I learnt that Mr. S. Rajaratnam was the man who crafted those words. What I learnt about the eminent Mr Rajaratnam was through words as well, via books. So long the words remain, he'll be immortal.

Goodbye, Sir -- you've lived a good life.

From High Browse Online: "To find out more about Mr Rajaratnam's ideas and beliefs, you can check out the following publications available at a library near you." (click here)

News releases from MICA:


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Romantic South Africa (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 6)

Arrived in Singapore on Sunday evening. Today's my 2nd day in the office and then it's out of office attire and into Army fatigues for National Service in-camp training for the rest of February (crazy schedule, right?)

Before I left the office, someone emailed me, in jest, why I didn't "regale (the readers of this blog) with romantic tales of riding on a jeep into the Savanna, swinging with the apes (ala Diane Fossey), or stroking the lion's mane while feeding it raw meat!"

Prior to this trip, I would've thought South Africa was all about the Safari and the Savanna stuff. I've since learnt better.

During the past week in Pretoria and Cape Town, much of what I've seen was from inside a car, setting off at 5am in darkness, then the rest of the day inside a training venue, and finally off in the car again back to the house.
South Africa, Cape Town WaterfrontPretoria, South Africa. Union Building

But I did visit some malls and restaurants. The car trips brought me through the roads of Pretoria and Cape Town, passing through the country side and town areas.

Hawkers at Pretoria Road junction

I had a chance to walk along the Waterfront in Cape Town, I've seen clouds billow gently over Table Mountain. I also visited the Union Building and fell in love with the flowers and well-kept greens.

Cape TownPretoria SquarePretoria Square2

I saw shanty towns along the country side. There were modern buildings in the cities. Traffic problems were discussed daily (it's a growing problem). Crime was mentioned too, but I didn't feel I was in any immediate danger in the places I was brought to.

Rambling Librarian's South Africa AdventureSouth Africa isn't all about Safaris and the Savannah. Those are the typical National Geographic stuff (which I admit, were the first things that came to mind prior to the trip).

South Africa is also about its city and her people.

I'll always remember the hospitality of the people. Those I've met were genuinely friendly and hospitable, generous with their 'Please' and 'Thank You' and 'No Problem, You're Welcome'. It's 1st Class Service.

But I think in a romantic sense, it's the Southern African sky that I'll remember most fondly. That brilliant azure sky.

If I stare at long enough, I could almost lose myself from the hold of time.

One incident marred the entire trip though. It was on a plane journey back to Singapore. A guy, in a drunken state, made me want to lose my temper. But that's him being an asshat and in the end, he embarassed himself more than anything else.

Will I visit South Africa again? I can't say when that will happen with certainty, but I can certainly say, "Yes!"

Just hope I don't meet asshats on or off the plane.

I'll blog more about South Africa if I get a chance to come home from reservist training. There's still a pleasant aftertaste of Southern Africa, metaphorically speaking.

[From: Day 5 (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 5)]

Friday, February 17, 2006

Day 5 (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 5)

[Updated: 17th Feb, 10.42am]

9am, 17th Feb 2006. University of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa. Waiting for the class to start.

The connectivity is excellent. Took this picture, which I'm going to use to show them Flickr.com, and how it could be applied as a teaching tool.
SAOUG Blogging 101 workshop
(click to see larger picture)

Most participants will be from corporate libraries. Will see how it goes...

This was added at 10.42am, to show how to add notes in Flickr.com:
University of Stellenbosch
(click to go to Flickr.com to see the notes)

[Ref: After Day 4 (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 4) ]

Thursday, February 16, 2006

After Day 4 (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 4)

[From: After Day 3 (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 3]

Rajen and I had only one session on the 16th, because we had to catch a domestic flight to Cape Town at 3.55pm hours right after the class.

SAOUG Blogging 101 CourseWe reached the University of Johanesburg at 6am. After the library was opened, we proceeded to the training room to setup and test the Internet connectivity. Rajen said the layout of venue was the best by far -- spacious, with the projector in a good position.

However, the Internet connection slowed down considerably as more students arrived in the library and logged on to the campus network.


We met Pavlinka, a librarian from the university who helped us setup the room (see photo, posted with her permission).

We did the session a little differently, where we spent less time on the hands on exercise and more time in breaking the group into teams to do a SWOT analysis on starting a blog for their department.

A consistent question that came up was "Why use a blog when we have tools like Web CT and Discussion Forums already in place?"

My response was that it's not about the Tool but about Style. Throughout the course, Rajen and I emphasised that it's not an issue of Blogs being better than Discussion forums or emails etc. What Blogs are able to provide is a complementary tool to a corporate website -- a way for librarians to present themselves less formally; allow their customers and stakeholders to engage in online conversations etc.

Essentially, the whole course was about 'Demystifying Blogs' so that participants could make an informed choice whether it was a suitable application for their intents and needs. I hope we've managed to get that across.

Pretty good session that day, at least from my perspective. There was active discussions, I could see them taking notes and nodding heads.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

After Day 3 (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 3)

[From Training Day 1 & 2 (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 2)]

One word to describe the sessions on Day 3 (15th Feb) -- Sweet!

Blogger.com was up; Internet connectivity was much faster than previous days; the class size was perfect (not more than 15 per session); participants were very cooperative and asking really smart questions.

I enjoyed the morning session most of all. Dr. Glenda Myers, Chairperson of SAOUG, was in the class. Just before the break, she went to my blog and left this comment. We quickly used it as an example of how blogs are making it so easy for people to participate in online conversations, which then led to a spirited discussion on whether Southern African Librarians would embrace blogging. Rajen led the I posted the question up in blogcoursedemo to reinforce the point of how quickly librarian can use tools like blogs to start discussions online.

Glenda also shared about this blog -- LibrariansRock2 -- created by Mary Bruce, 'live' during her presentation at an SAOUG conference in June 2005. Apparently there was great interested generated about blogs when conference participants saw how easy it was to create a blog/ website for librarian's discussions, but subsequently there weren't many comments or posts.

When asked how it felt to post a comment for the first time, someone said, "A sense of panic". Another participant in this workshop said, "Lack of time". I asked if some might feel that their it might not make a difference whether they make any comments or not (some people nodded their heads).

Of course the reasons for an apparent lack of blog discussion/ participation by Southern Africa librarians are a lot more complex that what we could discuss. I would think it goes beyond the tools and technologies, but about the profession's culture and environment.


Training Day 1 & 2 (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 2)

It is Day 3 as I post this. 5th class is in progress. Rajen is standing in front of the class doing an IceBreaker, so I'm taking the chance to blog this.

What I'm learning about training from the past 2 days: It's not easy! Takes a certain patience & tact. And composure when things go wrong, even when your backups & backups of backups don't work!

Day 1 - No access to Blogger.com!
OK, no problem, we just go to Plan B (screenshots for blogger) -- or so we thought. But the 20 over participants (at both sessions) were clearly bored. Decided there and then to switch to Wordpress.com for the demo and practical exercise. Not our choice for a Blogging Basic course but we had to do something.

Problems didn't end there. Murphy's Law kicked in. All of them got the "sorry, you must wait a few minutes before registering a new blog" message when they tried to sign up. I think Wordpress.com detected multiple signups from one site as a form of anti-spam measure.

Some were able to get through eventually. Then came another problem. The Wordpress.com signup process required an email account for verification. Some participants couldn't access their office email accounts and they didn't have web-based email accounts. Those who were able to access their office emails kept waiting for the verification email that didn't seem to come...

I don't know about Rajen but I was so glad the day was over. What made my day were those participants who came up to say that inspite of the connectivity problems, they found the course useful. Of course we weren't able to satisfy all participants. It was quite a diverse group in terms of expectations.

Rajen says I must learn to celebrate successes, no matter how small. For me it was this -- near the end of the second on Day 1, after we presented High Browse Online as a case study (explaining the process and learning points in setting it up), a lady raised her hand and said something like this: "What I've just heard made so much sense to me now. It's cleared all the questions and issues I've grappled with for the last few months..." She met us later and said, "This was the best course I've attended in the past year". Wow.

Maybe I'm a perfectionist -- I though it would've been nice if we were able to make all participants feel like that, but Rajen says I'm not being realistic.

Day 2 - Blogger.com still down!
We left the house at 4.40am. Reached the training venue and had to help to get the room ready for use. Then horror! No access to the internet (later was informed that it came on only after 7am).

Then more horrors! Still no access to Blogger.com (yesterday we were told it should work at other venues). Decided on the spot to create a few Wordpress.com accounts to avoid the situation faced yesterday. We had to create email accounts to go with it as well.

After the 11th account created, Yahoo Mail refused to accept any more. I guess it detected the mass registrations as spamming. Luckily we had 10 test accounts created and since there was a smaller class (around 15 in both sessions) it turned out to be quite manageble.

I'm particularly appreciative of the Dynamix training office staff. They did their best to find out the root of the problem. As I understand it, there are 2 major ISPs in South Africa, with many sub-providers going through their network, and seems that one of them seems to have blocked Blogger.com. It was very strange.

Anyway, half-hour before the end of the second session, Blogger.com came online. But hey, Wordpress.com went down! What's happening? We can't have crashed wordpress, could we?

This morning, we came early to create more test accounts for Blogger.com. I have lost count of what backup plan this was already.

As I type this, the morning session is on the way. No apparent problems in accessing Blogger.com. Rajen is presenting and I'm taking a back seat until after the break. So far so good...

[Ref:Blogging in South Africa (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 1)]

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Don't Jump to Conclusions (Blogging in South Africa, part 1.3)

F__KSaw this on the inflight TV & Radio Guide (Emirates flight, Singapore to Dubai). An ad for Gulf News.

The fine print says:
"AT THIS POINT, most readers have happily assumed that they know this word. But don't jump to a conclusion. After all, it could be a word decribing an unpleasant person. Or heavy gunfire on an enemy aircraft. Or even a simple implement to eat your lunch with. In the complicated world of news, you can't afford to focus merely on the obvious. Because often what lies between the lines makes all the difference."


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Last minute preparations (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 1.1)

[From:Blogging in South Africa (SAOUG Blog Course, Part 1)]

I'm discovering more ways to use blogs. Nothing earth-shaking. Just one of those instances where the possibilities and potentials of a tool gradually reveal themselves as you apply it.

Decided to post the schedule over at BlogCourseDemo. It'll be a useful reference for the trainers and the participants. Updates to the schedule could be posted or amended online quickly, so long there's Internet access.

Most days will be spent in Johannesburg, and one day in Capetown. Rajen says it will be warm over there. I discovered our concept of 'warm' differed greatly. To him, 23 degrees Celcius was warm. I don't like the heat but 23 degrees C. is damn cold for me! I'm definitely a tropics person. The temperature difference between Johannesburg and Capetown is quite substantial apparently. Much warmer and hotter at in Capetown, if my facts are correct. Must bring packets of "Cooling Tea" for the trip.

The more I look at the schedule, the more I'm asking "What have you gotten yourself into, Ivan?" : )

Well, to paraphrase Nike in Singlish, "Just do it lah!"


Blogging in South Africa (SAOG Blog Course, Part 1)

I'll be spending a week in South Africa, as a co-trainer for an "Introduction to Blogging" course organised by the South African Online User Group. Flying off this Sunday (which is tomorrow and I've not packed!!!)

Naturally, my friends and colleagues were curious why I was going to South Africa. Here are my responses to Frequently Asked Questions I've received several over the last few days:

  1. I'm taking my own personal leave to do this. Will not cost Singaporean taxpayers any money, heh heh : )
  2. My participation in the training sessions is entirely in my personal capacity, though I have the moral support from my senior manager
  3. While my name was included in the letter of invitation, I'm not getting paid for doing this
  4. Why am I doing this doing it anyway? Especially when I have to pay for my own way even? Consider this -- some people pay their own way to help others in far, far nobler causes (like in war-torn areas or places struck by natural disasters). What I'm doing is hardly anything to shout about. In anycase, I see this as part of my personal development. The more I share, the more I learn. It's no different from paying to attend a course, except that in this course, I'm the active participant.

More important, I'm supporting my good friend and colleague, Rajen, who's conducting the course for SAOUG under the auspices of the National Library Board Academy (NLBA). Here's what the programme blurb says on the SAOUG website:

» Blogging 101 for Dummies workshop:
Workshop presented by Rajendra Munoo from the National Library Board, Singapore.
Monday, 13 February 2006: Medical Library, University of Pretoria.
Tuesday, 14 February 2006: Dynamix Training Centre, Witkoppen Road, Sunninghill.
Wednesday, 15 February 2006: Dynamix Training Centre, Witkoppen Road, Sunninghill.
Thursday, 16 February 2006: University of Johannesburg, Kingsway Campus.
Friday, 17 February 2006: University of Stellenbosch.

Participants will learn what a blog is, learn how to create blogs, name their blogs, how to post comments, change the template of the blog, and how to delete their blog (in fact everything you wish to know about blogs). It will be a practical hands-on workshop.

I see they've not included my name in the blurb. No matter. I'm not there in my official capacity anyway. The training schedule is very packed. Monday to Friday, with some days up to two sessions I think. Will be taking domestic flights to the different townships (did I use the term correctly?) I trust that I'd be up to it physically and mentally.

There will be little time for sightseeing but that's not the point for the trip. It'll be a homestay experience for me, with Rajen's family in South Africa.

Rajen (librarian, trainer, content developer for NLB Academy) hails from South Africa. He's of Indian descent, hence the Indian sounding name (he's got a very interesting personal story to tell and maybe he'll blog about it one day). Who knows, maybe he's got a secret blog somewhere...

He's an excellent trainer and the course participants will benefit from his expertise. He has this blog which he cites in training to show people that simply creating a blog doesn't mean you'll automatically get readers.

It's overseas trips like this that I appreciate the public libraries. I'd look up the Travel Guides section and browse different titles, specifically on "Things to bring" or "Travelling Essentials" for that particular country. Some interesting snippets as follows:

coverFodor's travel series is pretty good. In this particular one, this passage caught my eye: "However cuddly they may seem, many wild animals will happily take your hand off. Don't attempt to pet or feed animals, or even get out of the car for a better photo without an experienced armed ranger".

It also advises that travellers make "photocopies of the page of passport with photo, passport number, and other identifying information, as well as any visas, travel insurance policies, plane tickets. Carry one set of copies in a safe place, apart from originals, and leave another set at home".

coverHere's Let's Go, on lost passports: "Fool, don't lose your passport! But if you choose not to take our advice, and you do lose your passport, immediately notify the police and nearest embassy or... To expediate this, you need to know info previously recorded and show ID and proof of citizenship".

First time I've read any guide book that calls the reader 'Fool'! : )

I expect to be blogging in South Africa, but given the tight training schedule and the fact that we've to start the day around 5.30am to beat the traffic, I might not blog as often. We shall see.

Apart from packing my bags, I have to fulfil my household obligations before I leave, i.e. clean and mop the floor, do my laundry, tidy up my pile of papers and stuff. Saturday morning, I'll clear as much office work as I can.

And then South Africa, here I come!


Friday, February 10, 2006

Hear Yossi Ghinsberg's story, in person ("I Shouldn't Be Alive" series)

You might have seen the "I Shouldn't Be Alive" series from Discovery Channel (airing from Feb 20, 2006). Now you can meet Yossi Ghinsberg in person -- the survivor whose story was featured in the premier episode (Escape from the Amazon).
Date: 12 February 2005, Sunday
Time: 3.30pm - 4.30pm
Venue: Library @ Orchard

Apart from meeting him in person, you also stand a chance to win autographed copies of his book, Jungle, which will also be available at NLB libraries soon.

Details over at High Browse Online.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Still Water Runs Deep (or, "Wet Blanket Question")

A few days ago, on the eve of the Lunar New Year, 'Blogreader' left a question (one which s/he says was a "Wet Blanket"):

This is a wet blanket question for you. My friends said that a librarian's job is a slack one. How would you respond to that? Is it really slack?

The question was unrelated to the preceding conversation, but I decided to respond since this blog is about generating conversations, questions and awareness about "being a librarian".

Maybe 10 years earlier, my response to such a question would be: "Slack? I dare you to try my job for one day! I dare you!!!" :)

But I've since mellowed (for the most part). I thought it was best to first understand what made her/ his friends think that a librarian's job was "slack" before shooting my mouth off. BlogReader' subsequently clarified:

My understanding of slack is, slow-paced, do very little things, not stressed, hardly work long hours, sit at the counter do nothing etc.

Now, I am not saying NLB is a bad organisation or that being a librarian has no prestige or pride to talk about. Personally, I am quite interested in this job. But I am not able to explain to my friends or family what a librarian does. I heard there are several kinds of things that librarians specialise in.

It was an MSN conversation that I had with a friend that prompted me to ask this question to you. In fact, there are many people who actually think librarians shelve books and keep people quiet, and is hardly busy. In fact, I was teased by some people when I told them I thought of becoming a librarian.

Ok, 'Blogreader'. Let me give you a rambling answer:
Don't let your friend's unqualified remarks get to you. Perhaps the best way to explain to your friends is for you to volunteer at the library (just to get a taste of how working in a library setting is like) or maybe you should just join the profession and then explain to your friends.

I believe that kind of perception is still quite prevalent. It's not unique to the library profession. I'm sure some people think the job of cleaners, taxi drivers and car park attendants are "slack" too. They probably wouldn't stop there. They might also think certain doctors, managers, police officers and those who work in the military are also pretty slack (I mean, no war to fight, right?).

Or how about an airline stewardess? Some people might think, "They're just glorified waitresses who walk up and down the airplane cabin only. Pretty slack right?"

See my point?

I'm not sure about other libraries in Singapore or around the world, but where me and my public librarian colleagues and I work, the only thing the word "slack" has in common with our pace of work is that it has the same number of letters in the word "hurry".

Check out the job description for a Librarian and Library Officer in NLB. We also have Library Assistant posts (whose main general function is to shelve books -- not the librarians or library officers).

I think in any job, there are "slack times". No doubt about it. We all need breathing space, some time to relax. However, I don't believe any job today is 100% slack all the time. Not in the globalised economy where everything is about efficiency and competitiveness.

If you really want to be a librarian (or work in a library), you first have to understand your motivations in the first place.

I can understand how you feel. When I joined the library profession 10 years ago, I also had some reluctance to tell people I was a librarian. It didn't sound prestigious enough. Even today, people still don't quite understand what is it that a librarian do (I think librarians should be more accessible to the public, but that's another story).

With 10 years under my belt, it gives me some leeway to say that after a while, job titles don't mean anything. It's job satisfaction that's more important.

Same applies to cleaners, taxi drivers, car park attendants, doctors, managers, police officers, those in the armed forces. And yes, airline stewardesses too.

I truly believe it's never about the job. It's all about the attitudes we have in carrying out the job.

If all the above doesn't make sense to you, I apologise. I didn't call myself Rambling Librarian for nothing (I considered "Eloquent Librarian" once but it was too pretentious).

Allow me this last attempt to respond to your question:

Ask your friends if they've ever heard of the phrase "Still water runs deep" Tell them that just because there's no ripple in a pond doesn't mean that there are no undercurrents flowing beneath.

Never judge the depth of a pond just by what they see on the surface.

Oh, and thanks for the question.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Social Literature

Was alerted via Rana's post "Literature or social studies?" to a ST online forum letter (6 Feb 2006, "English literature: Keep its beauty pure").

NOTE: This post is not a response to the forum letter per se. The issue being discussed over there is of a different track.

Anyway, reading the forum letter reminded me of this:

Public Libraries, in determining what books and materials to acquire, will always face -- to some degree -- a tussle between those that are 'Popular' and those that are 'Literary' (books like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code are categorised as the former).

Does the library acquire materials on the basis of "giving the public what they want" (i.e. popular works) or "give them what we think they ought to have?" (e.g. classics, materials of informational value but hardly considered popular).

I think it's all about striking a balance: Yin/ Yang, Equilibrium, Harmony.

Public Libraries have to be pragmatic: If materials do not used, then demand for library services would decrease. Yet we can't be a library comprising entirely of comics and graphic novels. We would be well used but would also be neglecting the needs of readers who want more varied materials.

Personally and professionally, I don't really care if a book is considered "Popular" or "Literary". I'd always think back to these two laws from Ranganathan's Five:

  • Every Book its Reader
  • Every Reader his Book
It's about Balance, remember?

I see Public Libraries providing that balance -- exposing readers to works they would not necessarily be exposed to (either because the materials are beyond their economic means to acquire, or they are not inclined to make the purchase out of non-interest).

Whether they are reading Popular works or Literary ones, so long people are reading, that's always a good thing, isn't it?

Does it matter what categories they are? If it helps, let's call all of it Social Literature. It's a reflection of how reading needs evolve.

Terms like 'Popular' and 'Literary' are just terminologies that, when the argument is taken to extremes, just serves to distract what reading is about -- the exposure to ideas.

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Why librarians don't blog & does every librarian need to blog?

Doug has a nice post that cites some reasons why librarians don't blog. Top 3 reasons (out of 13, as listed in Doug's post):
  • Not enough time to blog or blogging is a low priority

  • Absence of compelling professional need

  • Ignorance of technology and no clear reason to learn it

About a year ago, I emailed some colleagues (informally) asking if they knew what were blogs and whether they blogged. Majority said they didn't know what it was. Maybe one or two said they knew but had no time to blog.

I think if I were to ask the same questions to the same group, they'd have heard about Blogs by now, though I'm not too certain if everyone will understand the potential of what blogs can (and cannot) do for librarianship.

On this note, it was quite apt that I read another of Doug's post, or one of the comment rather, from Deborah Stafford who thought aloud:

My main question - does EVERY librarian need to blog? Certainly blogs are useful, I read several most every day. But of what use is if for everyone to have one? Can't some people just reap the benefits of those bloggers who have something to say, say it well and are willing to share?Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we all need to do it.

Good question from Deborah. Or rather, she's put across some points by framing them as questions.

I don't think there's any definitive answer to a question like that. It depends on what perspective we take when answering it. Do we see blogs as a PR tool? A communication tool (like email)? A tool for social networking?

I'd define a "blog by a librarian" as one where the blogger identifies him/herself as a librarian, regardless of the blog content.

And my response to Deborah's question is: Not all librarians need to blog. Right now, I can't think of any compelling reason why every single librarian would need to. But there's no harm if that happened.


Who are the editors behind High Browse Online?

Want to know more about the librarians behind High Browse Online? Think they'll show their faces? Check out this post.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

SSEAYP 2001 revisited

Feeling melancholic tonight. Read an old post about a poem I wrote, where I said "I might blog about it someday". And so tonight, I did.

Incidentally, in one of the comment to the original post, Calm One said something about the library creating "a book review blog/metablog as a start?" That was in May 2005.

Hmm... I guess the library now has one.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Siva recorded this morning's interview (or "After the radio interview on 938LIVE - part 2")

Otterman took the trouble to record my segment of the show and posted it in his blog just hours after the show (his post has a link to a 2.3MB mp3 file). He also gave me some very valid feedback in an email, which I've posted below.

His feedback are spot on. Yup, I did sound tired. Am definitely not a morning person! And yes, I should've shared more about what was in the book. I also realised I used way to much fillers like "Er" and "Ah". Nerves lah.

There was no prior correspondence between the radio producer or me prior to the interview. All I knew was the programme brief and that I'd be interviewed between 7.13am to 7.30m, so while I had prepared something to say, it was pretty much on the fly for most parts. It was "Wake-Up-N-Wait-for-Phone-Call".

Excerpts from Siva's email (posted with permission):

You have to sound more enthusiastic; I know its difficult when you wake up at 7am and have to hang on until they activate you. Also difficult - they waited until it was clear you had finished. So there was no audio feedback, hummin or the like which had you wondering if they got your point about David Lim's battle with disease beng a more inspirational story which I thought was very good - made it relvant to us. Before that it was just some guys enjoying mountaineering.

Your reference to Sea Biscuit should have been more descriptive; pity you did not see this earlier:http://www.seabiscuitonline.com/ But it was enough to have me want to read the book; many of us saw the movie, so that helps.

Yeah would have been goood if you had promised to write a review for HighBrowse Online - which I know you can do quite well and fast.

Perhaps, be available for radio recommendations more often and always have a follow up review ready on High Browse which you post up once the show ends. That'll be fun!

I always walked away from a radio interview wishing I had mentioned something so if you feel that way, its usual. Just do it more often, and prepare if you can. I think NewsRadio listeners are able to appreciate your points and you drew Sea Biscuit out of a hat and that was good ending; so good job!

Thanks, Siva, for the very useful tips which I'll share with my colleagues.

Too bad I warmed up only after the end of my 3mins. But it was probably a good thing the DJs kept to 3 mins 'cos the last thing I want is to ramble on national radio (admit that I shed a tear over Seabiscuit is OK but to ramble on air, wah lau super-malu).

My thanks also to Cool Insider for his advice on handling media interviews.

I went away from the radio interview that I could've shared more, so it helped that Siva said it was a natural thing to feel. I'll live and learn. Main thing (if there's a chance to do this again) is to give more insights into why people should read the book.

And sound enthusiastic.

[Related posts:
After the radio interview on 938LIVE;
Radio interview on 938LIVE - 'Dream & Achieve, Do & Believe' programme]


After the radio interview on 938LIVE

Phew. Interview over. Lasted for less than 3mins.

Woke at 6.45am (thanks to three alarm clocks, I kid you not!) Took the call at home since the office wasn't open this early. Around 7.22am the radio DJ still hadn't called me and I got nervous. Did I give them the right number to call? Maybe they decided to drop me from the programme. At about 7.25am, my phone rang and the DJ put me on hold where I caught part of the interview with the NUS student.

Then I heard this: "... we have here Mr. Ivan Chew, Manager and Head of the
Adult & Young People's Services. He's here to tell us more about some recommended books. So Ivan, what have you got for us?"

And I was on air, just like that. No chit-chat. No verbal warmups.

I can never get 100% used to 'Live' interviews via phone. It's a bit weird because there's no visual cues that you're next to speak. And when speaking, I wasn't sure if anyone's listening since I'm just prattling off into the phone.

Luckily I was prepared for this. I had the computer turned on with the High Browse Online page (posted yesterday evening) in front of me. That helped in my delivery somewhat. Still, I wasn't sure how I sounded. I tell you, not anyone can be a radio DJ.

There was no time to recommend everything that was listed. I mentioned the two books by David Lim (that part was OK, I felt) and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series (somehow I thought I could've done better for that part).

Then the DJ asked, "Do you have anything else you'd like to recommend?" and I had this strange thought, "Why? You don't like what I've recommended so far?" :)

But really, it's the lack of visual cues. I didn't know if what I mentioned was OK or not.

So I recommended "Seabiscuit" by Laura Hillenbrand. Something made me become a bit more open when I shared that one. Maybe I thought I was losing the listeners. I said I watched the movie first on a plane (before I read the book), and tears came to my eyes after I watched it. Told the DJ, "Oops, I just said that on national radio" and they laughed. The lady DJ said, "Oh, don't be afraid to cry". Glad I shared that one.

So now they, and you, know -- this Librarian cried after watching Seabiscuit. : )


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Radio interview on 938LIVE - 'Dream & Achieve, Do & Believe' programme

Ugh. Have to wake before 7am tomorrow for a 'live' radio interview on 938LIVE for the Breakfast Club radio programme. Hope it'll be as fun as previous time on Parenting Today, except this time it's a phone interview (glad I didn't have to travel all the way to the station just for a 5 minute segment).

I wonder how many listeners actually listen to radio while having breakfast. I'm guessing most of its listeners tune in while driving or commuting to work.

My segment in the radio show is just a small one (maybe less than 5 mins). I'll be recommending some books on inspirational stories and authors. The main programme is about these guys & gals from the University of Singapore who climb real mountains (the only natural landscape I climbed was in South Korea and that already winded me).

Have posted the recommended books over at High Browse Online.

Hope I don't mumble, or worse, say something dumb from lack of sleep during the interview. Wish 938LIVE had a podcast of the show (if they have one, I can't find it on their website).


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Plugged on "Best Blog on Wordpress"

Opened up my email. Oh, there a trackback link to a post in MyRightBrain. Woah, what's this about Best Blog on Wordpress? What a surprise. I'm still feeling the buzz:
When a librarian let loose the artist within and presents art, would you expect the collection to be garden variety?(Aside: for a small country like Singapore, there sure are many bloggers. )

Wonder if there are any other librarians who draw. Would just love to hear from them.

The grand ole dame

HeritageBlog Singapore History Museum
Took this around 10.30pm on my way to the MRT station after the Heritage/ Museum blog meet. Must be all the talk about Heritage and Museums and whatnot. Remembered I had a camera in the bag and snapped a shot.

Friday, February 03, 2006

My brother has a blog

My brother now has a blog over at KeepWatch.wordpress.com. He says: "One other reason for setting up this blog was to hopefully ‘catch’ a few potential clients here. Life’s full of surprises…never know what we can expect."

Copyright Eric Chew. KeepWatch.wordpress.com
Sure, why not? Free webhosting using a blog tool. Use it to showcase his works (like how authors are using blogs to build an online audience). Once he feels comfortable enough, I'd expect him to start blogging more personal posts to give insights into Eric the individual, rather than Eric the Graphic Artist. I told him blogging is more than just showcasing his works. It's also about seeking and generating conversations and like-minded individuals. Sent him a bunch of my Art-related blog feeds/ links like this and this one. He'll probably pick up RSS soon.

My brother's got talent. Web-designer, computer graphic artist and animator, musician (plays in his church band after picking up piano, guitar on his own, and now drums).

It's funny. Up till our late teens, my brother and I were at each other's neck and probably hated each other's guts. Now he's saying nice things about me, and I of him. Guess that's a sign of us both having grown up.

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Eric.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Heritage Blog (or "Museum Roundtable Blog")

Reference: "Upcoming Museum Roundtable Blog"
Update 2 Feb: Otterman blogs about
Museum/heritage blog meeting

Heritage Blog Meet

Heritage Blog MeetThe 14 of us (or thereabouts) informally chatted over dinner at the Moon River cafe. Incidentally, the cafe was where members of BookCrossing-Singapore have their regular meetings. I highly recommend the Stewed Beef Japanese Curry. I'm not saying this because the owner was nice enough to let our party stay past their closing.

We largely ignored the agenda prepared for us (hey, it's 'Gahmen'-related event so not surprising to have agenda) and started with brief individual introductions.

The bloggers (who weren't NHB staff) were Chun See, Siva, Preetam, myself (the rest preferred to retain an air of mystery). The bloggers in the group, 7 of us, talked about why we agreed to be part of NHB's effort to start a blog-related initiative.

While the individual bloggers (all volunteers for the project) have different definitions of what is "heritage" (which is OK), we all seem to share a passion about promoting "our Singapore Heritage" in whatever form it might be. My interest was in getting people to share personal stories -- what might seem mundane today constitutes heritage material for tomorrow.

Walter, Corp Comms director for NHB, said NHB has been promoting "Singapore Heritage" for 13 years. They realise their efforts cannot continue to be "top down". They envision Singapore Heritage to be celebrated not in "straight-laced manners". They want people to contribute personal stories.

My assessment is that the 3 NHB staff present (who've blogged to some extend) understand blogs to a large degree. They've experimented with this one for sometime now and two of them have their personal blogs.

The blog project is to "create a platform to share heritage-related content". Their challenge is in addressing the perceptions that museums are boring & irrelevant. The seed funding for this project is from their parent ministry, on the condition was that it shouldn't be another yet another government-driven initiative. I think that speaks well of the intent behind the whole project.

NHB has hired a marketing & comms agency to help with what I see as a traditional "bottom of line" marketing. There were some questions from the bloggers on the involvement of a "traditional marketing" agency but we agreed it was NHB's call. I think it's not necessarily a bad idea and it could prove complimentary. I guess what's unsaid is that we'd like to see the marketing agency folks actually blogging as well. Nothing beats "being in it".

We recognised the "older generation" were the ones who were likely to have "heritage stories" to contribute but they weren't the ones who were inclined to take up the blogging medium. Suggestions floated around, like getting those techo-savvy younger generation to be the conduits to collect the content and post it (e.g. Interview and Post).

I'm all for that idea. I said people needed excuses to share stories. Speaking from experience, I'd welcome an excuse to ask my own father and mother about their personal stories, perhaps even their perspectives on why they did certain things when I was growing up (things which might be less painful to talk about now that everyone is older but would be strange to suddenly broach the topic).

There were more thoughtful discussions but by this time, I stopped taking notes on my handheld. My attention was on the delicious extra spicy curry. I did, however, remember a certain someone saying "Art museum is irrelevant and should close". OK, this statement has to be taken in context, so hold your horses. I'm making a point to say dissenting views are allowed within the group and that's the policy NHB wants to adopt for their blog project. They will also respond to comments and questions via the blog.

General agreement was to allow unmoderated comments as a start. Policy-wise (on what can be posted or discussed), they've provided some common sense guidelines. No red-tape here. Topics that touch on political, religious and racial sensitivities will be dealt with cautiously.

I asked if we'll see NHB/ museum staff being encouraged to blog and allow people to have a peek into what's it like working for the museums. The answer was "we'll see" or something like that.

We discussed about the "Heritage Blog" being seen as a "government-blog". In the end, I think we weren't too hung up on this. There's an unspoken agreement that there's nothing "propagandist" about the motives of the project.

On that point, I felt a "government blog" is nothing to be ashamed of (if there was one). It's how it's implemented. Heck, if the fact that High Browse Online is a blog by a government-funded agency makes us it a "government blog", whose intent is to promote reading and learning, then I say I'm damn proud of it.

Last major thing we discussed was on the name of the blog/ meta-blog. We unabashedly agreed we're modeling ourselves after Tomorow.sg (good ideas deserves to be adopted).

We shortlisted these names:
The team wants to try getting more views via Tomorrow.sg

Final comments from the group:
"What do young people want (wrt History, Heritage, Arts)?"
"Love or hate it, just talk about it".
"We don't know if it will work. Just try and see lor".

I liked that last one. This whole initiative isn't some life and death scenario. If we've tried and failed, we'd know works and what don't. But if we don't even try, we'd forever be ignorant.

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