Sunday, July 24, 2005

The National Library at night

Night-time just brings a different feel to everything.

National Library3

National Library1

National Library4

National Library2

There was a Acapella performance at the Events Plaza.
Events Plaza1

(This was about an hour later, when the building was closing for the day)
Events Plaza3

The lighting gives the place a different ambience at night. This was the lobby (as viewed from level 2):

This is the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library (L 11).
Lee Kong Chian Library - L11

Even the photo wall (at level 11 of LKCRL) looks more vibrant. I like this segment of the wall best, with our National Flag on the left and Sir Stamford Raffles on the right. The picture sits on top of the bookshelves. It says to me that our history is founded upon learning.
Raffles to Independence - LKCRL

If you go to the garden ("The Courtyard")...
National Library6

... and look out, you'll see the Intercontinential Hotel.
National Library7

This was what I saw looking out of the lift (the only one that has a glass view):

Over at Central Lending Library: The parents and kids have obviously raided the shelves.
Messy shelves - Children's section
More messed up books - Children Section

If you know of better ways to encourage more civic-mindedness from library users, we'd sure like to hear from you. Parents, try to remind your kids to pick up the books and back on the browse-bin on your way out (rather than leave on the table). Pretty please :)
Books left on the table - Children Section

I overheard some people saying they couldn't understand why there's only one lending section in such a large building (which could explain why some felt there was a waste of space). Maybe this might help them appreciate what the other floors contain:
Directory to the various levels

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Pointers on the National Library (and why such a huge space?)

Thanks to Tinkertailor for mentioning my post in just hours after I blogged about it. Ah, the beauty of RSS.

I left a comment over there for those who intend to visit the National Library/ Central Lending Library (CLL) this weekend. Thought it's useful to post it here as well:
  1. If your intent is to borrow materials (as opposed to browsing), please be mentally prepared for a packed house.
  2. The Central Lending Library (CLL) is at the basement, and it's the only floor with lending materials. The rest of the National Library is actually for reference and research materials and aren't for loan.
  3. Loosely speaking: Public Library = mainly lending collection; National Library = mainly reference materials (i.e. not for loan)
  4. Payment of fees & fines is via Cashcard, NETS (yes, we have that now), Ezlink (non-GIRO linked) and cheque. No cash accepted since 5 years ago (so please please don't ask why no cash and isn't it legal tender etc etc *sigh*)
  5. Please be nice to the staff. If the queues are long or shelves are messy, it's not entirely our fault 'cos not all readers are considerate users like you :)
  6. CLL doesn't have AV materials (as of this post).
Kevin left a comment, asking if a library like the National Library has to be that big. Well Kevin, it depends on how far we plan ahead, and whether we have thoughtful plans for the use of the space.
"The library is a growing organism" ~ S.R. Raganathan
Let me explain it this way (this is my personal view):
Suppose you are building a study-room and you're asking yourself how much space you intend to set aside for your bookshelves. If you project 2 to 3 years ahead, thinking that you'll throw out most stuff, a relatively small room might suffice.

But let's say 10, 20 or even 50 years passed. With a space that could accomodate only 2 to 3 years worth of materials, if you want to expand then it's probably more expensive to retrofit or even recontruct the room. Or you might not have the budget to build it by then.

Granted that technology could develop into something very advanced, and eliminate the need for large physical spaces. But that is not a certainty. What is certain -- at this point -- is that much of the Society's Heritage, Institutional/ National Knowledge exists in print form. Hence, we plan for what might be certain (or perhaps a "worse-case" scenario).

But suppose we manage to digitise (or "virtualise") all the books in the library in 5 years time. Does that mean the National Library, being so spacious, becomes a "white elephant"? No, because we can always convert the space to something else. But it's a lot harder to create additional space once something is built.

Ok, I'll be there tomorrow evening to look-see (off-duty mode). If you recognise me, come over and say 'Hi'.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

New National Library opens - 22 Jul 2005

Something I can now say with certainty: I was witness to the closing of the old National Library (at Stamford Road) and the opening of a new one.

Reached the National Library at 8.00am and all was calm. I spent the next 1.5 hours checking out all 16 floors before the speech-giving ceremony at 9.30am.

8.00am. All quiet at the Events Plaza.
New National Library 8

This was what you'd see if you were giving the speech.
New National Library 9

Still at the Events Plaza, standing near the entrance to the building, I looked up and saw this:
New National Library 5

Cool and calm at the foyer...
New National Library 10

... same at the various floors of the Lee Kong Chian Library...
New National Library 4

... and the garden at level 10...
New National Library4

... and the Observatory Pod at 16th level, which looks out to the Marina.
New National Library 6

Peaceful at the Central Lending Library at the basement.
Central Lending Library 7
Central Lending Library 8
Central Lending Library 9
Central Lending Library 10
Central Lending Library 11

All that changed after 10.00am, when the library opened to the public.
New National Library2

A large crowd streamed down to the basement.
Central Lending Library 5

Long but orderly and calm queues at the borrowing stations. I think if anyone wants to borrow books from CLL this weekend, be prepared to queue.
Central Lending Library 3

Things were a little quieter at some areas of CLL.
Central Lending Library 4
Central Lending Library 6

Ok, that's the first day. I didn't stay for the evening crowd, but I'm sure more people will be dropping by. Am grateful that the majority was calm and patient. As usual, there were the few cranks who seemed to complain about everything, but that's expected.

BTW, most people wonder why the lending section was limited to the basement. I think the message has not sunk in that the National Library building houses mainly the Reference materials (meant for research and in-library use).

Click here for directions to the National Library.

I'll have more pictures to post, and more thoughts to write about the opening of this truly iconic landmark and institution that we call the National Library.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

New National Library opens tomorrow

It WILL NOT look like this (via BiblioAcid).

I'll try to take some pictures tomorrow.
I wonder how many will turn up.
I hear free ice-cream is being given away.

Try not to push, ok :)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Book Meme

I was first "tagged" by Anispice and then later by Anthony (coincidence that they both start with 'A'). Time to get over this procrastination and post a long over-due reply:

Total No. of books owned: Around 50.

Last book I bought: There were two, actually. From the MPH booksale a few months ago.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend/ Laura Hillenbrand [Click to check NLB catalogue]
NLB Call No.: 798.400973 HIL (Adult General 700s section)
Bought this because I'd watched the movie on a flight one time, and was totally moved by it. Told my wife about it and bought the book for her to read. I also read the book and it's way better than the movie.

The Fiery Cross/ Diana Gabaldon
NLB Call No.: GAB (Adult Fiction collection)
This one, I have absolutely no idea what it's about, and I have not read it yet. Decided to buy it because (1) the blurb says it's a historical fiction (according to NLB catalogue entry, it's a "time travel fiction" set in North Carolina colonial history -- cool!), (2) it was within my cheapo-budget of $5.00 per item, (3) it was 1,443 pages and therefore further bargain if the book is as good as it says it is.

Last book I read:
O Singapore!: Stories in celebration/ Catherine Lim
NLB Call No.: SING LIM (Singapore Collection)

Five books that mean a lot to me:

1) Starship troopers/ Robert Heinlein
Read the original by Heinlein, not the movie tie-in. It's pretty intellectual, really (so unlike the lousy movie). One of the first Military/ Socio-political/ Sci-Fi books I read when young. It left a lasting impression and probably paved the way for my interest in Sci-Fi. (Must get the library to buy newer copies).

2) Fields of Fire/ James Webb
Read this when I was 15, and I think I re-read it again when I was 17. I had heard about how US lost the Vietnam war, and about war protests etc. But didn't really know what the whole anti-war movement was about. Then I read this book (the Vietnam war told from the eyes of the soldiers). It moved me. Vividly. And at that young age, I realised that "War is Hell"; "There are no winners, only losers".

3) Dune (Dune Chronicles, Book 1)/ Frank Herbert
Another book that I read in my formative years (between 12 to 16) and no surprises, it's Sci-Fi. But it's not not really about the Science, nor the Fantasy (there's quite little, relatively speaking). What I discovered was about human stories -- betrayal, trust, hope, bravery, courage, triumph, politics, religion -- as well as ecology.

4) Charlotte's Web/ E. B. White
Again, something I read in in my early teens. This was not my literature text. I don't know how I got the book, but it was there at home one day. I picked it up and was moved by the friendship, love and sacrifice that a spider had for pig. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

5) Ten ancient scrolls for success: from The Greatest Salesman in the World/ Og Mandino
This one I read about 3 or 4 years ago, when I was about midpoint through a stressful period in my career. I turned to self-help motivational books and somehow discovered Og Mandino. He writes brilliantly, so much so I decided to buy a copy of this book. I can honestly say it changed the way I looked at life, and came at the right time when I needed to break out of a rut.

The five people I tag:
  1. Real Public Librarian
  2. Filipino Librarian
  3. Sybilla
  4. Biblioacid
  5. NTUC Income CEO Tan Kin Lian


Monday, July 18, 2005

Snippets: Introduction to Blogging session at WRL, 16 Jul 05

[Updated: 19 Jul 05 - Isaak's post on the event]

Someone asked after the session, "Is the library disappointed at the turnout?".

I said, "No" (with a smile, and a lah).

Actual turnout was about 25 people. We didn't meet our target for 100 participants, but that was only a target. We'll review to see how to do it better the next time. Plus considering that (1) we didn't manage to use our usual publicity channels, (2) it drizzled that morning, (3) people usually stayed home on a Saturday morning, and (4) schools were involved in the NDP rehearsals (something we perhaps overlooked).

BTW, 25 participants was a good number, and it isn't just self-congratulatory talk. We average about 30 for adult-related talks and programmes. The 100 participants was something of a stretch target.

For those who missed the session, here are some highlights:

Wendy (i.e. Xiaxue) was first:
  • She started her blog so that "no angry girlfriends (of ex-boyfriends) can throw away my diary". Shared how a student emailed her (name not revealed of course) of how she (the student) got into trouble with the school for something she posted.
  • She asked the audience, "What would you do if student called you a bitch in the blog?". A participant (who works in a school) gamely answered that she would not make a big deal out of it as she understood that the teenager could just be expressing his/ her angst. Instead of punishing the student, the better way might be to discuss the issue.
  • Xiaxue's tip for ladies out there: If you want to post your photos online, be aware that they can be downloaded and reposted out of context.

Mr. Brown was next:
  • "My name is Brown. Everyone calls me that. My teachers call me Kin Mun". His presentation was with his typical Mr. Brown humour. Funny guy.
  • Said he was a blogger by accident. It stemmed from the many requests for past issues of his SNE series being circulated in email then.
  • Brown showed how one could create a blog using Blogger. Then introduced Flickr, an overview on RSS & podcasting, and touched on tagging.
  • He made it a point to read every comment he receives in his blog because "you are liable for what people comment in your blog". Sound advice.

Preetam rounded up the session:
  • Said he liked to blog about his travels and food. He tries to provide useful information rather than just tell people where he visited.
  • He shared some real-life examples of how blogs are being used in Education (my colleague from Learning Division was really interested in this. Introduced him to Preetam after the session, and they might work out something for a training course).

I asked them to name some books they read or were reading:
  • Wendy: George Orwell's 1984, Harry Potter, Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Preetam: Books on Food and Travel. He recommends Dan Gillmor's We the Media.
  • Brown: Smart Mobs, Blink, Tipping Point, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (says the book has a non-threatening way of learning about Autism).

I learn new things from the session. Not so much about the technicalities of blogging, but about the bloggers as individuals. Nothing beats meeting people in person.

Take Wendy (aka Xiaxue) for instance. To me, the "Xiaxue" in person is different from her blog-persona. Reading her blog gives the impression that she's brash and rude. In person, she's articulate and confident. While she has certain opinions I don't agree (like her views on using 4-letter words in blogs), I think she's entitled and responsible for her individual stand. Kudos to her for expressing her position in a non-challenging way. I wonder how many in the audience saw that.

In the long run, I see the library acting as the catalyst for civil discourse. We don't necessarily have to agree with the presenter. We can still agree to disagree.

BTW, Mr Brown discovered at least one participant (a mother whose kids blogged) who created her own blog after the event. A few of my colleagues turned up for the event, and they have a better understanding of the practical applications of blogs.

So -- am I disappointed?

Far from it. :)

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Something on Ubiquitous Learning

Another "Thinking Aloud" post:

Learnt about a web article on Ubiquitous Learning (via Sybilla's blog). Here's the Bablefish translated page (from Dutch to English).

The article is a summary of the proceedings of one "ALTO jump conference in Dublin on 31 March and 1 April 2005". Found the article interesting 'cos it outlines 4 scenarios of how Ubiquitous Learning (i.e. "Learning " anywhere, anytime) can manifest itself -- (1) A class room setting, (2) a study landscape, (3) a Community of Practice, and (4) Workplace Learning. See summary table mid of the page.

The "Ubiquitious Learning" that I envision definitely is support by IT, but the IT gadgets should not be the predominent feature. In fact, to have truly ubiquitous learning taking place, the equipment and infrastructure should disappear into the background. Meaning, like mobile phones today, where no one bats any eye if you use a mobile phone (whereas 10 years ago, it was seen as a status symbol).

Related post: Thinking aloud: Learning, taxonomies and the library's role (12 Jul 05)

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Sex addict saved by a book

Who can resist an article that says "Diary of a Sex Addict"? :)

But I'm sharing this because of what it said on Page 2:
After years of risky rendezvous, Rosanne felt overwhelmingly sad and heartbroken about her all-consuming behavior. At the age of 36, she'd hit rock bottom. But a fortuitous trip to the library would change all that. While walking down an aisle of bookshelves, she spotted a book called Don't Call It Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction by Patrick Carnes. Curious, Rosanne flipped through the book and instantly recognized herself in it. She checked out the book and devoured it immediately.
An instance of how a trip to a library became a life changing moment. How many more lives have been positively affected by libraries, I wonder?

The NLB doesn't have that particular title "Don't call it love", but there are related books. Try "sexual addiction" as a keyword search. You'd get titles like the following:

NLB Call No.: 616.8583 CAR (Adult General 600s section)
Click here to check for item availability.

NLB Call No.: Y 616.8583 GIL (Young People 600s section)
Click here to check for item availability.

NLB Call No.: 973.929092 LEV (Adult General 900s section)
Click here to check for item availability.

NLB Call No.: SEL (Adult Fiction section)
Click here to check for item availability.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

No Blogger.SG at WRL, but there's still a workshop

Due to overwhelming response to the first ever Singapore Blogger's Convention, the organisers have moved the venue to a larger one instead of WRL as planned earlier.

Would have been really nice to have held the event at the library (normally we charge a fee for the space, and actually I had to turn down one booking). I'm not complaining 'cos I wish the organisers a good turnout for Bloggers.SG as well.

At least the venue-booking at WRL isn't wasted. The organisers agreed to proceed with a talk in the morning. Nice of Xiaxue, Mr Brown and Preetam to volunteer their time.

Our target audience are parents and teachers, but the event is open to anyone who wants to attend.

Introduction to Blogging
Venue: Woodlands Regional Library Auditorium
Date & Time: Sat, 16 Jul 2005/
10 am to 12 pm
Admission: Free (No registration required)

Session 1: Why do people blog?
Parents often wonder why their children blog. In this session, a popular local blogger will talk about how she started blogging and what motivates her to blog.

Presenter: Wendy Cheng
Wendy Cheng is a freelance writer and her blog is at

Session 2: Blogs, Photoblogs and Podcasting
Check out how easy it is to create and maintain your own blog with a free blog host. We will try out Flickr - a photo blogging tool for people who would rather let their cameras do the talking. Podcasting is a new development in the blog world that lets people create audio and video blogs. We will show you how to find and subscribe to interesting Podcasts.

Presenter: Lee Kin Mun
Lee Kin Mun is a senior consultant, User Experience Architecture and he blogs at

Session 3: Blogs and Learning
Teachers use blogs to encourage their students to reflect on what they have learnt. Students use group blogs to share information and track projects. People are using blogs as online resumes to document their learning experiences. We will look at some examples of such edu-blogs in this session.

Presenter: Preetam Rai
Preetam Rai is an Educational Technologist with Ngee Ann Polytechnic and he blogs at

Brought to you by:
Adult & Young People's Services
Services Management, Public Library Services Group

Help in spreading the word about this programme would be much appreciated. We hope to get 200 participants. Oh, 16 July is also the launch of the latest Harry Potter book. Maybe you might be the lucky one to get a copy at the library.

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Thinking aloud: Learning, taxonomies and the library's role

I've been thinking about Learning, Taxonomies, and the Role of Libraries lately (not necessarily in that particular order). Am involved in discussions and projects to define the roadmap for NLB libraries for the next 5 years (me and many tens of colleagues).

It should be safe for me to write that there will be a press conference on that soon (the 10-year Library 2000 has reached its zenith this year, so NLB will be charting plans for the next 5 years). Until then, I won't say more about the projects being discussed (not that I have a lot to say about them).

But I can use one of Preetam's latest photo travelogue to China as an illustration of one project that I'm thinking about.

I'm referring to his sharing of how the "cross the bridge" noodle came to be named as such. When I read it, I've learnt something new. And he's tagged it (applying a kind of taxonomy if you will).

Where does the library come in?

If the idea I'm trying to define does actualise, the library would play a central role in reframing for people what it means to be learning and being contributors to learning. The learning need not be something formalised. The realisation will be that learning is ubiquitous. And Singaporeans would be "teachers" and "learners" without consciously knowing they are doing it. It's not really developing tools but inculcation of mindsets.

Chances are you can't make heads or tails of what I'm saying here. I have trouble convincing myself it could work too. Things are simply too hazy at this point. Pure day-dreaming on my part.

Or maybe the library doesn't have to do anything 'cos it's already happening with tools like and blogs etc.

Well, see what you make of it. Perhaps you can share some ideas or thoughts on this. To be honest, I really don't have anything concrete and I'm really thinking aloud here.

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

If you missed Neil Gaiman in Singapore

My colleague, Isaak, blogs about Neil Gaiman's visit to library@Orchard (OCCL) on 5th July 2005 evening. I wasn't able to make it to the event. Was informed it was a great success. Here are some pictures from The Simple Life.

NLB Call No.: GAI (Adult Fiction section)
Click here to check for item availability.

I read American Gods recently. Classic Neil Gaiman/ Sandman stuff. One could understand why fans are willing to queue for hours just to get his autograph. Will blog about it (the book, not the fans) later in RawNotes.

Here are some posts by bloggers who turned up for the event:
Server Not Found
A Year Doin' Nuthin
The Simple Life
Mouthing Off
Orange Ice-cream


Friday, July 08, 2005

Awful news but we have good British spirit

Distance from London to Singapore: 6,754 miles or 10,870 kilometers (approx). About 18 hours flight time.

Time difference: 7 hours ahead of London.

Time to send and receive an SMS: Negligible

I SMSed a friend of mine who works and lives in London. The reply:
Hi Ivan, thks 4 ur concern. me and all friends ok. awful news but we have gd british spirit. j

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Atomic Dreamtime

A fellow amateur poet informed me of this online poetry journal, THE MAKATA ( -- "A Journal of Philippine and International Comtemporary Poetry". They accepted my poem recently and published it in their Issue No. 7, July 2005.

Atomic Dreamtime
What if our existence --
Everything we understand
Or think we comprehend

-- Our universe
Is nothing more than
An atom in a bomb-shell?

Lasting as long
As we freefall

Till we explode
Back into Dreamtime

The poem was inspired by books I read at different times. And it just all came together one day.

In the 1930s, various discoveries showed the atom as a minature universe, dense particles of protons and neutrons surrounded by diffuse cloud of electrons.

Science goes to war: The search for the ultimate weapon, from Greek fire to Star Wars/ Ernest Volkman
Click here to check for item availability.

The principle behind the atomic bomb was that in splitting the atom, it released that immense power holding the particles together, thereby producing energies thousands of times greater than that of the sun -- hence the destructive power of the atomic bomb.

Now, what if the entire universe, the galaxies -- life as we know it -- is nothing more than a collection of atomic particles contained within an atomic bomb (or equivalent), free-falling towards a target (whatever it may be)?

Life goes by imperceptably, until the day our sun goes supernova. Our Sun, one of many in the universe has only so much hydrogen to burn and the fate of all stars like the Sun is that once its fuel is spent, it will collapse upon itself and implode -- go supernova.

The wizard of quarks: A fantasy of particle physics/ Robert Gilmore
Click here to check for item availability.

When that happens, when the world comes to an end, perhaps that's just how our feeble human minds perceive -- that our universe -- contained within an atomic bomb -- exploding.

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass/ Lewis Carroll
Click here to check for item availability.

Dreamtime: The Australian Aborigines version of a time before creation. In this case I'm referring more to the Lewis Carrol story, where Alice meets the Red King who's dreaming.

Red King says if he was woken up, the world, along with Alice, might just vanish as if it was just a figment of his imagination. Which was similar to a philosophical concept in Sophie's World -- something about Sophie's world disappearing...

Sophie's World: A novel about the history of philosophy/ Jostein Gaarder
Click here to check for item availability.

And all the books were borrowed from -- where else? -- the library!