Thursday, March 30, 2006

Online book discussion, anyone?

My colleagues and I are planning for an Online Book Discussion for READ! Singapore 2006 (yup, it's here again). It will involve 'live chat' (using Instant Messenger, or similar tools). Basically, it's an alternative to face-to-face book discussions.

I thought it would be really cool to have some bloggers organise and/ or host the session online.

So, any volunteers? You don't even have to be in Singapore (don't let the 'READ! Singapore' restrict you if you're interested). OK, let me know! Email me direct ( or post a comment here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Kevin's Flu Wiki interview

I'm listening to a podcast as I blog this, where Kevin interviews Dem ("call me Dem from Connecticut") about the origins and process of setting up of the Flu Wiki -- a wiki "to help local communities prepare for and perhaps cope with a possible influenza pandemic."

I decided to listen after reading Kevin's email:
Hello Ivan, I just wanted to alert you to a recent interview I did with DemfromCT, one of three Flu Wiki founders/editors. He mentioned how one of the three prominent groups of people who read the site are us people from the Library Sciences.

As you know Flu Wiki focuses on everything related to the Bird Flu pandemic. Besides the origins of Flu Wiki, we also talked about how wikis transfer power from authority to the masses, force us to reassess ideas of trust, as well as how Flu Wiki demonstrates the transfer of online reputation across spheres of interest (i.e. political to health).

Plenty of topics were covered in this extended podcast so do take a look at the transcript and related links by checking out the post at

I'm glad I did. It's was an insightful interview on how this wiki was created, what motivated it to be created, how Wikis might develop further, and a whole lot of thoughtful responses to general issues concerning Wikis.

Selected soundbites:
  • "Official sources don't deal real well with non-consensus items".
  • "The CDC take into account a lot of this [discussions]... and apply it to their focus groups..."
  • [Cites an example during the SARS epidemic, in Canada] "... WHO is not setup to talk to the provinces [in Canada, who had questions]. They're only set to talk to the federal government. I certainly don't expect them to respond to individuals. But they read us and if that influences what they say and how they interact with the public, that's a response."
  • "I think they [official sources] appreciate that we get to hash out the more contentious issues, and they get to get a chance to see how's that's happening before they make a call..."
  • "Official sources read us..."
  • "People drop porn links, links to commercial products... the usual stuff that you try to filter... we just remove it."
  • [Spamming and junk posting] "It's been an annoyance, it's not been a major issue"
  • ['Do you believe in the maxim that a wiki is a good place to start your research but not end it?"] "Yes."
  • "We try to provide links backing up what we say and why we say it. I don't think anybody should ever say it must be true 'cos I've read it in Flu Wiki."

According to the About Page, "Flu Wiki is not meant to be a substitute for planning, preparation and implementation by civil authorities, but instead is a parallel effort that complements, supports and extends those efforts."

The topic of Wikis is a contentious one among librarians, in varying degrees (to those who aren't familiar about the general problem with Wikis, here’s one discussion).

I'm aware that some librarians feel that Wikis should never be cited as part of the answer for Advisory/ Reference questions. I have a different take.

The issue isn't about Wikis per se, but about how well the end-users understand the nature of the information source they are using. If we find that a wiki page has accurate information and it's realy the violatility of that information we're worried about, then advise our customer accordingly. Let the customer use the information with their eyes open.

Anyway, go check out Kevin's post, where he lists the transcript of the interview. It's worth the time to listen if you're planning on implementing wikis (you can skip to sections in the interview).


Monday, March 27, 2006

Help needed: Settings in scanning & saving artworks for archival

I posted this question over at The Drawing Club mailing list. Maybe you could help too:
I'm curious to know what settings you use in scanning & saving your artworks for archival purposes. Currently, I'm saving them in TIFF format (600dpi). I end up with 2 files, 'cos I would save one TIFF version for PC, and one for Mac. Wonder if that's an overkill... anyway, I'd really like to know how others archive their works.

I started scanning my works after I discovered the pages from my earlier pieces (about 10 years ago, all on paper) were turning yellow, and the colours from paints were no longer as vibrant (same issues that any art museum would face).

What didn't seem to deteriorate as fast was the inks -- works outlined with Indian Ink, to be exact. The black lines were still very sharp, which contrasted with the yellowing paper.

Investing in humidifiers is out of the question. I used an acrylic fixative to seal the works in. That helped to some extent but Father Time and Mother Nature still manages to catch up.

Digitising the works is a longer-term solution (though I recognise it has its own set of issues, like what if the software/ hardware or operating system isn't available anymore).

So I want to make sure I scan and save my art work appropriately. Also, I'm harbouring hopes of producing a Larger-Than-Life image in the future. Last thing I need is to blissfully assume that I've digitised my works correctly, only to find that when I need the digitised copies they aren't in the optimal formats. By that time, the originals might not be around.


Sunday, March 26, 2006 & my Art Sunday

I've been following this site called Illustration Friday for a while now. I discovered it when searching for sites to link to from my art blog:
Illustration Friday is meant to challenge participants creatively. We believe that every person has a little creative bone in their body. Illustration Friday just gives a no-pressure, fun excuse to use it. No clients looking for a particular thing. No one judging the outcome of the work. It's a chance to experiment and explore and play with visual art. Curious about collage? Try it here. Never even picked up a colored pencil? Why not now? Just have time for a doodle? That's okay, we'd love to see it. You don't have to be an illustrator or an artist to participate. Just pick up a pencil, for the love of pete.

1989 (Aug) Sherba - Arakian Trakker Hound 180705I signed up for their mailing list some time ago and have been receiving alerts on themes for the week. This week was on "Monsters" (received the mail on Friday) and this morning, I decided to submit this one on the right (url link only; you don't have to upload anything to Illustration Friday).

Didn't really expect much to happen, but pretty soon a few comments came in. Naturally they were illustrators too (who participated in Illustration Friday). I was blown away by their works in their blogs/ websites like this one, this, this, this and this... sorry if I left anyone out. Too many to list here. They are all good. It was really interesting to see how different people interpreted the same theme.

PLS Genre Guide Horror v150306Feeling much encouraged, I submitted another "Monster" link and the traffic to MyRightBrain has been climbing the last time I checked.

It's gratifying to know that people are looking at my work, and it's equally gratifying to look at others who share a love and interest in art. Certainly learnt more than a thing or two (some ideas and techniques I'd want to try in the near future). Also made a point to comment, to let them know I dropped by and what I liked about their work.

Did I tell you I love the Blogosphere?

Coincidentally, my wife bought me a sketch book when we went shopping this afternoon. We reached home. I started doodling. One sketch let to another, and another. The works won't earn me a place in art houses anytime soon but it was a fun exercise. Gave me a sense of purpose, even. I'll scan and post them up soon.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Preetam's Odeo & Google Page Creator tutorials

Another set of solid tutorials from Preetam. Check them out:

The instructions are clear and systematic. You'll be podcasting and creating Google Pages in no time.

Question: Where to repair books in Singapore

I received the following question from Shash a few days ago. Have forwarded Shash's question to my colleagues over at ASK! and also posting it here (with permission). Perhaps some of you might know the answer:
I'd like to know where in Singapore I can send my books for repair. These are rather old (many about a century old) - they are relics of my student days in the UK. They are suffering rather badly in tropical Singapore. Much of their binding and the condition of the spines is in a bad shape. Hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction.

Many thanks,

Wow, a century old!

Digital Realm of Music - The Online Guitarists

Popped by this programme at JRL's teens library, V.A.T.
Digital Realm of Music - The Online Guitarists!
Digital Realm of Music - The Online Guitarists!
  • Date/Time : 25 Mar 2006 , 2.00pm to 3.00pm
  • Venue : Jurong Regional Library - Verging All Teens (VAT)
  • Presenter : City School of Music
In this talk. you get to learn about the history of guitar amplification, industry development over the past few decades and the current trends that dominate the music scene today. You will also get to study some legendary guitarists and gain insights into the gears and tone settings of the sounds that were used in their recordings.

Sounded like an interesting talk but unfortunately I had no time to stay for the entire programme. Apparently there was a technical hiccup so they couldn't show their powerpoint slides (I suppose on the history and industry development bit). They went directly into a demo of the sounds used by guitarists like Eric Clapton, Slash (from Guns N Roses), Jimi Hendrix, BB King...

BTW, if you're between 13 to 25, and you're looking for a performance space for your amateur band, contact the folks at Jurong Regional Library. You have the entire floor at V.A.T. to show your music talents. Or email me and I'll put you in touch with them.

I'm personally hoping someone could do a programme/ workshop in the library on the Indian Sitar. I'm really curious how it plays, compared to the guitar. I almost signed up for lessons one time but chickened out. So a programme at the library would be a good, safe, and cost-free way to explore before committing more time and money. Anyone know of a good and reliable Sitar instructor?


Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Art of Questioning: Lessons from my modem troubles (part 3)

[From: The Art of Questioning: Observations from my modem troubles (Part 2)]

Final Instalment of my "Modem Troubles" saga:

Decided to visit Sim Lim Square (one of the place to be in Singapore for IT stuff) to buy a modem. This time I decided there was absolute no way I could go wrong with the modem purchase. My wife had done her homework and even identified which particular shop sold the correct modem. I've also resolved to ask some questions before making the purchase.

I went into the shop, stepped up to the shop owner and asked questions like, "What's the difference between a 'router' and a 'modem/ router'" and "So this isn't a pre-router right?".

The guy was friendly enough to explain all the differences. He didn't turn out to be some of those shop owner who were reluctant to explain such lay-person details ('cos their typical customers were those who know their Routers from their Modems).

The shop owner showed me a model after I told him I wanted a wireless modem for my ADSL connection. He showed me the same model as the one that went kaput. I told him I didn't want the same model and asked if there was another brand. He fished out another which was slightly more expensive.

More expensive, so must be better, I thought. So I paid up, went home and tried to fix up the modem. Shouldn't be too difficult now, right? I plugged in the cable, called up the modem configuration page and while the configuration page looked different, I'm sure I'll be able to remember the settings after a full solid hour's worth of 1-to-1 IT lesson from Tech Support for the earlier modem.


The modem setup page for this new modem was different from the previous model. And following the manual, I came to a page where the manual says, "Please check the settings with your ISP".

Duh... but nevermind. I called my ISP for tech support to get the settings. Waited 20 mins. Got through. Tech support staff asked, "What brand is your new modem". I gave him the brand name. "Oh, sorry but we don't support that particular brand. We only provide support for XXX brand."

WTF. You've gotta be kidding me, right?!

How come you didn't specify what modems you supported in your website and manuals? (I didn't voice this out. No point trying to make life difficult for the Tech Support guy).

Apparently, they couldn't guide me through the modem configuration process because it wasn't a model they were familiar with. I didn't lose my temper, in case you were wondering. Frustrated, yes. But no point getting upset. Like I said, not the Tech Support guy's fault anyway. Was more angry that the ISP website didn't say anything about not supporting other modems. Before I hung up, the Tech Support guy gave me for a Helpdesk number for the maker of my apparently now brand-new but unsupported modem.

I called the company that made the modem. They had a 800 number. This time I didn't wait 20mins. Got through pretty fast. Was a lady ("Hi, this is Sarah, Badge Number 23977, how may I help you?") with a Filipino accent. Ah, one of the outsourced IT operations. How interesting. The phone conversation had voice lags.

So maybe now this tech support can help me configure my modem. My woes are over.


Seems the modem manufacturer don't know the specific settings (the settings depended on my ISP. This manufacturer makes a product that's used in many countries so they couldn't tell what settings my ISP required.

At that point, I wanted to give up all hope. The modem manual asked me to check with my ISP. My ISP asked me to check with the modem manufacturer. The modem manufacturer asked me to check with my ISP!

I was ready to kiss my money goodbye for the brand-new but apparently useless modem.

However, Sarah (Badge Number 23977) didn't give up. She was really really helpful. She asked me what my ISP Tech Support said exactly. Then she offered suggestions on what questions I could ask my ISP Tech Support.

She advised me that instead of asking for step-by-step guidance on how to configure the modem setup page (the modem I bought had a different setup page, which my ISP "didn't support"), I should ask them specific questions like what was the "Encapsulation" setting, whether it's "LCC" or "VC" etc. In other words, she advised me on how to deal with my ISP Tech Support.

Sarah, tech support staff, was teaching me, the librarian, on the Art of Questioning!

I called back my ISP Tech Support. I did what Sarah (Badge Number 23977) advised me to do. My ISP Tech Support staff patiently gave me the answers. I thanked him and hung up.

Took a deep breath. Went through the configuration process with the settings. The modem indicator light blinked a few times (meaning it was trying to get access). It flickered, blinked a few more times, and remained stable.

Contact! I had Internet Connectivity again! Woot!

So thank you Sarah (Badge Number 23977), for not giving up when I did. I might have thought I knew the Art of Questioning but in a state of panic, I wasn't in the right mind to ask the right ones. You may not have given me the answers but you've given me something more (alot more than what my "We-don't-support-this-model" ISP tech support gave me). You went the extra mile. You taught me on the Art of Questioning. You advised me how to Ask the Right Questions.

I'm not going to sum up the observations that relate to Librarians and the Reference Interview/ Reference Service. I feel they are pretty self-evident. If not, maybe you'd like to refer to Part 1 and Part 2 again.

I doubt if Sarah would ever read this post. In any case, I wrote her a compliment via her company website.


Monday, March 20, 2006

The Art of Questioning: Lessons from my modem troubles (Part 2)

[From: The Art of Questioning: Observations from my modem troubles (Part 1)]

So my wife and I decided to get a new modem. We found one on sale in a book store (nowadays, book stores carry more than just books). Told the salesperson we needed one. He unlocked the display case and handed it over. We paid and left the store.


My wife and I thought we needed a "router" since our previous modem was called a "Wireless-G router". Turned out we needed a "router + modem" and not just "router". Worse, the "router" we bought from the store turned out to be a "pre-router" (i.e. totally useless if you don't have a working modem). The thing cost almost $200 and we already paid for it.

We returned to the shop that same day. My wife spoke to the salesperson who attended to us and asked if we could get a refund. He was apologetic but answer was no. Hardly surprising since majority of Singapore retailers don't have a refund policy if the item isn't faulty.

But the salesperson offered to check with the store manager if something could be done. After a short wait, he came back and -- again, still being apologetic -- said we couldn't get an outright refund but could purchase other things from the book store for the equivalent value.

We were happy with that. My wife went on a book shopping spree and bought $200 worth of reading materials. Turned out she's been eyeing most of the books anyway.

Some observations that relate to Librarians and the Reference Interview/ Reference Service:

#1 - Don't just take the Enquiry at face value; make an attempt to understand the intent
Some customers might be very definite about what they want. E.g. they'd ask, "Do you have this book/ journal article/ resource" (just like me -- I sounded very definite when I asked the salesperson for "that router").

While we, the service provider, should not question the customer's motive for using our service, we should make some attempt (e.g. small talk) to understand their intent. Maybe the salesperson could have asked me if I'm facing problems with my current router, as an indirect way of understanding why I asked for it. It would be a subtle way of checking if I was asking for the right product.

#2 - Know your product
While I found the salesperson polite, I wouldn't rate him very high on Product Knowledge. When I asked about things like Warranty Cards and Technical Support, he couldn't really answer me and started looking for information in the box. I probably wouldn't recommend others to buy from that store.

#3 - The librarian can make a choice -- provide a Transaction, or a Service
The salesperson in that book store performed merely a Transactional role. He was friendly and polite but that's it. If the equipment was on the open shelf, I wouldn't have bothered to seek his assistance. I'd preferred to go DIY where I can read the product information at leisure (does this scenario seem familiar in the library's context?)

I think we should recognise that when customers utilise the service of a librarian, inherently they'd expect something more than what they could easily obtain on their own (like using Search Engines). And they wouldn't articulate this expectation. We, the service providers, have to recognise that.

#4 - Reference Training should include the "Service Behaviour" aspect
This point follows #3. If customers want a transaction to be performed, they are better off dealing with a machine (I know I will prefer that). But I'd argue that machines don't provide services as much as performing mere transactions. Hence the part of the librarians.

But some librarians (consciously or not) merely perform transactions. Service Attitude isn't necessarily an intuitive behaviour. Some people naturally are service-oriented while some aren't.

To my knowledge, "Reference Training" is often planned or carried out separately from "Customer Service" or "Service Behaviour". Maybe there should be a way to integrate the two types of training. Maybe it's about training librarians on how to start and engage in meaningful conversations.

#5 - Never, ever make the customer feel stupid
The salesperson (or service provider) could've dealt with the same product enquiry so many times that they might sound bored in giving the answer. Or they might be a bit quick to anticipate the question from the customer and shoot off an answer, hence making the customer feel as if they shouldn't have asked a seemingly basic the question.

There are many reasons for the service provider "losing it". I think fatigue is the biggest culprit. Or sometimes it's just a genuine lack of awareness on the part of the service provider. For the latter, maybe continual training is the answer.

Here's a wild idea: Reference Librarians could be sent out on mock assignments to buy a product in a field which they totally have no background. They should observe the service they receive and also record their feelings.

The assignments should be something totally out of their depth. For instance, if you're not a Mac user, go into the Apple store and pretend you're interested in the MacBook Pro. See what kind of service we receive, match against our expectations, and finally relate it to the service we provideas Librarians.

#6 - Giving the customer something is better than nothing even if it's not what they really want*
What my wife and I really wanted was a refund. While we didn't get that, we were offered something good enough, given the circumstances, i.e. we could be stuck with a $200 pre-router that was totally useless to us, or we could shop for $200 worth of books.

In the context of a question asked by a library user, what I mean to say is that if we can't find any answers or information to fulfil the enquiry, rather than say "No, we can't find the information you're looking for", the librarian should attempt to provide something close enough while acknowledging that it might not be the exact answer the customer is seeking.

[* NOTE: I decided to strike out that last phrase, based on some very valid feedback to this blog post. Upon hindsight, that phrase was a distraction to the point I was trying to make for #6, which was to always do our best to fulfil the customer's information request, with the available time and resource at that moment in time. It's about trying to end the service encounter on a positive note rather than with a flat "No". I am definitely NOT suggesting that librarians giving something good enough in order to end the transaction quickly ~ Ivan, 19 Apr 2006.]

#7 - It takes two hands to clap
This isn't something within the control of the librarian but I'd put it here anyway. It's about promoting good customer behaviour. My wife and I could've kicked up a big fuss about inadequate advice by the salesperson and insisted on a refund even when they said it was against the store policy. But instead, dealing with the problem rationally and quietly proved to be the better way out.

Every librarian dealing with customers would come across some irate people at some point. While we cannot prevent customers from exhibiting less than desirable behaviours, I wonder if we should actively reward and publicise those who demonstrate qualities of a Good Customer.

For instance, what if that book store gave us further discounts on the books (in recognition that we could've kicked up a fuss but we didn't)? While my wife and I wouldn't want our pictures to be taken and posted in their store, a discount or voucher for the next visit would certainly make us want to patronise the store a second time.

I'm not sure how public libraries could implement this (and preventing abuse), but it might be worth giving it more thought, especially if our library customers are faced with so many other alternatives to the services we provide.

Coming up: Part 3 -- Second attempt at buying a modem!


Friday, March 17, 2006

The Art of Questioning: Observations from my modem troubles (Part 1)

My ADSL modem at home went kaput. My wife and I were without Internet access from home for the last five days. During these Internet-connectionless days, the process of dealing with tech support and then shopping for a modem turned out to be a real learning experience for me. And I've made some observations regarding the Art of Questioning. Not exactly about librarians and the Reference Interview but some things are related.

Librarians learn something called "The Reference Interview" in library school. I'm not going to write about this per se. You can read articles like this one, this and this one.

My modem troubles started with intermittent access to the Internet from home, which occurred with increased frequency. I called the ISP tech support line and each call required a wait of 25mins before I spoke to someone. BTW, if you're reading this, please stop reading and go check if you have your ISP helpdesk number written or documented somewhere. The last thing you want is to discover your connection's down and you need to call your ISP, only to discover you've not bothered to have the numbers printed since they were online and now you have no access to the Internet... (didn't happen to me, but just a warning!)

Was my first time calling the ISP Helpline. Spoke with the Tech Support staff, young girl who sounded not older than 20. Friendly, patient and knowledgeable. I actually learnt things re: the tech setup and configuration of DSL modems.

Here's another learning point -- make sure you have your Mobile Phone with you even if you are using a landline to speak with Tech Support. See, at some point they're gonna ask you to disconnect the phone line as part of troubleshooting, which means your landline connection to Tech Support is cutoff. You don't want to wait another 25 mins to get through to Helpdesk, trust me.

A competent Tech Support staff will ask for your Mobile number before they ask you to remove that phone connection. And then make sure your mobile phone battery's on full charge, for obvious reasons.

Oh, I spent close to an hour with the Tech Support staff. No wonder if took about 25mins for customers to get through!

So final conclusion after troubleshooting: the modem's a goner. My wife and I decided it wasn't worth getting it to the service centre for repairs so we decided to buy a new one.

And the observations here, wrt Librarians and the Reference Interview (I was the customer in this case)? Some are fairly obvious. Let's see:
    1. Get the facts first (that's the most basic).
    2. Under normal circumstances, most library customers aren't going to wait 20 mins to speak with a librarian.
    3. Customer's first encounter with the librarian is a "make-or-break" situation. If the issue at hand isn't resolved, or the customer doesn't get an assurance that their "service need" (translate: "info need") would be resolved at some reasonable time in the future, then they'll never go back to the librarian.
    4. The service provider/ librarian might not be able to give the customer the solution to their problem, but a customer would be equally appreciative if the service provider help shed some light on their problem.
    5. Inform the customer what you (the librarian) are going to do, and how you are going to do it. Letting the customer know what is being done helps alleviate some anxiety.
    6. A competent service provider should anticipate the need of the customer, but also inform the customer what they anticipate and inform the customer accordingly (e.g. the mobile phone Vs Landline)
    7. Customers may think they are approaching librarians for answers, but I think the closer truth is that librarians provide assistance rather than answers per se.
    8. Librarians, of course, should provide answers and not only just directions to where answers can be found. But it's the assistance that customers will remember the most.

      Kinda late now and I'm getting sleepy. Not a very analytical list, I'm afraid. Maybe you can spot some more. Feel free to add as a comment.

      Coming up: Part 2 -- buying a modem!


      Sunday, March 12, 2006

      Raw notes is now Rough Notes: My new Wordpress Blog


      I've waited for as long as I can for you to introduce a Categories feature like but I can't wait any longer. My posts in Raw Notes have grown to the extent that I need to be able to categorise the books by genre and format (what can I say? I'm a librarian.)

      What more, has made it so easy to migrate the posts over. I gave it a shot and it was done in minutes without hitches, and was born.

      With the appropriate wordpress template, I can now tell at a glance how many items are in each category (e.g. "Books", "Graphic Novels", "Fiction", "Non-fiction", "Science Fiction"). It's a great way for me to apply some of the library classification skills and knowledge, as well as learn -- through application -- the issues regarding traditional classification and taxonomies Vs the popularity and relevance of "folksonomy".

      Another cool thing is that I can create Pages, like this one on the DDC (a primer to non-librarians and a quick-reference for me).

      Anyway, Rambling Librarian will still be here (but I tell you, the folks at Wordpress are giving you a run for the money...)

      Rambling Librarian

      Friday, March 10, 2006

      Jurong West Community Library Re-opening: Day 1

      JWCL/ Frontier CC FoyerSurprisingly, there wasn't the usual stampede into the library. Things went pretty smoothly and orderly during the first hour on a bright sunny Friday morning. The crowd started to pick up around 1pm. The re-opening of JWCL was kept low-key. There was no ribbon-cutting exercise or lion dances etc.

      From the outside of the premises of the Frontier Community Place, the PA logo wasn't put up yet. The CC wasn't ready for operations yet. No programmes were being held. But I think more people will drop by the library as word of mouth gets around.

      It's JWCL's 10th Anniversary, btw. You can place your birthday greetings on this giant birthday card.
      JWCL 10th Anniversary
      JWCL 10th Anniversary

      For sure, parents and kids will love the Children's Section at Level 2. Storytelling Sessions are on Saturdays:
      Children's Section JWCL MuralChildren's Section JWCL

      Here's the Teens section on level 3 (same level where the Graphic Novels section's located) -- go add Your Voice to the teens expression wall:
      Teens section JWCLTeens section JWCL

      One thing this re-opened JWCL has is definitely SPACE! I'm sure the regulars of JWCL would really like the new environment. Much more spacious that the previous one over at the mall.
      Quiet-reading room JWCL
      Reading Area JWCL

      The collection's pretty well-stocked too, but don't just take my word for it. :)

      When the PA programmes are in full-swing, things will get really interesting, I think. For directions on how to get to JWCL, click here.

      [Ref: Media Release: Re-opening of Jurong West Community Library (JWCL)]

      Wednesday, March 08, 2006

      Media Release: Re-opening of Jurong West Community Library (JWCL)

      If you're near Jurong West this Friday, drop by the upgraded JWCL. Here's the press release that went out early this week:
      Jurong West Community Library (JWCL) will re-open its doors to the public at its new site in Jurong West Central on 10 March 2006 at 10 am, after being closed for relocation for two months. The library will be co-located within The Frontier Community Place managed by the People's Association (PA).

      The collection size in the new JWCL will be increased by more than 30% and will be housed over a larger floor area. The new JWCL will also offer residents a holistic learning experience via the National Library Board's (NLB) first-ever seamless physical integration with The Frontier Community Centre (CC).

      At the three-storey building, residents can bring the books from the library to any location within The Frontier CC to browse before loaning the books at the borrowing stations on the ground floor of the library. The integrated model effectively expands the reading and studying areas beyond the boundaries of the library to other community spaces within the building.

      This integrated learning environment at JWCL is experimental and will be put on a 6-month pilot period. After the pilot phase, NLB and PA will evaluate the user behaviour patterns and decide whether to continue with this integrated model.

      The idea for the integrated learning, social and recreational hub for JWCL was first mooted by Mr Cedric Foo, Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC, Pioneer Division and was welcomed by National Library Board (NLB).

      Said Dr N. Varaprasad, Chief Executive, NLB, "The development of Jurong West Community Library is in line with NLB's L2010 plan to transform our libraries into social spaces where users can learn, interact and bond via our library collections and programmes. The unconventional concept of JWCL places it right in the heart of community life and activity. Amid this unique setting, we hope to help our library patrons move beyond the experience of books and enjoy multi-faceted learning journeys and engage in a holistic learning experience."

      "We are very happy to partner with the library to offer more convenient services to our residents. In this way, we hope that more residents will come to the CC and support our community bonding activities," added Mr Lee Mun Hoe, the Chairman of The Frontier CC Management Committee.

      This is the second partnership between NLB and PA, after the successful synergy between the Marine Parade Community Library (MPCL) and Marine Parade CC, which are co-located at Marine Parade Community Building and opened on 28 May 2000.

      "Ten on Ten" Birthday Bash
      JWCL will also re-open to an exciting suite of programmes to mark its tenth anniversary, including a giant birthday card for library users to pen their wishes, an exhibition of its history and development, live band performances and a photography workshop...

      ... For more information on the programmes, library users can call 6332 3255. Or better yet, drop by the library for details on upcoming programmes and events.

      Sunday, March 05, 2006

      The Normalisation of Blogging - Almost

      Shel writes that "Blogging is Normalizing" -- that "there is general understanding that blogging is fundamentally changing how companies communicate" and "blogging has already been injected into a great number of corporate cultures".

      I think so too, based on recent experiences and observations. Blogs as a Communications Tool has just about gone over the "what is it" stage and into the "how do I leverage on it" stage.

      During my recent training experience for the Southern Africa Online User Group (SAOUG) to about 100 Library & Information Professionals in South Africa, my co-trainer and I learnt that most participants had a basic understanding of "What is a weblog" and their interest in the course was more of "How do I actually blog" or "How do I start a Corporate Blog". I'd say almost half of the participants were looking at the possibility of using blogs for their corporate internal communications.

      Also, take Yesterday.SG for instance -- an initiative by the Museum Roundtable, supported by the National Heritage Board (NHB), Singapore. And of course I can't resist mentioning the High Browse Online (public libraries) book blog and the National Library Programmes blog directly managed by NLB.

      All three blogs are linked to Government agencies (directly or indirectly). BTW, here's a funny thought -- it seems that it's the government agencies here who are leading the way in using blogs as a communication and social networking platform! So who says the Government Sector is less innovative and more risk-adverse? :)

      However, I see "blogging" as more than just "blogs". While "blogs are normalising", what isn't so apparent yet is whether organisations and institutions are willing to adopt a "blogging culture", i.e. a willingness to provide an insider's view into the institution.

      Personally, I'd like to see, in Singapore, a mix of Library Corporate Websites with sprinklings of Librarian Blogs.


      I feel it's about creating a difference in how libraries and librarians interact with our public stakeholders. You can say it's PR but I say it's about Customer Relations.

      And that will take a bit more time to realise, if it does happen at all for libraries in Singapore.

      Tag: ,

      Saturday, March 04, 2006

      Version 2: January Skies Cosmic Mix version

      Just uploaded this file to Internet Archive (800KB MP3 file, approx. 50 secs). It's a modified version of this earlier experiment. Details on how the Cosmic Mix version was done, over here.

      Tag: ,

      Friday, March 03, 2006

      But Rajaratnam lives on, my young padawan!

      Chong Yong, a 15-year-old student in ACS (Independent), wrote a poem inspired by Rajaratnam's life and death (read poem here, posted at Otterman's blog).

      The following lines (around line 15) caught my attention:
      Such a great man, why did he die?

      One of the old guards,
      Faded into obscurity,
      Those who cared, only a minority.

      Kudos to Chong Yong for writing the poem, and for the youthful idealisms expressed.

      In response to those lines, I'd like to tell young Chong Yong that all men and women, great or otherwise, die eventually. Immortality exists only in fiction (so far). Death is the equaliser, isn't it. The difference is in how we have lived our lives.

      Did Rajaratnam fade into obscurity? Hardly. He's left a legacy. How many people could have said to have done that when their time is up?

      S. Rajaratnam lives on, in words and spirit, my young Padawan!


      So an iPod Shuffle's not enough? Here's more things to win

      So, you think an iPod Shuffle isn't enough? Then check this out, from the folks at (was officially launched, er... yesterday, on 2 Mar 2006):
      Fancy an Apple iMac, Sony Mini Divi Handycam, or Sony Cybershot digicam?
      Post your stories (and pictures) on museums and heritage in Singapore on and the top three posts with the highest number of votes by 31 March will win the prizes stated above! In addition, by posting, you'll also be automatically eligible for a lucky draw where you could win a Compaq laptop, Motorola ROKR phone, iPod nanos etc.

      Prizes aside, we would really like to hear your stories on growing up in Singapore. Stuff not found in the history books, like the closing of the National Library, the demolition of Geylang Serai market, Old Airport Road Hawker Centre and so on.

      Just sign up on and you can start blogging.

      More details of the promotion over here. If you encounter any problems signing up to, click here.

      Too bad I'm not eligible for the prizes, 'cos I've been roped in as a contributing editor (volunteer basis). Dang... had I known they were offering such prizes, I'd have not said yes so fast when they invited me. : )

      Thursday, March 02, 2006

      Want to win a brand new iPod Shuffle?

      For NLB library members -- Stand a chance to win an iPod Shuffle; just ASK a question. Details of the ASK promotion here:
      What questions can I ask?
      Well, almost anything under the sun. However to stand a chance to win the prizes, yours should be an interesting or thought-provoking question. Examples:
      - How do I decide what digital camera to buy?
      - Why doesn’t superglue stick to its tube?
      - Do you have novels relating to double colonization?
      Chances of winning way higher than trying to win Toto or 4D (our local lottery). No limit to the number of entries. Promotion ends 31 Mar 2006. Good luck!

      One big idea behind this promotion was to promote "a culture of enquiry" if you will, particularly among students. I've observed that most students ask questions only when they have to do "serious research" or school projects. But we'd like them to ask questions for seemingly mundane questions. We also try to focus on Fiction-related questions.

      There'll be more plans to publicise the service. Ideas and feedback are welcome. Personally, I would've called our service "Ask Us Stupid Questions" but it was shot down... :)

      Btw, if Singapore Bloggers help blog about this, I'll personally throw in additional freebies for you, while stocks last. Drop me a mail re: your blog post at and I'll get in touch with you.