Thursday, December 14, 2006

Library outreach event: Singapore Garden Festival (D-Day minus 2)

About six months ago, the good folks at NParks invited NLB to take part in the Singapore Garden Festival (SGF) 2006.
The Singapore Garden Festival 2006

Together with my colleague Ian (he's the manager for the Children Services while I'm responsible for the Adult & Young People's team), we met with NParks for an exploratory meeting. To cut a long story short, we confirmed our involvement and NParks graciously sponsored the booths for NLB.

Working for the NLB Public Library Services -- be it as a Librarian, a Library Officer, a Library Assistant, or as a Manager -- "outreach" is something we'd be involved in (directly or indirectly) practically all year round.

Outreach events are a form of publicity and promotion for the library. We refer to "outreach" as a generic term to mean an activity where we extend our services outside of the library premises. Typically it involves the bringing of library books to the external venue for members to borrow on-the-spot, membership registration and providing our ASK! service.

Since I'm directly involved in this outreach event, I thought I'd write something about it (it also adds to the earlier posts on "What librarians (in public libraries) do").

Before you read on, do note that this particular event is just ONE of the many of outreaches conducted in a given year. The scope and intensity of events would vary. Incidentally, for the last financial year, the PLS conducted about 800 outreach sessions, or a rough average of two outreach activities per library per month (we have 23 branches). The workload at a public library is pretty intense, as any PLS staff would tell you.


After we confirmed our participation in the SGF 2006, two of my librarian colleagues were assigned to form the planning team for D-day. There were further meetings and correspondences with the event organiser (commissioned by NParks to manage the event).

We also held internal meetings. We considered issues like staffing (December was a peak period for us), rostering, logistics, security, budget, sourcing for volunteers to help man the booth, allocation of tasks and duties, and setting of targets and expected outcomes from our participation (this last part was important to ensure we were all in agreement with how we define "success" from this activity).

Finally, after weeks of planning, we're now two days from D-day.

Today, the team went down to check out our allocated booths. When we got there, the boxes of books (selected and packed at the branch, by other colleagues) were already delivered.
Empty Booth

While waiting for the tables we rented to be delivered (so that we can unpack the books), I walked over to a nearby corner and took a shot of the exhibition hall.
Shot of the exhibition hall, L4

After an hour, the rental tables were still yet to be seen. Some calls were made. The vendor would be late, but we were assured the tables would be delivered. We started on other things. E.g. verify the location of the powerpoints and LAN points (one powerpoint was wrongly placed so the site technician had to be called in).
Getting started

My colleagues folded the Resource List/ flyers:
Folding the resource sheets

I started on the decorations for the booth. I was trying to make vines and put up something we called "The NLB Garden", in line with the "Garden" theme of the SGF. Sad to say, I had to abandon the idea!
Trying to create decorations
Our budget didn't allow us to engage a vendor to design and set up the booth. We came up with an idea that seemed rock solid at first. We intended to put up, on the booth wall, a large piece of paper with an outline of a garden. We were going to title it "Help Build the NLB Garden".

Earlier on, we had student volunteers cut pieces of paper from old magazines (to get various shades and sizes). The idea was for visitors to our booth to help themselves to the pieces of cut paper, paste them on the paper-garden outline and basically create a mosaic-style piece over the duration of the exhibition.

It all sounded perfect, in theory. Alas, when we were onsite, we quickly realised that relative to the other nearby booths, we were better off with a plain looking booth than an amateurish looking one! There was a corporate image to maintain.

In the end, we decided not to totally abandon the "Help Build the NLB Garden" idea. We improvised something and will try to do something tomorrow.

ASK! NLBWe also put up this huge mother of a banner! Well OK, it's not that huge. Just taller than anything we have in our past outreach inventory (it was recently purchased for the SGF). The banner itself was two metres in length. Raised on the aluminum pole, the maximum height reached four metres. The darn thing better not fall.

Hmm... looking at the picture now, I'm worried the banner would fall and hurt someone. I have misgivings on just how securely the top aluminum bar was fixed. Better not risk it, no matter how remote the chance. An adult can walk away with a bruise but if it was a child...

First thing tomorrow, we'll reposition it. The heck with making the sign more prominent. Public safety comes first.

In case you're wondering where the NLB booth is located, we're on the 4th level of the convention centre, booth numbers A95 - A 97 (the entire SGF event takes place on floors 4 and 6).
NLB booth - A95 to A97

Suntec Exhibition Hall, L4

Here's the link to the location maps in PDF. I've drawn the path to our booth, from the direction where visitors would arrive to the main entrance:
How to get to NLB SGF booth

There's an admission fee to the Singapore Garden Festival. I wonder if ticket prices would affect the number of visitors to the show. We shall see.

Judging from the vendors and their set-up, it's going to be a huge, huge show. I was really impressed with the design of some booths. I think amateur-botanists and people with a general interest in botany and gardening would like this event.

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  1. Anonymous10:57 am

    Thanks Ivan for the info, I am definitely thinking of visiting this exhibition. A couple of months back my colleague took pics of the mini fairy garden setup in the main NLB atrium and we had wanted to go have a look too. Too bad it only lasted only the weekend. Didn't know it was gonna be such a big event.

  2. Anonymous2:33 pm

    Hi Ivan, since you're doing outreach for SGF and seeing your interest in the social media, thought I'd bring your attention to the Wikipedia entry on SGF:

  3. Hey Karen, if you liked that exhibit at NLB, I think you're gonna like the SGF.

    Thanks for the link, Ben. I didn't know about that.


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