Saturday, September 29, 2007

Discovering Macs. Discovering Music. Discovering Friends.

Yesterday, an old friend Lekowala (whom we serendipitously reconnected through Siva earlier this year) texted me, asking how stereo tracks could be created in GarageBand. So I did, via this blog post.

Lekowala got himself a Mac about three months ago. He emailed me, as a demo piece. Which led to this collaborative piece quite by chance (see also, this post).

powered by ODEO

A few weeks ago, we met face-to-face for the first time after 20 years (yeah, 20 years!) When we parted, we'd agreed to jointly work on music album. We've about seven songs so far. We're producing it all on our Macs. Target date for release: December 2007.

Lekowala mentioned the same thing here. I'm really quite excited about this. Not that we would become rich or famous. It's really about creating some meaningful direction and purpose for a hobby that both of us share.
My Macbook ProMy Electrics

Of late, some Songcrafters have been talking about getting Macs to record and edit their pieces. At least one of them has crossed over to the Dark Side... or, FROM the dark side, depending on how you see it. :)

I told the folks at Songcraft to check out books like this from the NLB public library:
Mac OS X Tiger (Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks), by Mark Chambers.

NLB Call No.: 005.4469 CHA -[COM]
ISBN: 0-7645-7699-2
Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

As I explained at this post, the first time I used a Mac was when I received my Macbook Pro. I switched it on. Then stared at the pretty interface. Didn't quite know what to do next. I knew it was using the OS X operating system but otherwise, I was thinking in "PC Windows" mode.

For "switchers", it might be useful to read posts like this and this one (hat tip to Siva). Excellent posts, although I still found the book more concise and structured for newbies.

One of my first impressions after the first Songcraft meetup was how most of the participants didn't record or mix their music using computers. And they didn't consider publishing their music online.
Songcraft Songwriters Circle Meetup #1

Which was a pity to me, 'cos many of their songs ought to be made available to the world at large. Music by Singaporeans. It's easily on par with amateur musicians from other parts of the world, at least to me (go check out their blogs at the Songcraft blogroll).

RAMBLE -- on Macs and Computers Viruses:
Heh... I'm chuckling after re-reading this comment from Doug. He's the Director of Media and Technology for the Mankato Public Schools. He wrote that he discouraged people from buying Macs, fearing that the popularity of Macs would lead to increased attempts to hit Macs with viruses.

I had that concern too. Not about discouraging people to buy Macs, but about the virus problem.

A Mac is relatively virus-proof as compared to Windows PC (as I've found). You can safely surf around without installing anti-virus softwares (try that with a PC and you'd be hit in a matter of days).

Also, if you follow advice like this and join groups like ME@N (where you can get friendly advice from Mac users).

Maybe we could appeal to would-be virus vandals to consider pictures like this before they decide to wreak mayhem:

Chirag Thrilled with Powerbook
Originally uploaded by Captain Suresh

Music in the Me@n-time
I figured if the day comes (when Macs aren't safe anymore), then so be it.

In the meantime, I'd encourage more Singapore amateur musicians try out Macs (or PCs for that matter). I believe that the more Singaporeans share their music online, the more mature we'd grow musically.

I believe an active amateur movement will inevitably create a spillover effect, towards a vibrant music and performing arts scene in Singapore (to even groups like ScreenPlayer).

And maybe, we'd even discover what exactly is the Singaporean flavour in our music.

Friday, September 28, 2007

What our dog left behind...

Our dog Max likes to plonk himself on cushions. In this instance, he got off the heart-spahed cushion just before my wife took the shot.

It looked as if he just pooped and left us a message.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

ReTRIeVIA blog - Dr. Tan Wee Kiat's "Trivia Retrieved"

I'm currently helping a fellow FOYer publish a series of post at this blog called ReTRIeVIA (

You can read how the blog came about, here.

The blog's intellectual content belongs to Dr. Tan Wee Kiat -- retired NIE Associate Professor, avid philatelist, author (plus co-author/ publisher), swimmer-instructor, and all round nice-guy.

I'm just the caretaker.

Blogging's not something that everyone would like to take up. Even if they have good stories to tell.

Dr. Tan (whom I believe is in his mid-60s, but looking 10 years younger than that) is a humble man. A fella who lets young upstarts like me call him by his name, Wee Kiat (I exercise that privilege most of the time when posting to the FOYers group).

With the PDF article he sent me, it takes relatively little effort to publish to the blog. The individual articles are in concise posts. Very "blog-ready".

Dr. Tan has good stories to tell.

But in truth, I'm helping Dr. Tan because he's a nice guy, first and foremost.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Podcast: Love On A Train (and Songcraft Session #5 recap)

24 Sept '07: Thanks to Jeremy for posting a comprehensive recap of the session; sound-clips included.
25 Sept '07: The photographer discovers my post!]

For the last meet-up, Jeremy emailed us this photo and suggested we make an attempt to write music and/ or lyrics, based on our interpretation of the picture. So I came up with this:

powered by ODEO
[Higher-quality MP3 at]

I was inspired by this photo, by Doug Stremel (flickr page | blog)

thinker - Originally uploaded by blamfoto

Here are the lyrics, along with notes on how they were eventually written as such (initially it wasn't about a man falling in love with a woman, but a man thinking about himself as a young boy meeting this young girl on a train).

And here's the Minus-One version (i.e. without my vocals):
* MP3 file - Love On A Train - 'Minus One' (2.7 MB)

Feel free to record your own vocals. Also, feel free to re-publish it (see CC license). I'm sure many of you out there can do a better job. I needed a rocker's voice for it.

It was nice to see new and old faces:
  • Carrie (check out her songs; we emailed after she left this comment) and her friend, Min.
  • Mart Ilagan (he's more than an amateur! Mart has released a song in the Philippines, recorded and sung by none other than the first Philippine Idol Mau Marcelo! Listen to the song at YouTube - 'Hangga't Kaya Ko Pa' [Until I Can]. Woot!)
  • L.F., aka tromperie (Surprise, surprise! Turned out she's my colleague, who found out about Songcraft from my blog posts. Heh, plenty of musically-inclined librarians it seems.)
  • The usual suspects - Betty, Chris, Firdaus, Jeremy, Jerron, and Hui Leng (yet more collaborative songs from some of them, all done via emails prior to showcasing it at the session!)

I'll say this about Songcraft -- besides getting loads of positive vibes from attending the meet-ups, it also provides me with a purpose to compose, and an audience.

Doesn't matter if your songs are good or otherwise (although most I've heard are really good stuff). Nevermind if most don't share your musical preferences. The Songcraft folks are all very supportive towards whoever is sharing their songs. Comments are always constructive (although sometimes I feel everyone's much too polite and should just share what worked and what didn't, heh).

I feel that's what Songcraft is at heart -- a support group.

Speaking from experience, one tends to give up composing songs when the only audience is yourself.

Creative Commons License

These works by Ivan Chew are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. For permissions beyond the scope of this license , please contact via

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Confessions of a Singapore Liblogarian: A personal perspectives of social networks (22 Sept 2007, NTU)

Arrived at the Lecture Theatre in the afternoon. Wasn't quite sure if I was at the right venue.

Dr. Wu was busy and didn't answer his phone.

I walked in. Saw this young gentleman. Asked him if this was the place for the talk on "Confessions by a Liblogarian". He said, "I think so."

"Some blogger."

"Thanks. I'm that blogger," I smiled.

Since there was time, I asked him what he expected from such talks. He said he didn't really have any expectations. What didn't he like so far (mine was the fourth session in the series)? He said "nothing to dislike". It was to expand their horizons.

Good for him.

Zhengyu was his name.
(Photo posted with permission)

I proposed to Dr. Wu that participants could post their questions to this blog post, to be taken at the Q&A later.

So ask away, folks.

UPDATE (10:50pm):
No one asked questions via the blog. Fielded questions from about four to five people during Q&A time. I guess those who would have posted questions didn't have their laptops with them (as this participant explained).

Received more questions from individuals after the session. Most frequently asked question: "How do you manage your time" and "Where do you find time to blog?"

Ah, I should explain that bit for future presentations.

I explained that I made it a point to spend time with my wife after work (all my blogging's done after work). My wife and I would have a proper meal together. Then watch a little bit of TV (30 mins tops for me).

After that, she'd do her stuff and I'll go into the room to catch up with my own things. Read a book, reply to emails, blog if I have to, or just do the GarageBand stuff. Not all the same things together. And I don't blog all the time. Neither do I feel compelled to have all my blogs updated at the same frequency.

After my explanation, some would go, "Oh, you have time because you don't have kids to look after!".

That's true to some extent. Parenting is a full-time job. But I know bloggers who manage to blog and still be good parents it seems. I guess it's up to how we manage priorities.

The students went to their respective breakout sessions, moderated by fellow students, to discuss the issues raised from the talks presented. Dr. Wu brought me to see the groups. There were different styles of discussions and presentations.

I thought the most enthusiastic group The livelier groups seemed to be groups from the 'Information Studies' and also the 'Knowledge Management' courses. The discussion at the 'Information Technology' group seemed more formal and subdued.

Along the way, in between walking to the different breakout sessions, Dr. Wu and I chatted about stuff -- clarifications about points I mentioned in my presentation, which led to other side conversations. He mentioned Phenomenology (I'm checking it out right now).


In another life, I would have gone into academia. I felt totally at ease in such a learning environment. I missed having intellectual discussions for the sake of learning and exploring. A most welcome break from the very pragmatic meetings and decision-making at work.

Hope my talk was useful to the students. Every time I share what I know, I feel I learn that much more as well.

There were around 200 to 220 students. I was told 30% were from Southeast Asian countries.

Nice to see my colleagues at the talk as well. They are pursuing the Masters of Information Studies programme.

Oh yeah, I won't share the specifics what I "confessed". Because it would be like repeating the entire talk. Basically I shared my personal blogging journey, from the Whys and Hows that got me started, to the blogs I read, my activities and participation in the online environment, the online collaborative activities, about blogging guidelines, and how I think librarianship would change because of web 2.0.

Maybe some students might blog about the talk (about a quarter admitted that they blogged). Anyway, for those who've follow my blog, you won't find any surprises. My life's not that interesting. : )

Friday, September 21, 2007

Post-talk reflections: "Overview on the "W & H" of Blogging and New Media" - 21 Sept 2007 (part 1)

Finished delivering my talk at CSC an hour ago. Now killing time at Spinelli's at City Hall and accessing the free WIFI (well, prepaid by IDA). Meeting the Songcrafters later.

I felt today's talk was a good session. Better than the last session at CSC. This time, I learned better and didn't attempt a "live" demo. That kept the flow of delivery smooth and I think the audience followed better by not having to switch from a demo to talk.

Stayed up to almost 4am to do update my slides. So many interesting and relevant events last week, that I had to include. For some reason, I had an immense satisfaction preparing and refining my slides. I discovered interesting blog posts, and rediscovered previous oldies-but-goodies too.

Ah, but here's the kicker! While delivering the talk, I discovered to my horror that I've overridden my finalised slides with an early draft!

Realised it only when I flashed the slides on screen. Luckily, the early draft wasn't that incomplete. It was more of the sequencing of the slides (minus a few nice screenshots that would have communicated the point better).

I managed to recover and talk my way through it. My regret isn't the wasted effort but that the audience might have gained even more. Like the part on suggestions for blogging guidelines.

One participant asked "You kept mentioning how blogging was about Conversations. So how do we have conversations?"

Unfortunately, I think I rambled too much. Don't think I managed to explain it that well. Tried to explain that many times, it's not so much what you write but how you write it. Good question though. Next time, I'll prepare examples of how different ways of writing can make the difference between coming across as "inviting conversations" as opposed to just "writing".

Quick scan of the feedback forms showed that most found the session useful. Some wrote that the session could've been longer. Some forms rated "Did the Trainer show relevant examples" as average. Hmm... got to think about that.

Glad I played the Creative Commons video. Explained why it would be relevant if they intended to share their student's works on the Internet.

About 60 - 70 attendees, I was told. About 80% teachers. And seems only 10 or less were blogging. This group seem to be made up of those who wish to start blogs, or they wanted to learn more to make a case to their management (at least one participant shared that with me). I wonder how many came for this free talk after the Otto episode.

As always, I was much encouraged when participants come up to me to say they enjoyed it. One told me, "I'm real proud of you!". Heh. I didn't ask for elaboration. The talk wasn't about me (I hope it didn't turn out that way).

Speaking of giving a talk about me, I've been invited by Prof Wu from NTU to speak to about 220 post-grad students from their Information Studies, Information Systems, and Knowledge Management programmes.

It'll definitely be less formal. I've titled it " of a Singapore Liblogarian"! I'll be sharing a bit on how I think blogging and new media is changing the way librarianship and library services are developing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Media Release: MOU Signing between NLB and Encik Abdul Ghani

Issued by the National Library Board, 19 Sept 2007.

Encik Abdul Ghani Hamid, Award-winning Writer, Poet and Artist to donate his works to the National Library's Donors' Collections in a Memorandum Of Understanding Signing Ceremony.

SINGAPORE, 19 September 2007 - The National Library Board (NLB) and Encik Abdul Ghani Hamid today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalise a partnership to preserve, archive and make accessible selected collection of his rare books, manuscripts and other personal artefacts on Malay literature and the arts in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

This collaboration will reap mutual benefits through the combined resources of Abdul Ghani's rich archive of literary and arts materials and the National Library's conservation, preservation and storage facilities.

Through this MOU, the selective collection of rare books, manuscripts and other personal artefacts of Abdul Ghani will be entrusted to the National Library. The physical collection will be available to the public at an earlier date while the organisation and digitisation of his collection will take about two years to complete.

The donated materials will be catalogued, and selective documents will be made accessible to the public, especially to researchers through digitisation and microfilm. NLB and Abdul Ghani will also work together to educate the public by displaying his original works at exhibitions and promoting his digitised images and texts for illustrations in publications.

As part of NLB's Library 2010 plan, the National Library continues to establish collaborative relationships to build a strong collection of cultural and literary content in physical and digitised formats for national memory. "Through such donations, the National Library aims to build our local literary heritage for a greater sense of our roots and national identity for current and future generations," said Ms Ngian Lek Choh, Director, National Library.

This donation marks a welcome addition to the Donors' Collections of the National Library. Abdul Ghani, a prominent figure in the Malay community, has contributed much to the Malay literary and arts scene for the past 50 years since 1948. To date, he has written hundreds of poems, short stories, essays, newspaper articles and plays to his name in both Malay and English. As a painter, Abdul Ghani has participated in more than 60 exhibitions since 1950. Other than writing and painting, he was an active member in the local artistic arena where he founded the Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya (Association of Artists of Various Resources) in 1962.

Some of the highlights of his donations are works like "Breeze 1989: Art Exhibition by Abdul Ghani Hamid" and "Mata dan Hati: An Exhibition of Paintings with Poems and Sketches."

Abdul Ghani's literary accomplishments were recognised when he was conferred three prestigious awards: the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang (1998) - the highest literary award for Malay literature, the Southeast Asia Write Award for Malay Poetry (1998) and the Cultural Medallion (1999). Abdul Ghani is also featured in the Singapore Literary Pioneers Gallery at the National Library, level 11 as a form of recognition to his literary works.

Some of his collections will be on display in November at the Donors' Collections, level 10 of the National Library.

Besides the Donors' Collections, the National Library also keeps a repository of newly published materials for the purpose of contributing and preserving Singapore's literary heritage. This statutory provision in the National Library Board Act 1995 is known as the Legal Deposit which requires Singapore publishers to provide two copies of every publication to the Board, regardless of form or medium. Ms Ngian Lek Choh, Director, National Library added that "legal deposit serves to preserve our nation's literary heritage and make them accessible to present and future generations. Such collections will serve as timeless pieces of historical information to Singapore especially in view of the nation's rapid growth and changes."

For those who are keen to donate or deposit their local literary heritage materials, they may contact the National Library at:
Tel : 6546-7271
Fax : 6546-7262
E-mail :

(Source page here; see also: Speech by Ms. Ngian Lek Choh, Director, National Library, at the MOU signing ceremony).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Off to IFLA Conference: 19-23 August 2007, Durban, South Africa (Part 11)

Some rambling thoughts to end this round of IFLA-related posts:

The South Africa national organising committee did a great job for this conference. Events were well organised.

Durban was beautiful. But a pity the threat of crime prevents greater appreciation of the country by foreigners. We were constantly advised by the conference and hotel staff not to walk alone in the streets. Even for a 10 minute walk, we had to take a taxi cab. We heard of a handful of delegates were mugged and assaulted.
durban suburbs

We heard about the insensibilities of the Apartheid regime (but seems to me Black South Africans have accepted it and moved on). Like the ban of the children's storybook "Black Beauty". Because the authorities felt that the words Black and Beauty did not belong side by side.

Our Section saw several new members to our Standing Committee. They replaced those who've competed their terms. Technically, one could serve up to eight years in the same committee of the Section (maximum of two Tour-of-duty, with each tour lasting a maximum of four years).

We elected a new Chair and Secretary as well. I've been re-appointed as the Information Coordinator.
SC meeting - Libraries for Children and Young Adults

I was pleased that the committee members were interested in my proposal for an International collaborative activity for youths (roughly modeled after something like this and maybe this). The committee would be considering it for the pre-conference next year.

Each year, I get a little less intimidated working with professionals from other countries.

And I seem to get better at the European-style air kissing! LOL. But only with one or two of my European colleagues in the Standing Committee. I guess they know me a bit better and treat me like their own.

As a person born and bred in Asia, the closest we get to body contact in a social setting is the handshake. Air kissing still feels strange and awkward to me. I still haven't quite got the knack of knowing when to initiate one. So far, I haven't had the need to. Handshakes are the norm at IFLA.

Speaking to librarians and information professionals around the world, it was yet another reminder to me that we have more in common than differences. The professional concerns and challenges faced by librarians are the same throughout the world.

Asia and Africa are not widely represented in IFLA. With the exception of China, who sends a huge number of delegates each year. But from what I see, IFLA still remains a predominantly Europe-centric gathering.

Language continues to be the unique distinguishing factor and challenge for IFLA conferences. Although a large number of IFLA delegates come from Europe, English isn't the primary language used.

It occurred to me that perhaps participants tend to think of our country first. Rather than the international library community. We hope to learn of what other libraries are doing, so that we can apply back home.

I wonder if we librarians will one day truly set aside national loyalties and think of ourselves as One World, One Profession.

Would that be possible? Am I being idealistic, unrealistic and naive?

I mean, most are sponsored to attend IFLA by our respective organisations, which ultimately belong or are funded by our respective countries. Why would each country want to help other countries for purely altruistic reasons?
IFLA opening ceremony

Well, I can think of a few reasons why countries should help other countries (to boot strap libraries and librarianship). This is happening already, or so it seems to me.

At this 2007 conference, we were told of an initiative by an Australian librarian who raised funds among her Australian colleagues (through lunches and gatherings). The fund-raising effort enabled 61 African librarians to attend the 2007 IFLA conference.

I'm sure there are other examples that are untold -- similar in intent, if not the outcomes.

[Reference: Part 10]

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"I HAVE never, nor will I ever, read blogs" (Part 2)

Following the Ong Sor Fern's "I have never, nor will I ever, read blogs" article, I'm happy to say that I've found a more enlightened view from Scott Rosenberg, writing for The Guardian (a Mainstream Media publisher, no less):
"... From the dawn of blogging it's been tempting for established professionals to reject blogging as trivial and unreliable.

... Most journalists' understanding of the nature of blogging has been circumscribed by a focus on how it might affect our profession. We write articles about whether blogging can be journalism, we worry about whether bloggers can or will replace journalists, and we miss the real stories.

... So what, exactly, are Wolfe and other blogging detesters worried about? We're not going to run out of web space. And each of us still decides how to spend our time. What price is the world paying for the existence of blogging's universal soapbox? Unless someone has figured out how to make you read a blog when you don't want to, I don't see one. Is there a benefit? Ask Miller. Ask millions."
(see also: TodayOnline,8 Sept 2007)

I'm no Blog-crusader. I've got nothing to defend about blogging. It's not a medium for everyone (as a reader or writer).

It's also not about Ms. Ong or any individual journalist.

What I take issue is when Mainstream Media writers, who are respected by many readers, make sweeping statements that are misleading. Something's not right when readers, who aren't exposed to New Media, take at face-value what Mainstream Media says (wrongly) about New Media.

There cannot be an "informed public" when the public -- who are still great consumers of Mainstream Media -- are misinformed.

If the maxim that "Information is power" is true, then for Singaporeans (who are fond of saying that our only natural resource is People), we cannot afford to stay misinformed or worse, ignorant of what's happening out there.

New Media -- not only blogs -- are a reality.

Just consider news like these:
"Blogs sweep Vietnam as young push state-run media aside"
"Casio to launch digital cameras for YouTube"

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"I HAVE never, nor will I ever, read blogs"

I keep getting distracted from completing my IFLA series.

Like today.

Ong Sor Fern's piece in The Straits Times (Life! section, page 6, "Clearing away the cobwebs: Andrew Keen's The Cult Of The Amateur is a refreshingly brusque critique of how culture is being cannibalised in the brave new Internet world").

For reasons of copyright, I'm not allowed to reproduce the article. Here are some main points:
  • The article starts with "I HAVE never, nor will I ever, read blogs."
  • Later added that blogs are "a welter of undifferentiated information that blends fact with opinion with merry disregard for consequences".
  • She acknowledges that there are "intelligent bloggers out there. But trying to find them is akin to looking for a single brainy needle in an exceedingly large and, mostly dumb, haystack".
  • Then a substantial part that was a book review of sorts, for Andrew Keen's The Cult Of The Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture And Assaulting Our Economy.
  • The writer qualifies that "Of course, my love of old media could be seen as springing from vested interest. After all, I work in the print media, about as old school as you can get".
  • And near the last part, she wrote: "... consumers of culture need to draw a line in the sand. They have to commit to paying for legitimate content, because if there is anything Web 2.0 has proven, it is that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys."


We were discussing about this in the Media-socialist group. Generally a sense of "here we go again". But no angry words. More of tired resignation.

The Straits Times writer is free to express her personal opinion of course. In a mainstream medium, no less. Wish I could express my personal opinions in a mainstream newspaper too.

But what I took issue were the linkages being drawn in the article.

For one, what has "not reading blogs" have to do with the final conclusion of "you have to pay for quality information"?

It costs nothing to read blogs. And it costs nothing to publish blogs (not counting the time, but at least we don't have to pay to get published). I'd say most bloggers don't set out to be credible or authoritative sources. For most, their primary intent is to express their personal opinions and share personal anecdotes (stuff that Mainstream is unwilling or unable to publish, for various reasons).

That's the whole point. Blogs allow people to have their say.

And two, it's absolutely wrong to generalise that bloggers write with "merry disregard for consequences".

I consider the consequences all the time. And so do the responsible bloggers I know. If I don't, I'd lose my job.

Three, there's the part that essentially says because good blogs are hard to find, then most -- if not all -- blogs are of poor quality.

That's like saying, because I can't find a good restaurant in Singapore, therefore all restaurants in Singapore are bad.

But the most telling was the opening statement -- where the writer proclaims she has never read blogs.

I'm asking myself this: "If one has never read blogs, then how would one know that the quality is poor?"

Hear-say? Third-party information?

I thought part of verifying information was to check facts for ourselves.Link

But what do I know?

I'm just a librarian. Who blogs (double whammy!)

- Siva said he fell for it, i.e. the article was a ploy for him to read ST felt he had to respond.
- Google Blog search results for "nor will i ever, read blogs" (hat-tip to Siva again)]

Off to IFLA Conference: 19-23 August 2007, Durban, South Africa (part 10)

Rajen, my friend and NLB colleague, is a South African. He was on vacation in Durban (his home town) and was kind enough to take my colleagues and I for a tour of two public libraries located in the suburbs.

I didn't catch the name of this first one [update: it was the Whetstone Commmunity Library]. The entrance of this building had a sign that says "Library" and "Biblioteek" (this would be Afrikaans for "Library").

There were some male youths loitering at the steps leading to the library building. Smoking. Hands in pockets. They stared. Watched us like hawks. Maybe they weren't used to seeing Asian faces.

Whatever it was, I felt uncomfortable. I had my camera in my hand. We were constantly warned (by the locals) not to openly hold cameras. Sure giveaway that we were tourists and a target that we were vulnerable.

I felt a little ashamed of myself, thinking the worse of them. But delegates have been talking about fellow delegates being mugged in the past few days... it just got to me.


Inside the library, it felt slightly better. Felt safer than outside.

Mostly youths using the library at that time. Quite a few were looking at us. But less intense that the boys outside the library. A handful were clustered at the photocopier. The one Internet terminal was being used by three teens. There was a buzz in the air.

It's a relatively small library. I estimate it to be around 1000 to 1200 square feet -- around a 5-room HDB flat (did I get my "square feet" estimate correct?).

One teenager (maybe 16 or 17) walked close to me. He asked me, "Are you from China?"

I replied, "No. We are from Singapore".

He didn't look like he knew where Singapore was. I had an urged to pick out the Atlas and point out Singapore to him. To show him how far it was from South Africa. Must be the librarian in me. But alas, my colleagues were leaving. I suddenly lost that "safety in numbers" feeling.
Biblioteek - 5

We hurried back to our cars. I know it's irrational. I can't explain it. It just felt that way.


The next library was located in Firwood. Huge contrast to the previous one. It was very obvious that this part of Durban was more affluent. Much quieter.
firwood public library - 1

Though the entrance was a blank brick wall (unlike the previous one that had a huge Welcome sign), this one was much more cozy inside. Which was why I have more pictures of this library than from the previous one.
Firwood public library -2

Firwood public library - 3

Much larger library that the first one. But fewer users. More youths using the library than adults, but more adults than the first library. Most adults were browsing the newspapers.
Firwood public library -4

It's funny, but the teens here didn't stare at us. Nobody stared at us. It was like the youths behaved differently here. There was one security guard standing near the counter. Maybe he's making the difference. I don't know.

The one Internet terminal was being used by two teens. They only turned around once to look (at us) but quickly turned back to what they were doing. The security guard looked over their shoulders from time to time.
Firwood public library -5

There was a Mills and Boon section (we saw such a section in the Durban Central Lending library too).
Firwood public libary - mills and boons

The sign (above the books on the table) says "Recommended Reading for Book Reviews".
Firwood public library -6

A ramp led to the Children's section.
Firwood public library -7

I like the design of the combined book-bin/ seat.
Firwood public library -8
Firwood public library -9

Both libraries were better maintained that I expected. I thought they would be run down but they weren't. Shelves and furniture were clean and neat. Library interiors were bright and attractive.

One obvious difference was how the users at both libraries reacted to us. I'm guessing that the first one served a less sophisticated neighbourhood. It showed in their level of curiosity towards us. I'm OK with being looked at. You know, the "quick glance and look away" kind. But being stared at with something that went beyond the kind of curiosity that I was used to -- that was quite uncomfortable. A sort of Culture Shock there? For both sides? Maybe.

At the first library, the threat of crime played up my sense of paranoia. Even within the library, to be honest. I knew it was irrational. I felt quite ashamed, even now. I should think better of people. They were young people who were curious at who we are, and how we looked. But fear often is irrational. Maybe I'm less sophisticated than I thought I was.


What I spotted right away, for both libraries, were the teens using the library as a social space -- chatting away with their friends. Same as any public library in the world.

At the first library I saw a teen jotting notes while referring to a library book. At both libraries, I saw teens doing their homework assignments.

Overall, I sensed that both public libraries were making a positive impact in the community they serve.

[Reference: Part 9 & Poetry Interlude]

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Poetry interlude: Sun, Sea, Sand, Soul (IFLA 2007, South Africa)

I'll be back with a few more IFLA posts from the conference in Durban. Meantime, here's a poem inspired by a photo I took from my hotel room (Marine Parade Garden Court) in Durban. My colleagues and I were staying at a hotel that faced the Indian Ocean! Now I can tell people that I've actually touched and took a dip in the great Indian Ocean.

If you click through to the larger Flickr image, I've added a note to show surfers in the water. Yeah, the waves you see are metres across. The pier in the photo is easily 100 metres long.

Durban, South Africa, Marine Parade
Sun, Sea, Sand, Soul
I lose myself, staring at
The red eye in the sky.

I lose myself, listening to
The song of surf on sand.

The Indian Ocean mere inches from my feet:

Salty sea spray,
Playing an ageless tune.
Sealing men's souls within
The fine grains of sand.

Ivan Chew, 30 Aug 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Podcast: Once Upon A Star

It's been weeks since I've touched my keyboard. Not the computer. The musical one (but they are both powered by electricity, heh).

Finished dinner. Went into the study room. Removed the dust cover from the keyboard. Played a few notes... C-G-F. A simple tune developed. Sounded kinda nice. Decided to record it to the Mac. Before I forgot the tune.

Switched on my Mac, fired up GarageBand, plugged in the MIDI cable, started recording. Before I knew it, it's five hours later and the song's done.

powered by ODEO
[or listen/ download at]

I'm dedicating this song to the children at Tumaini Kids!
... a blog written by kids at the Tumaini Children’s Center in Nyeri, Kenya. The kids are part of the Hope Runs project, started by two Stanford University students to provide an understanding of personal health, social entrepreneurship, and technology to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) through running. The kids write about running and other events in their lives—they are inspiring, hilarious, and will steal your heart.
The above quote is from Tara (aka DIY Librarian). I learned about the Tumaini Kids! blog from her Happy Blog Day post (gee, I ramble? No!)

Read the first post at the blog. Then the second, and third, and devoured a few more until I reached the very earliest one. Loved every one of the posts. The typos and all.

Learned from the Hope Runs video that "Tumaini" (pronounced "Tu-ma-ee-nee") is Swahili for "Hope".

Thanks for your posts, you Tumaini Kids.

(Incidentally, I titled the song before I learned about their blog. Hmm...)

RamblingLibrarian's Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

[update: thanks to Shel for blogging about Tumanini Kids]