Monday, December 29, 2008

Part 3 - Drafting a "Web 2.0 + Young Adult services primer for librarians"

[From Part 2]

Sent the final draft to Ivanka yesterday night. Just checked my email this evening and she came back with some corrections. I made the changes on my master document and emailed it off.

Mission accomplished!

My task was to write at least 22 pages (Times New Roman, Font 12, 1.5 para spacing).

Final result: 78 pages, excluding the cover page (even if it was reduced to font size 10, it's still about 60+ pages).

No. of words - Intro to Web 2.0 for Librarians serving Young Adults

When I did my Masters nine years ago, the thesis requirement was 10,000 words. So does this document constitute one? LOL

The plan is for this document to be published as a IFLA professional report (like this Guidelines for Libraries serving Young Adults). I say "plan", just in case it might not get published (I guess I'm managing my expectations here, heh).

If you wish to take a look at the draft, I'd be happy to send you a PDF copy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Part 2 - Drafting a "Web 2.0 + Young Adult services primer for librarians"

[From previous post]

After thinking about it, I decided to start a wiki for the draft.

It's at


I figured it would be OK for me to make the draft public, since a precedence has been set before.

Besides, there's a certain aptness to using a Web 2.0 tool, to draft a document about using Web 2.0!

My real concern was about working on both a draft at the wiki and on documents I'd saved on my computer. E.g. duplicating work and/ or getting updates mixed up.

I solved that dilemma by working on the wiki only.

As a backup, I exported the entire wiki to my computer.

The advantage of working on the wiki was being able to create and see the entire structure of the document. And I could easily shift text around (e.g. moving parts of the text from the introduction to the appendix).

I could also write To-Do notes for myself (just using the discussion page creatively).

It was also an efficient way to invite others to read the draft (e.g. send a URL rather than send as email attachment). Especially if they and I were on Chat.

Realised there are more benefits: Sending the URL with my periodic email progress updates meant that the person receiving my updates don't have to deal with pesky attachments and getting confused in the process. Especially the "please ignore previous email; here's the latest update" situations.

Plus, the receiver can make changes direct to the pages.

[Incidentally, creating this wiki made me ask the question: "When do I use a Wiki or Google Docs", heh. I added that part to Preetam's write-up.]

Only disadvantage/ risk was the connectivity to the Internet. A slow connection would cause delays to the editing. If the site goes down and I've not exported the updated versions, that'll really mess things up for me. Luckily that didn't happen.

Besides, I've used for some time now (since this social experiment, which is still on-going). It's been reliable so far. And I know it well enough to use it confidently (contingent plans and all).

My deadline is 28th Dec. I'm about 90% complete for the draft, barring any major changes (I hope not!)

[Part 3]

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Drafting a "Web 2.0 + Young Adult services primer for librarians"

On a whim, I posted this status update at my Facebook account yesterday:

Facebook Status

In case you can't see the image, my status said: "Ivan is writing a Web 2.0 + Young Adult services primer for librarians."

Within minutes, Isaak commented: "Need any help?"

Soon followed by another Facebook contact Kelvin, wrote: "Interesting - will you be making it available on your blog?"

Then today, Ivy commented: "I thought you are finally writing your own book! I'm looking forward to reading it."

Telling the world about your "status"
Thinking about it, I realised posting a status message about what I was doing (thinking or feeling) isn't a frivolous activity at all.

It's a way to de-stress (you have to try it to believe it!)

Also, it's an indirect way to seek inputs from others. Subconsciously, I'd hoped some people would offer to help.

This also turned out to be a nice way of illustrating the point of using social media for professional work, doesn't it? : )

Which brings me to the document I've been asked to write.

"Web 2.0 and Library Services for Young Adults: An Introduction for librarians"
On my last day in Zagreb, Dr. Ivanka Stricevic, Chair of the IFLA Literacy and Reading Section asked if I could write at least 22-pages on how librarians can use social media in serving Young Adults. Written in English, for translation into Croatian first.

My initial gut-reaction was "Noooooo!"

There are professionals out there who are more qualified that me to write this sort of thing.

But I asked for more information on what was required.

Ivanka explained:
  • By now, librarians would have heard of things like Blogs, Wikis, and services like Facebook and YouTube. But they might not have the time (or maybe confidence, even) to try those services for themselves.
  • I was involved in drafting the IFLA Guidelines for Services to Young Adults, so having me write this was a natural extension to that. And the guidelines did not cover Social Media in-depth.
  • Plus, I'm a librarian an a new media user and practitioner.
  • I'd have plenty of time to write something on the flight back to Singapore.

After some internal struggle, I said OK (wow, how could I argue against those reasons?)

Then I asked, "When do you need it?"

She told me.

I went, "Whaaat?"

Two weeks.

To come up with 22-pages, at least.

Anyway I've a deferment for SCL News, thanks to the Chair in my own IFLA Section, Ingrid (the newsletter was due the same time as this new assignment).

This was what I drafted while waiting at the airport:
"Chapters" to be included:
- Facebook
- Images (flickr etc)
- Music
- Podcasts
- Twitter
- Video
- Wiki
- Second Life
- MySpace
- Ning
- Chat
- Google Docs
(some chapters need may be lumped together)

Keep language simple, concise. Document meant to be translated to other languages.

Approach it from an introductory level. Less of
"What is it". A little of "How to use it". Enough to let readers know "Why use it" and "What to look out for if I do it".

For practitioners. Examples on "how it can be applied" for Teens services.

Writing it was harder than I anticipated (so what's new?!)

Plus my tendency to procrastinate (I mean, I was letting my subconscious work out some things first... ahem).

But once I'd completed a chapter, writing went at a faster pace. Mentally tiring though, as it became more mechanical, just putting the facts together.

Plus I have to attend to my day job.

Still, I'm glad I took this up. I'm enjoying the writing and research.

A "Web 2.0" example to end this post
Yesterday, within an hour of this response, I took up Isaak's offer to help. Chatted with him in Gmail (he's moved to Australia but we can continue to collaborate efficiently, thanks to Web 2.0)

He agreed to draft the chapters on "Chat and Video-conferencing tools".

Then I spotted Preetam online as well. He blogs, among other things, instructional posts on using Web 2.0 tools. I asked if he had any posts on using Google Documents. He didn't but after I explained why I needed it, he agreed to help with that part.

I told them how they'd be appropriately acknowledged in the IFLA document, as co-contributors (I know they'd still help me even if I didn't mention it but I like to clarify such things at the onset).

Both guys sent me their drafts today (Preetam did it via Google Docs!)

Minutes ago, I sent Isaak my edited draft via Google Docs (in case he wants to add stuff).

This morning, I also "met" Ivy online. She was kind enough to comment on my drafts. Said she can evaluate it from the "techno-newbie" view point. She gave the green-light overall it, so I've greater confidence that I'm in the right direction.

Gotta love Web 2.0 (though in truth, it's really the personal networking and friendship that's key to making Web 2.0 work).

Two more days!
Am giving myself two more days to finish up all the text, tidy up the citations. Plus screen shots.

I'd like to share the drafts via this blog, or a wiki. Might be worth the time to do it, but we'll see.

My priority now is get everything written down as close to the final version as possible (still old-school thinking? lol)

[To be continued: Part 2 - wiki created!]

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twitter feedback about Bishan Public Library

I was updating this post to add this link, and reading that linked me to this story by mrbrown.

And then I stumbled this.
Twitter / mrbrown: Thank you, National Librar ...

[Technically, it's "Bishan Public Library" and not "National Library at Bishan", mrbrown. There's only one National Library Singapore, and it's at Victoria Street. Ah, but I'm niggling :)]

Thanks for using the library, mrbrown. I shall let the manager of BIPL know of your feedback.

Speaking in Croatia (Part 6) - Rijeka City public library

[From Part 5]

After a 2-hour bus ride through winding hills and a picturesque country side, I arrived from Pula to Rijeka city around noon. My Croatian colleague from IFLA, Verena T., received me at the bus station. It was very kind of her to make time to show me her city, before we'd to take our next bus to Zagreb.

It was a Sunday and all shops were closed (they are predominantly Catholic) , including public libraries (which is also why you won't see any library users in the photos that follow).

Rijeka City library Rijeka City library

Here's an interesting fact about Rijeka (pronounced "Ree-Yay-Kah") public library: their various departments (i.e. Adult, Children) are sited in buildings located at different parts of the city.

This is the building that housed the public library's Adult section department (the Adult department is on the ground floor; the floors above were the city departmental offices houses the library office and other government/ cultural departments and institutions, e.g. Theatre).
Rijeka City library

About 5 minutes walk away, at the radio station building, there's a "reading room" that has mostly magazines and light reading materials on the ground floor (as the name implies, it functions more of a "browsing area").
Rijeka City library Rijeka City library Rijeka City library

[NOTE: There are pros and cons to this arrangement of having separate locations, but probably more cons. Visits to public libraries are often a family affair, with parents going along with their kids. Having separate sections may mean a more distinctive focus for that particular age group but it means there's fewer opportunities for different age groups to mingle and exposure to relevant materials.

I was told there were plans to construct a larger building to house all the departments together, but possibly put on hold because of the global economic downturn. Personally, I feel that times like this, city infrastructure projects should continue. It's a way to inject public monies back to the economy and also take advantage of the lower construction costs. Moreover, public goods and services like public libraries would be even more relevant and in demand during leaner times.]

Another 5 minutes walk and I was brought to their Children's library (on the ground floor, building on left Correction: the library is out of the picture. It was on my left, on the ground floor, as I took this shot. The building on the left in the picture is a hotel):
Rijeka city library

The sign above the library entrance.
Rijeka City library

Rijeka city library Rijeka City library Rijeka City library Rijeka City library

This is the room with baby books, and some toys for children. The toys are not for loan though.
Rijeka City library Rijeka City library Rijeka City library Rijeka City library

This toy is supposed to help very young children learn how to tie their shoelaces!
Rijeka City library

They have a row of picture books specially on "Problems and Issues" (it could mean something more than that in Croatian, I'm not sure Verena says it's more like "picture books with themes about typical problems of growing up").
Rijeka City library

For example, how to deal with the habit of sucking thumbs, relationship with parents... expressed in a way that Children would understand. And perhaps for parents to explain to their children.
Rijeka City library

This picture book is quite unique. The top part tells the story from the perspective of a young girl, while the bottom is the perspective of the father!
Rijeka City library

This is where their item barcode is placed:
Rijeka City library

Outside the Baby Books room is the Non-fiction book collection for parents, caregivers and teachers:
Rijeka City library

And also the teens corner:
Rijeka City library

I was attracted to this display board put up by their teen users.
Rijeka City library Rijeka City library Rijeka City library Rijeka City library

I asked if the librarians had to actively recruit teens to help maintain the space. And I was extremely impressed when I learned some of their teens proactively asked if they could start a bookclub, because they saw something similar at another library.
Rijeka city library

This was made by a teen volunteer, for one of their Children's programme:
Rijeka city library

Looking at the teens display area, it reminded me of the importance of having some sort of area to showcase the activities for teens. Better yet, have the teens take charge of the display area.

Doesn't need to be fancy. It's the intent that counts -- both from the library and from the teens, I feel.

I observed that their libraries tend to be smaller compared to the ones in Singapore.

But this one is full of love.

It's apparent in the coziness of the place.

[Next: Part 7 - public libraries in Zagreb City]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Speaking in Croatia (Part 5) - Pictures of the Pula City Library

[From Part 4]

Here's City Library of Pula, where the Librarian's Weekend session was held. Quite modern looking, since it was a fairly new building.

Pula City Library Pula City Library

One level down - Internet terminals, where members have to pay a small fee (apparently, some city libraries choose to charge a fee while some -- like Zagreb -- opted not to). I saw some teens playing online games; adults using the office productivity software:
Pula City Library

Also on the same level: Children's section:
Pula City Library Pula City Library

I like how they've the soft toys on top of the shelves. The kids at the library (on those two days we were there) were well-behaved. In fact, all the users (not more than 30 in the entire library) were well-behaved. They were quietly doing their work or browsing. No kids running about etc (but I'm not sure if they have the usual rowdy crowd on weekends).
Pula City Library

There was an exhibition on recycling/ environment, and they had these cute looking robots made out of discarded materials:
Pula City Library

One level up: The adult section (they don't seem to have a dedicated Young People's section, unless I missed it)
Pula City Library

I like their book displays:
Pula City Library

This display rack was an extension of the shelf:
Pula City Library

They still utilise a manual check-in/ out system. Didn't see any self-check machines, and they are not into RFID yet.

[Next, Part 6: Public library spaces in Rijeka City]

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Speaking in Croatia (Part 4) - Publishing and reading trends in Croatia

[From Part 3]

My visit to the Pula Book Fair made me think of the Globalisation phenomenon, and not simply about "books and libraries".

Sounds like one of the opening chapter of Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat", doesn't it?

Well, it's made me think how globalisation has made reading tastes increasingly similar worldwide; how it drives commercial interests and industry; and coping strategies for people in the creative industries.

Croatian Library Association: Librarian Roundtable

The session confirmed that popular works are well-received worldwide.

What was popular among Croatian children and teens were also what Singaporean children and teens liked -- R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series, Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series...

Their libraries also have comics and Manga (also translated to Croatian).

As mentioned in the previous post, various speakers and librarians kept saying at how majority of Children's Literature published in Croatia was of "poor quality"

Part of the problem was the poor quality of translations of works published outside of Croatia, said at least two of the speakers. The publishers tend to award the translation work to the cheapest, rather than the best translator. In some cases, the translations could be totally unrelated to the original meaning.

One of the presenter was an award-winning Croatian author (she writes for both Children and Adult markets). She says it's hard to get published, even when she has won several awards for her works. She gets by from writing columns and taking on translations.

There's a vicious cycle of sorts:

Croatian publishers hesitate to publish works by new and hence unknown authors, even though they may be considered "Literary" (as "Literary" may not mean "popular"). Most publishers tend to opt for commercial sure-winners, which are often translated works by non-Croatian authors. And when some publishers hire the cheapest translator, this may lead to the problem of "quality" mentioned earlier.

So as I piece the following thoughts together, I realised the underlying issues have more to do with globalisation than publishing or writing or reading per se.

Homogenisation of Reading Tastes
First, reading tastes seem to be the same worldwide.

A good story, is a good story (assuming it is adequately translated). Everyone enjoys a good tale. Everyone wants to be entertained.

Or that cultural contextual differences have become narrower.

Maybe this part of an inevitable "homogenisation of Global Culture", as we become a more connected world. Pros and cons to this phenomenon (same issues as Globalisation). You know, about how indigenious (literary) culture might be overwhelmed by foreign influences.

Although I feel there are no "good" or "bad".

It just is.

Singapore Publishing and Public Libraries
Second thought was about Singapore publishing industry and the acquisition of works for public libraries.

With English as our lingua franca, our public libraries are not dependent on our local publishing output to maintain a well-stocked collection. Vast majority of the works in English acquired by our public libraries are from the US and UK.

So we've largely avoided the problem of "quality" as what seems to be the case for Croatia (and also of countries with its own unique language, whose reading population are growing in sophistication).

This is a good thing, where our public library users are concerned.

The downside is, I think, a lower "natural tendency" for local writing to be developed on its own. Not when our English language reading needs are largely fulfilled.

But I'm re-looking at the above assumption. From what I've learned from the visit to Croatia, there is a difference between a nation's literary scene and the publishing industry.

Literature Vs Publishing
Third, I think publishing woes exist in every country. It was a matter of degrees.

And having a vibrant literary scene doesn't necessarily mean an equally "exciting" publishing scene.

There were many celebrated Croatian authors at the Pula Book Fair. The Croatian librarians kept pointing out to me the many well-regarded Croatian authors who write for Children and adults. I think easily 20 authors. Easy to spot them, since the authors and guests of the Book Fair stayed at the same hotel.

When I last attended an award ceremony for Singapore authors, I don't think we have so many under one roof compared to the number of authors who gathered at Pula (even if we had, the reactions from readers are much more subdued). And I was told the Pula Book Fair isn't the biggest.

With so many well-regarded Croatian authors, I'd assumed that the Croatian publishing scene was equally lucrative.

But as the Librarian Weekend discussion revealed, they also have issues with "quality of writing", the plight of authors trying to make a living from writing, about the commercial decisions of publishers.

Without publishers to produce and ultimately print those books, those works won't see the light of day in their own country. The surest way for a publisher to eliminate risk is simply to not take on unknown authors.

All three thoughts led me to this: START LOCAL, AIM GLOBAL.

Our public library users will expect more works from other countries. Or in the case of countries like Croatia, the trend towards translated works will only increase.

The Singapore literary-publishing scene will continue to be relatively small. Even for Croatia, they are already saying there is a small market in their own country, which has made publishers more risk-adverse to publishing works for a niche market.

Barring a natural or man-made catastrophe, the world can only get more and more connected.

The issue of "home-grown talents not being recognised at home" is nothing new. And certainly not unique to any one creative industry.

"Staring local" means testing one's audiences, honing one's skills, gaining some measure of confidence. But with the long term view of producing for a global marketplace. I think that is probably where the market is (unless you are the world's biggest importer of goods and services like US and China).

It doesn't mean one has to succeed locally before going global.

I think this is the only long-term solution for people in the creative industry, especially small countries like Singapore, if one wants to make a living.

Not that all this is any ground-breaking concept. Thomas Friedman's books on Globalisation are excellent reads on this issue. And it's clear Singapore's direction has been this for years.

Just that writing about the trip to the Pula Book Fair has reinforced this for me.

And I'm wondering, does the "Start Local; Aim Global" strategy apply to libraries and librarians too?

If one considers librarianship and roles of libraries in a general sense, I think it does. Something to explore for some other blog post.

[Next: Part 5 - more about public libraries in Croatia]

Speaking in Croatia (Part 3) - Pictures of the Istria Book Fair

[From Part 2]

This was the opening ceremony, which was on Day-2 of my visit.
Istria Book Fair

The "12th Dreamlike Book Fair in Istria" [Sa(n)jam knjige u Istri], held at Pula (found an old 2007 press release, here).

The crowd rushing to be first into the fair.
Istria Book Fair

It's a yearly affair, organised by the city of Pula. A reading festival and book publishers' exhibition combined.

Istria Book Fair

Istria Book Fair

The Croatian Librarians rountable Croatian Library Association "Librarians' Weekend" session, at which I spoke yesterday, was also part of the programme. This is certainly something for Singapore to consider!

The fair organisers found it a strategic fit to include [an informal] conference for librarians, who were based in various parts of their country. Naturally the librarians attending the conference "Librarians Weekend" would also end up buying books for their libraries.

The fair also has a Children's festival called Monte Librić.
Monte Librić - Istria Book Fair

The Croatian librarians who were hosting me were mostly (if not all) Children's Librarians. They kept mentioning "Monte Librić", and spent a lot of time in this room, shopping for books for their library (and for their family as well).

Seemed to me the book fair was very well attended each day, on a weekday no less. The rooms (where the publishers displayed their books) always had people milling around. I'm not sure how the sales were though.

Interesting, various speakers and participants at the Librarians' Roundtable Weekend session kept remarking at how majority of Children's Literature published in Croatia was of "poor quality" (no, I don't understand Croatian; just so happens there was a translator).

Will blog more about this in another post.

[Next: Part 4]

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Speaking in Croatia (Part 2)

[From part 1]

I'm making use of the free internet access in the Pula City Library to post this (oops, I thought it was free but there's a charge for users; they were kind enough to let the librarian guests use the terminals for free).

It's almost 7pm now (or 2am in Singapore). Day-3 since my arrival in Croatia.

Delivered my 20-minute presentation about 3 hours ago. The "speak-in-English-show-slides-in-Croatian" worked well, judging from the kind words from some of the Croatian librarians. Small audience, about 20 of them.


On Day-1, after I landed in Zagreb, I took a bus to the central bus station. Was received by a Croatian librarian (so nice of them to make sure I was chaperoned). Then it was a 4-hour bus journey to Pula. Another 10 minutes trek from the bus stop to the hotel (wished I didn't have to pack a full suitcase of stuff!)

Can't complain though. I think if I were to make my way from Zagreb to Pula, I'd be more anxious and blur.

Next day, I attended the launch of the Pula book fair in the morning (will post a video when I get the chance).

And in the afternoon, went to Pula City Library for the Croatian Library Association librarians' roundtable. Heard speakers from Croatia, Serbia, Solvenia.


OK, going back to the hotel now.

Will probably remain in my hotel the whole of tomorrow. Prepare my slides for Monday's presentation in Zagreb.

I'll post more, if I can connect to the hotel's free WIFI later (apparently, the strong winds today affected the internet connectivity at the hotel, or so I was told).

They have names for their winds in Croatia. Today I was introduced to Yugo (there's also Bura -- mentioned hereand here).

Brrr... it's cold, chilly, overcast, drizzling here. Sigh. I miss home.

The Croatian librarians are nice folks though. Am thankful for their company (even if I'm unable to following their conversations in Croatian most of the time, heh).

Zagreb signboard

[Next: Part 3]