Sunday, November 29, 2009

Guitarist Marc Playle: "I really enjoyed playing, so I kept on going"

I'm sure you'll be as impressed as I am, after you watch this guy play.

Simply inspirational.

Before you read on, let me point out that Marc was born with his condition (as pointed out in this 2008 TV interview). There's a point I'd like to make, later.

First, about the young man.

About Marc Playle
Marc's playing skills are easily on par with the pros. His musical compositions are also very nicely done. I know this as a guitarist, though my skills are nowhere near Marc's.

From Marc's MySpace page:
Marc Playle was born in South Shields, England, UK on September 26th 1985. He first took an interest in playing guitar at the age of 14 when he and his friend Daniel were bored in the long summer holidays.

He converted half of his garage into a “studio” where he used to jam with his friends. Having a missing left forearm meant he had to experiment to figure out the best way he could be able to play guitar. After many ideas such as taping guitar picks to his arm and using socks and things he came up with the idea for a “player” which is a cast of his arm that was then made from acrylic resin. It has lots of features that enable him to do most techniques on the electric guitar such as: a cut out for palm muting and pinch harmonics, a part of a guitar pick for picking and a cut out of a leather belt used for tapping.

Once he had a winning way of playing guitar, he then played in a few local bands he started with friends from school.

Customised Equipment
You'd probably instantly notice Marc's prosthetic. What's less obvious, perhaps to non-guitarists, is that he's picking with his left (prosthetic) and fretting with his right hand. The conventional way is to fret with the left, i.e. pressing down notes on the guitar neck/ fret board, and pick with the right.

Anything non-conventional means there are more obstacles. For instance, the mass-market books and publications on guitar Chords, tablatures, and fretboard techniques are mostly written for the conventional 'right-handed' player.

I noticed Marc's guitar has been customised too. Apart from it being a 'left-handed guitar', the pickup selector switch has been moved to the top of the guitar body to allow him to manipate it with use his upper-arm. Normally it's placed along side the volume and tone knobs at the bottom of the body.

Those are interesting adjustments, I thought.

And there's more.

Adjustments: Mind and Body
It's not just modifications to the equipment but also creative ways to get things done.

Like this video where he's picking with his fretting finger (pressing the strings and also picking with his last finger), in sync with his prosthetic pick, to get that (I think) arpeggio-like effect. Normally you'd use the thumb and fingers on the picking hand to get that sound, not with the fretting hand.

But what about those who lose their ability, rather than learn a new one?
Here's where the earlier point I made, about Marc being born with his condition, comes in.

Confession: for what my musical and artistic abilities are worth, I have ever wondered how I would react if I lose the use of my fingers or arm. Or my hearing or sight. Anything that would drastically hamper my current ability to write, paint and make music.

"Just re-learn", one might say. But it's one thing to say "re-learn". Putting that into practice may be harder. Perhaps the frustration would be more for someone who have experienced what it was like before.

As I learned from this video that Marc was born with his condition. Unlike those who lost their ability to do things, Marc may have an advantage in that regards.

Or so I thought.

But I think Marc might have shared an insight to what really matters.

The Real Secret?
When the TV host wanted to know if Marc had doubts or some deep-seated determination. Marc's reply was simply, "I really enjoyed playing, so I kept on going.":

My earlier post was about abilities before disabilities.

Looking through Marc Playle's MySpace, website, videos, it's apparent to me he's not (pun unintended) playing up sympathies for his lack of a left forearm. He's letting his abilities do the talking instead.

Or in his case, the playing.

"I really enjoyed playing, so I kept on going."

Thanks, Marc. You've taught me something.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'A' before 'D': Abilities before Disabilities - applies to Everyone.

Was updating the sgLEAD blog when I came across this blog post by Mathia Lee. She wrote how she was impressed by the efficiency and abilities of two persons with disabilities, and also with the people who hired them:

When I went to the Vatican a few months ago I was super impressed. The guy who sold us tickets at the counter had 2 fingers only, and he was just handling all the transactions amazingly fast, no different from othr counters, and the queue was miles long but it cleared really fast.

The cloak room was run by just one guy and he had Downs’ syndrome (or some sort of other social disability) and everything was in perfect order, and so efficiently managed.

Made me think:

It’s inevitable that some people, if not most, will see the disability before the person or their abilities.

Whether or not they are prejudiced, or whatever reactions thereafter, is besides the point. Just saying it's inevitable that most of us will see the disability first.

I suspect it's because obvious displays of disabilities mean being apart from the norm. Anything outside of the norm tends to get noticed first.

So, a person with disability should try even harder to demonstrate their abilities, as a way to counter (unconscious) prejudice. I would think this principle of showing one’s abilities (not “showing off” per se) applies to everyone, regardless of physical or mental abilities. Just that a person with disabilities has to try harder.

Equally inevitable is that some people with physical disabilities deliberately present their disabilities first. Perhaps to appeal to other people’s emotions and sense of pity. Maybe these people think doing so is the only option for them. I’m not saying if this is right or wrong. Just saying this seems to be another observable fact.

Yet, for those 'within the norm', we need to be reminded that we all have some disability to some extent. It’s only a matter of degree.

Some time ago, a colleague pointed out to me that if you wear glasses or contact lenses, you have a sight-disability.

Except there's so many people who need their vision corrected, so we're within the norm. But it's still, by definition, a physical disability nonetheless.

I'd like to think that most decent people would not choose to focus on a person's disability. And most people are decent. Just that in the absence of any demonstration of abilities, they'd only see the disability.

So in the end, it’s about how we consciously choose to demonstrate our abilities.

Some people have it easier, while others have to try harder.

But we all have to.

[First blogged at sgLEAD]

Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 TST research proposal: "Librarians 2.0: An investigation of Southeast Asian librarian's social media practices and attitudes"

Back from the Taiwan-Singapore-Thailand (TST) research workshop in Khon Kaen, Thailand (19 to 20 Nov '09).

Presented my proposal and was glad that a Taiwan counterpart, Dr. Joyce Chen, expressed interest in it. She will try to match one of her Masters student to work with me on the project (my colleague, Aaron, would be the 3rd collaborator).

Here's the presentation slides (the full proposal paper follows after the slides):


Title: Librarians 2.0: An investigation of Southeast Asian librarian's social media practices and attitudes

The term Social Network is synonymous with “Web 2.0”. Its adoption and growth is one of the fastest growing phenomenon in recent years. For instance, one of the fastest growing social media platforms is Facebook, who reported more than 200 million active users worldwide, with more than 100 million users logging on at least once each day. What is more, about 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States (Facebook, 2009). By June 2008, the number of active Facebook users in Asia grew to 21.7 million (Lorica, 2009).

Libraries and librarians have made their Web 2.0 footprints (Wikis – LISWiki, Open Directory - Reference: Libraries: Library and Information Science; Yahoo! Singapore Directory - Librarian Weblogs; MySpace & Teens - Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki; Lin 2007). However, what is less clear is the Web 2.0 presence of library professionals, in Southeast Asia, who do not publish in English. One would suspect many are not identifiable because they are blogging in languages other than English (e.g. Taiwanese librarians who blog in Mandarin, and similarly the counterparts in Thailand who blog in Thai).

With social media being a current reality, the logical step is for libraries to examine the relevance of social media tools in the pursuit of the library’s objectives. But even before that, we need to understand how libraries and librarians are using social media, if at all. That is the crux of this research proposal.

Purpose/ rationale of study
The proposed study will focus on librarians, as opposed to library institutions. It aims to document and understand the attitudes, perceptions and practices towards Social Media among librarians in the countries involved in this collaborative research project, i.e. Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore.

There are three main reasons for this research topic:

One, Social Networks and Social Media, along with the explosion of on-demand media, are among what are considered important social trends that will unfold over the next 20 years. It has been suggested that Social Networks will be a major driving factor in the success or failure of certain consumer brands on a global basis (Richarme, 2009).

Two, it is unclear how extensive, or perhaps how uninvolved, are librarians in this region participating in social media. There is a significant difference in the amount of research relating to library professionals, as opposed to Library institutions, where Web 2.0 is concerned. Based on the literature review conducted for this proposal, it appears there is none for the former.

Three, the premise of the research is that if Web 2.0 is about ‘being social’ online, then librarians need to be active participants. Understanding the librarians’ level of awareness and perceptions would be useful in advancing the practice of librarianship in a digitally connected world. How librarians view social media has a broader implication on how libraries can eventually adopt and implement social media.

The proposed study seeks to address these broad questions:

* How do librarians from these countries interpret “Web 2.0” implementation in their context as library and information professionals? What are some factors to account for the differences? E.g. economic, infrastructure, political and social.

* How do Southeast Asian librarians feel about the relevance of social media, with regards to meeting the library’s objectives? (This can be a range of questions posed to different grades of staff)

* Are there underlying factors facilitating or hindering their adoption of social media tools? E.g. Internet and IT infrastructure, knowledge, organisational policy, nature of work.

* What is their level of awareness and experience in the availability and use? E.g. are they aware of any pitfalls in using new media tools.

* Are they active participants or merely observers in social media networks?

* Are they identifying themselves as librarians in their social media networks? Why or why not?

Literature review
The term Web 2.0 is best explained by O'Reilly (2005), since the term came into popular use after a conference brainstorming session between O'Reilly and MediaLive International. It covers these seven principles:

1. The web as a platform
2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence
3. Data is the Next Intel Inside
4. End of the Software Release Cycle
5. Lightweight Programming Models
6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device
7. Rich User Experiences

It has been written that the appeal of social networks is obvious (Ojala, 2008) and that “at the centre of Web 2.0 is the burgeoning development of social network sites” (Todd, 2008, p. 25). By implication, librarians have “enormous potential to develop the creative social and knowledge based skills for effectively participating in these social network arenas.” (Todd, 2008, p. 31). In contrast, in an OCLC 2007 survey among U.S. library directors, most perceive that there is no role for social networking in libraries (OCLC, 2007; Secker, 2008).

In light of the above, there appears to be very little formal research undertaken in the area of documenting the perceptions of Southeast Asian librarians about social media and its use.

For instance, Stephens (2008) examined the motivations and experiences of librarians who author professionally-focused Weblogs (rather than a breath of social media tools). And an exploratory study by Lim (2008) included a survey of 38 public librarians for their opinions on the effectiveness of Web 2.0 tools on outreach. In her survey, most (89%) were respondents from the UK, Australia, the US.

Another case in point – at the 14th Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL) in 2009, of the papers that specifically discuss Web 2.0 implementation in libraries, the implication is that libraries should logically undertake Web 2.0 initiatives (Chatchuenyot, Somkiat and Missita, 2009; Koh, 2009). But none address questions relating to individual librarian motivations, concerns and level of preparedness when undertaking a participatory role in those social networking sites.

In this proposal, we are interested in more than blogs. Moreover, Web 2.0 participation goes beyond just authoring weblogs. Participation can include publishing content in video or photo-sharing sites, or sharing bookmarks on social bookmarking services.

While it is possible there could be studies published in languages other than English, what seems to be the norm is that related research and articles emphasise more on Web 2.0 technologies and implementations by libraries, rather than perceptions and attitudes by librarians.

Research methodology to be used
This exploratory study would use a combination of questionnaires and group interviews. Interviews may also be conducted via email or phone. The focus of the study is on qualitative data (i.e. opinions, perceptions, attitudes). Considering the scope and timeframe of the study (i.e. spanning across three countries), the study would adopt a non-representative sample.

Anticipated outcomes and significance of proposed research
This study seeks to provide a starting point for further research on Librarians 2.0 (as opposed to “Library 2.0”). While it does not seek to submit definitive conclusions, the study aims to make tacit information explicit, which can then be translated to practice and implementation or to spin off further research in this area.

How the results and findings will advance library & information research
One possible outcome from the study is to develop a Web 2.0 Core Competencies framework for libraries, similar to the Web 2.0 core competencies outlined by O’Reilly Media (2008). For instance, the O’Reilly report includes competencies such as “Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability”, “Trusting users as co-developers”, “Harnessing collective intelligence” and “Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service”.

These concepts are largely understood in the context of software and web service development. It would be useful to see if a similar framework can be developed for libraries selected in this study, as a contribution to body of theoretical and practical knowledge in the field of Librarianship.

Another outcome is to identify and share best Social Media practices by SEA librarians. This may encourage others to assess their social media practices or institutional initiatives that have been implemented.

What other people can learn and apply from the research findings
By revealing the motives, concerns or knowledge gaps among librarians, it should aid library administrators in planning and implementing Web 2.0 initiatives for their libraries. Even if there are no immediate plans to implement Web 2.0, the findings are expected to have implications on staff training, the design for the library's web presence, service delivery, user engagement and public communications.

The target reader and audience for the proposed research
The study will focused largely on practice than theory. The findings and recommendations will be primarily for practitioners in the field of library and information services. This study will be published in English, although the means of research may employ native languages (e.g. administering the survey in Thai, for librarians in Thailand).

State the number of researchers/ collaborators that will be involved and their roles
This study would involve at least TWO countries, i.e. two researchers from each respective country. Having at least two countries would serve as a means for contrast (not necessarily comparison). Researchers will be from the respective countries, who may be able to conduct the research in their native language. Alternatively, this study could be conducted within one country. The researchers will primarily communicate via email and/ or teleconferencing.

Timeline of the research [subject to discussion/ amendments]
The study should take between eight to 15 months, depending on the number of countries involved. The broad outline of the task includes:
* Scoping of the study/ further literature review (if necessary) – 3 months
* Design of data collection/ questions – 2 months
* Data collection (including sourcing for interviewees) – 3 months
* Transcription – 2.5 months
* Analysis – 2.5 months
* Writing the research – 2.5 months
* Final editing/ Presentation – 2 month

Key sources and references that will be used
Given the nature of this study, the critical success factor is obtaining an appropriate number of library professionals who are willing to be interviewed. The researchers would need some support from the respective library associations or institutions.


Chatchuenyot, Somkiat and Missita, S. (2009). The journey to the Next Generation Library. XIV General Conference Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XIV), Hanoi, Vietnam. 222–229.

Facebook | Statistics. (n.d.). . Retrieved July 7, 2009, from

Koh, S. (2009). The Internet – challenges and opportunities for Southeast Asian libraries.
XIV General Conference Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XIV), Hanoi, Vietnam. 230-239.

Lim, YH. (2008). Web 2.0 in public library outreach: An exploratory study. Unpublished Master’s dissertation, Loughborough University.

Lin, TH. (2007). A Research on the Application of Web2.0 in University Libraries in Taiwan.
Digital Library Forum. 35(4), 8-14.

Lorica, B. (2009). Facebook Adds Million of Users in Asia. Retrieved July 7, 2009, from O'Reilly Radar Web site:

Mohd Yusop, Z. and Abdullah, F. (2009). Web 2.0 applications towards enhancing academic libraries and reference services.
XIV General Conference Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XIV), Hanoi, Vietnam. 273-283.

MySpace & Teens - Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

O’Reilly, T. (2005). What Is Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Retrieved September 14, 2008, from Oreilly Web site:

OCLC (2007). Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World. Retrieved July 10, 2009, from OCLC Web site:

Ojala, M. (2008). Social Media, Information Seeking, and Generational Differences. ONLINE. 32(2). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from Information Today, Inc. Web site:

Open Directory - Reference: Libraries: Library and Information Science: Weblogs. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

Richarme, M. (2009). Ten forces driving business futures. The Futurist. 43(4). 40-44. Retrieved July 7, 2009, from:

Secker, J. (2008). Social software and libraries: a literature review from the LASSIE project. 42(3). 215-231. Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

Stephens, M. (2008). The Pragmatic Biblioblogger: Examining the Motivations and Observations of Early Adopter Librarian Bloggers.
Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 13(4), 311-345.

Todd, R. (2008). Youth and their Virtual Networked Words: Research Findings and Implications for School Libraries.
School Libraries Worldwide. 14(2), 19-34. Retrieved July 10, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1567446571).

Wikis - LISWiki. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

Yahoo! Singapore Directory > Librarian Weblogs. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2009, from

Submitted by:
Ivan Chew, Senior Manager, Public Library Services


My first time to Thailand. The food fitted my taste and our hosts (many of whom were LIS PhD candidates) were just so thoughtful and considerate. I regret not bringing anything from Singapore to present to them as parting gifts.

View Larger Map

I'll make up for it next year, when Singapore hosts the 3rd TST workshop.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Asian Children's Festival (ACF) 2009

It's back!

Asian Children's Festival (ACF) 2009

I wanted to help publicise this event. So I got my colleague, Haryani (we affectionately call her Hani), to share more about the ACF 2009. Hani's one of the key members in the organising committee. The ACF is organised by the Public Libraries Singapore.

My name is Haryani and I am the Programmes Executive with the National Library Board.

The much-awaited school holidays are coming and I am ├╝ber excited!

For the past ten years, the library has been celebrating the school holidays with Asian Children's Festival (ACF). This year, the Festival runs from 21 - 29 November and the main event, KidsASIA! will take place from 21-22 November (10.30 am to 6.00 pm) at the Plaza, National Library Building.

2009 marks the tenth anniversary of ACF and we are BIGGER, BOLDER and BETTER this year!

Kids can expect lots of exciting activities from ACF this year. For a start, we have designated four exciting zones, namely, "Kids Play", "Kids Create", "Kids Groove" and "Kids Chill and Read".

In "Kids Play", there are Wii games, sports games like archery, kangoo jump and sports chanbara.

In "Kids Create", children can sign up to make a sushi, decorate a cookie, paint and many more!

All these programmes and workshops are free of charge too! There will also be a showcase of talented children singing, dancing or performing tricks at our "Kids Groove" zone.

Last but not least, we have got storytellers at our "Kids Chill & Read" zone to regale children with stories and more stories.

I plan to bring my nephew and nieces over to enjoy all these activities.

Plus, what’s totally new this year is that we have got segments for parents too. There will be advisories and clinics for parents to sample and on 22 November (Sunday), there are also two educational workshops for parents.

What are you waiting for? Come on down with your families and join us at our biggest ACF ever!

For more information, log on to or pick up our Go Kids from our public libraries.


Haryani Othman

So did you realise the ACF started 10 years ago in 1999?

May there be 10 more good solid years to the ACF.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Gaming preview session at Jurong Regional Library, Saturday 24 Oct, 2009.

About 20 people responded to the public library's call for participants last Saturday. We had a very good mix of the young to older people.

Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

With their help, my colleagues now know what will really work and what other refinements we need to make for the "live" sessions that will be held in the next two months.

Big thanks to the participants, volunteers (Nicholas, Hero, Alyosius, Cheryl, Sebastian) and staff for enabling the library test out the flow of the session. And a special mention to those who helped spread the word by re-tweeting, forwarding emails, blogging about it.

The session, in a nutshell:
  • Participants were assigned into groups (one objective of the Gaming session was to have participants interact with new people; it's structured to infuse elements of social interaction, conversations/ discussions, learning. Definitely not the arcade-style play-and-scoot event).
  • Each group moved around to try out various game stations (a mix of electronic console games and board games).
  • At each station, participants were briefed on how to play. Where relevant, some learning-related information was thrown-in.
  • After each play, they moved to the next station as a group (at least that was our intent).
  • Wrap-up.

Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

Registration and assignment to teams
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

Each participant was given a checklist of stations to cover, and also a resource list of related books and web resources that they would encounter during the session.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

Learning point: About half did not turn up on time. This posed a problem since our structured session required participants to be assigned to complete groups. My colleagues and I will have to plan for this.

Exhibition-style session
We held the session at the Verging All Teens section at JRL because it was the few venues in the public library system that had an open-concept programme zone and was adequately soundproof.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

Here's Mr. Yip and his grandkids, trying out Dance Dance Revolution. Well, Mr. Yip didn't try. I think this station got the fewest play. Understandably, participants -- even teens -- tended to be self-conscious when it comes to dancing.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

The Wii Mario Cart Racing station was quite popular among children and adults.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

My librarian colleague, Hakim, explaining how the game console works to these four boys. The two Chinese boys were Mr Yip's grandkids while the two older Malay boys were walk-in participants, who'd visited the library to borrow books. They stood there looking interested, so they were invited to play.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

This was sort of like a rest-and-converse station. My colleague, Aaron (left) asked what the participants thought of the session so far, and also took the chance to explain why the gaming session was planned this way.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library
Mrs Daisy Yip (second from left), a grandmother and educator, mentioned something quite interesting. She shared that at the board game stations, total strangers felt comfortable enough to engage in discussions and conversations.

Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

Inter-generation activity
This photo (which wasn't posed, btw) summed up one objective of the gaming session idea: a shared activity that encouraged natural interactions among participants, regardless ages, gender, race, and gender.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

Bonus: Impromptu interview
My friend and gaming-in-library advocate, Kevin Lim, dropped by and interviewed Aaron on why the library organised the event. On the right was Nicholas Khoo, from the Cybersports & Online Gaming Association.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

Packing up
The session ended about two and a half hours later. It overran by 30minutes, partly because we started late. All in all, two hours was a good duration for a total of four gaming stations (console and board games) for 15 to 20 participants.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

Just for the gaming preview, the volunteers adjourned to the library's meeting room to have lunch. They filled out the survey form, gave us an overall thumbs-up.
Preview session: Gaming at the Public Library

One or two honestly told us about their skepticism of the use of a gaming session, and that was fine. Many libraries, particularly in North America, have already implemented Gaming. The concept is not new and I don't know of any librarians who oppose the concept. What I think we have to do is to make our learning intents clearer before/ during the sessions.

My own assessment was that the event clearly met several objectives:
  • Encouraging social interaction among participants
  • Creating awareness among participants of related library and Internet resources (this was indicated in their feedback forms)
  • Giving some people a good reason to visit the library (one participant said that under normal circumstances, she would not have visited the library because of work commitment, but she could see herself attending a gaming session with her peers)
What needed to be refined was the learning facilitation aspect. On the part of the librarians facilitating the session, the emphasis seemed to be on giving instructions on how to play the game. What I think we should create are stronger links of the learning relevance of the games. The book displays and gaming-related resource lists, by themselves, were not adequate.

For the "live" sessions, we're considering pre/ post-game quizzes, scripts for facilitators on information about the context of the games from relevant information sources. Also, a quick round-up of thoughts/ comments before participants move to next station.

What we certainly do not want is to turn the library into a games arcade.

I believe the difference between a games arcade and a Gaming Learning Community, facilitated by the library, would depend on the librarians as facilitators: how information and structure of activity is contexualised for participants.

Like in a tour group, a great tour guide doesn't just tell the group where to walk (tourists can do this by themselves with basic instructions). The tour guide would also explain the significance of the walk.

Upcoming sessions
The public library will hold 10 sessions, open to public, in Nov and Dec '09. Interested participants can register at (search for "gaming" here).

As for whether this will become a regular event after Dec '09, we'll do an evaluation before deciding. And as always, public feedback would help in our evaluation.