Thursday, December 01, 2011

When Nations Remember II - 28 Nov 2011

Here's my very belated take on the "When Nations Remember II" event, held on 28 Nov 2011. The event was part of the Singapore Memory Project (mentioned in this 2011 MICA speech; also mentioned in PM Lee's 2011 National Day Rally speech), to thank partners and give various partners and stakeholders a sense of the goodwill and buzz that has been built up in the past months. Also, it was to pay tribute to about 100 volunteer "Memory Corps" members for their support and contribution to this national project.

I took a few notes that day, but got caught up with stuff, i.e. more procrastination. Add a dose of laziness. This largely photo "essay" is the result.

Luckily, there are published perspectives of some people who attended the event. Here's Dexterine, Lizzy and James (see here, here and here). Chun See also blogged about it (he wasn't a Memory Corps volunteer at the time of the event, but glad to say he has subsequently volunteered to be part of the movement).

Of the presenters that day (several interesting ones), the person who stood out was the young lady, Lizzy. I thought she gave a fantastic presentation that morning. Your passion and enthusiasm was very real. I remember thinking to myself, "Listening to a young person like that makes me proud to be Singaporean". Would have wanted to tell her and her friends all what an awesome thing they did with their Unseen/Unsaid series.

Alright then.

My version of a post-event blog post.

Monday morning. Asian Civilisation Museum (how apt!) Colleagues reported at 7am. Quite a few were involved on the rehearsal on Sunday.
When Nations Remember II

Preparations at the registration table.
When Nations Remember II

Another dry-run before the actual stuff.
When Nations Remember II

At the back of the hall was a wall, inviting people to share their memories.
When Nations Remember II

When Nations Remember II

Participants were invited to write their stories on a card and clip it to a clothes line strung across the wall.
When Nations Remember II

Here's mine (fuzzy image from my camera phone). Essentially, I shared what came to mind first. Oddly enough it was about a memory when I was about 10 years old. I remember waking up at 5.30am and walking to school. Staring up at the dark dawn sky, I wondered to myself (I'm not making this up) just how many more years of this routine I've to go through at such unearthly hours. Heh.
When Nations Remember II

At about 9am, guests started streaming in.
When Nations Remember II

Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister MICA, spicing his speech with some of his personal memories.
When Nations Remember II

There was a screening of this video, about the handover of the Gunong Pulai waterworks (see this CNA article). The video featured some of the Memory Corps volunteers like Mr TC Lai (he has some really interesting stories/ personal memories, here and here).

He was given this token of appreciation: a framed poster from Singapore's first ever water campaign. A very apt token, for he was the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (2004 - 2011).
When Nations Remember II

A shot of my colleagues from the 'Engage' division, National Library. They were the division responsible for organising this event.
When Nations Remember II

At the conclusion of the morning's segment, the Memory Corps volunteers were invited to take a group photo. Essentially, the Memory Corps are people who volunteer their time and effort to write memories for the Singapore Memory Project (you can read some of their stories at iRemember.SG). Or they may interview other people for their stories.
When Nations Remember II

A buffet lunch awaits.
When Nations Remember II

Before the start of the afternoon session, I had the pleasure of speaking to Mr Hillary Francis ("call me Francis"). A very nice gentleman, who can be said to be one of the pioneers of the Singapore music scene. BTW, check out his LinkedIn profile.
When Nations Remember II When Nations Remember II

The afternoon session featured some pretty interesting presentations. One was on the architectural designs of Malay houses in colonial times Singapore, plus dispelling the myths about what a 'Malay Village' should look like. Darn it, where are the YouTube videos?
When Nations Remember II

I had to leave the event earlier, for another work appointment. Managed to snap a few (unfortunately rather badly focused) images of the memories-on-cards that some participants shared on the wall.
When Nations Remember II

When Nations Remember II

When Nations Remember II

The event also saw the launch of the PictureSG web service, (see this CNA article also).

Incidentally, I've recently transferred to the National Library, after a good 12 years in the public libraries. Have joined the Singapore Memory Project and heading the Online Engagement department. Will blog more about the project, and about my new work scope, in the months to come.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The persistent social media notice board (or "Singapore Police Force's first 'Facebook Arrest'")

In my view, the Singapore Police Force's (SPF) Facebook page is a very successful social media initiative by a government agency, in terms of public awareness, receptivity and amount of consistent "chatter" (i.e. comments).

I've not done any recent environment scan, let alone a comprehensive survey. But looking at the comments and number of congratulatory Likes for its recent "win", it's easy to conclude that the SPF Facebook page is certainly a popular one:
Singapore Police Makes Its First “Facebook Arrest”

The "win" was this, as reported by ChannelNewsAsia, 25 Nov 2011 (emphasis are mine):
SINGAPORE: Police have arrested two loanshark suspects based on a lead that came from a photo that was posted on the police Facebook page in July 2009.

A netizen called the 999 number on November 11 after seeing the photo, saying he could identify the suspect.

Fuller details over at the SPF press release, "Singapore Police Makes Its First “Facebook Arrest", 25 Nov 2011:
This significant development came about on 11 Nov 2011 when a public-spirited person called 999 and informed that he could identify a loanshark suspect from a photo posted on the Police Facebook Page since July 2009. This has led to the arrest of the suspect and another suspect, both 19 years old, for suspected involvement in loanshark harassment activities in the Bukit Merah area. Investigations are ongoing.

At first I missed the part about the initial public appeal for information posted in July 2009 (ASIDE: for a skimmer like me, maybe the post could have said something like "Facebook breakthrough for a two-year old unsolved crime..." or something to that effect).

Anyway, I understood why the SPF considered it a significant "operational breakthrough". The inference was that traditional channels (newspapers or TV) tend to have a limited duration before information fades from public awareness. Even if people remember something, verifying it via the source would be hard beyond a few weeks.

I'm reminded of the "Think Before You Post" advisory video, warning young people about the persistent nature of the Internet. For fighting crime, that quality is a good thing.

I also noted that the SPF Press Release stated that one of their aims, for starting their Facebook Page in 2009, was to "(take) advantage of the viral nature of social media".

I'm not entirely clear how much of the cascading effect took place. Reading the press release, I understood the sequence of events to be:
  1. SPF posts the information on the suspects on Facebook in 2009.
  2. Fast-forward to 2011, a member of the public recognised the suspect and contacted the SPF.

I wonder how that member spotted the FB photos of the suspects. Scrolled all the way to earlier posts? Heard about it through a friend, who heard it from a friend? Maybe even a fall-out among gang members and using the FB post to disguise the fact that the caller already knew the suspects?

But the above is moot (and probably suggests I've too active an imagination).

What's important is that the case was resolved, with the help of the public. This "Facebook Arrest" is also likely to send a strong signal to would-be-criminals about the even longer arm of the law.

Of course the downside of a "social media cascading effect" would be called a social media witch-hunt, or Internet Vigilantism. The viral nature of social media works both ways.

Having said that, I don't recall a case of a social media witch-hunt in Singapore. Which may suggest that for something as serious as identifying suspects to the police, Singaporeans are a calm and rational lot on the whole.

Which also suggests to me that the public has a very high level of trust in the SPF's thoroughness and professionalism.

I certainly have.

The SPF would not receive any public tip-offs at all, never mind through a social media channel, if it did not have the trust of the populace.

I think that's one reason for it being a successful on Facebook.

When the SPF identifies someone as a suspect, intuitively I do not question that. I would have assumed the SPF has enough evidence to make that charge (it's not a small thing to be publicly announced as a suspect in a police investigation, even if subsequently proven to be innocent).

That sort of trust is like Internet reputations: Slow to earn, fast to destroy.

Gladly, the SPF has maintained that social trust for as long as I can remember. Its efforts in maintaining its Facebook page does a good job of reinforcing that, and probably enhancing it. I've always admired was the consistent level of chatter over at their Facebook page. I don't get a sense of it being an echo chamber effect.

It's not just my view about the SPF being successful on social media:
On the topic of strategies, and agencies needing to know what they want to use social media for, the Singapore Police Force was brought up as a role model that knew exactly what they wanted to use the social platforms for—information sharing and recruitment—and used it well.

I was told the above was an unsolicited comment about the SPF. Yet another win.

Back in May 2008, I wrote a three-parter on whether the SPF should have a blog (part 1, part 2, part 3).

They started their Facebook page in July 2009. Some people feel Facebook makes blogs redundant, but I've a different opinion -- perhaps for another post.

I wonder if SPF is planning for "the next step" wrt social media engagement. In my view, they are doing a darn good job already. I don't forsee the SPF embarking on the level of engagement like this last case study I blogged about, here and here).

But then again, maybe the SPF will lead the way. Again :)

UPDATE: Walter blogs about it, here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The "No Bed Bugs Essential Spray"

My wife concocted a homemade essential oil spray. She did a bit of research over the Internet. To get rid of bed bugs. She says it works.

I thought it made our home smell like a classy boutique hotel. I asked her what name she's calling the fragrance.

"No Bed Bugs Essential Spray", she says.

Reuse a 120ml spray bottle or perfume atomiser.

Fill it up slightly more than 3 quarters full with boiled water (in lieu of distilled water).

  • Cedar wood essential oil x 10 drops
  • Clove essential oil x 5 drops
  • Lavender essential oil x 20 drops
  • Rosemary essential oil x 5 drops
Shake like mad.

Red Potion
Originally uploaded by Artform Canada

BTW, you can freely copy the above. A mere listing of ingredients and procedures cannot be copyrighted. Unless the listings have "substantial literary expression-—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example-—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook". Source: U.S. Copyright office (Singapore follows U.S. Copyright law pretty closely).
U.S. Copyright Office - Recipes

Wednesday, November 09, 2011 Goes Creative Commons

Announced on 7 Nov 2011.'s statement:
"Beginning today, we’re releasing all staff-produced photos under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC) license and making them available in high-res format on a newly launched public Flickr stream."

More info, from the blog:
"...’s announcement that from now on all staff-produced photos will be released under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial license (CC BY-NC)!’s Editor in Chief Evan Hansen says,

“Creative Commons turns ten years old next year, and the simple idea of releasing content with “some rights reserved” has revolutionized online sharing and fueled a thriving remix culture. At, we’ve benefited from CC-licensed photos for years — thank you sharers! Now we’re going to start sharing ourselves.”"

Here's's CC-BY-NC Flickr stream, at
Flickr: Wired Photostream's Photostream

What's significant to me was that is a recognisable brandname. Their very public statement on CC was also very clear to me (see quote at the beginning of this post).

They have made a long-term commitment rather than a one-off publicity stunt (some people might think this was a one-off thing if they only noticed the selected 50 images).

Their Flickr stream would be one good resource to get CC-BY-NC photos of people in the tech industry (since covers that sort of news extensively).
Steve Jobs at iPad announcement 2010 Michael Arrington Mark Zuckerberg JJ Abrams at WonderCon 2009 Steve Wozniak

Probably images of gadgets, events and tech stuff.
Nissan Leaf Chevy Volt Factory Comic-Con 2008

(Which reminds me: I've not blogged about YouTube's "hybrid" adoption of Creative Commons; check this and this out).

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Social media Twitter interview: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

The level of competency and the manner of response, shown by the organisation's social media manager/ staff, says something about the overall competency of the organisation.

This recap, of what happened two weeks ago, illustrated that to me.

Ivan Chew (ramblinglib) on Twitter @ShannonPaul Twitter _ @ramblinglib @ShannonPaul

Minutes after I blogged and tweeted about this post, I received a twitter reply from @ShannonPaul, Social Media Manager of Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan. With an offer to answer questions.

Got to admit, the speed of response was impressive. But even more so, it was the unsolicited offer to answer questions.

I replied that I'll think of good questions to ask. But before that I corrected my mistake on the blog post. Sorry, Shannon, I really thought "Shannon" was a guy's name. Forgive this librarian's ignorance.

Before asking my questions, I decided to do some homework. Read up Shannon's blog (was humbled by her About Page, subscribed!) plus her current work at A Healthier Michigan.

Decided on my five questions, tweeted to Shannon, to which she replied almost immediately as well.

Here it is (in actuality, I tweeted all five questions in a continuous thread, and perfectly happy if Shannon only answered some of them. But she graciously answered all; in between she was also responding to other tweets):

Me: Q1: how did you discover my post about BCBSM? I tweeted it but neither the tweet nor url mentioned BCBSM directly.
Shannon: We use @Radian6 to monitor brand mentions. They're usually really fast, especially at picking up tweets :)

Me: Q2: how did that YouTube comment episode turn out? Happy customer? Satisfied? Still cheesed? both parties met objectives?
Shannon: I don't believe that person ever followed up with me, but I can't be 100% sure in this case.

Me: Q3: what's the top 3 goals for @bcbsm's social media forays/ strategy?
Shannon: Top 3, eh? Build/strengthen relationships with consumers and business customers, gather feedback, provide quality health info
(Shannon managed to answer coherently within 140 characters. Fwah! Talk about being concise.)

Me: Q4: apart from an overall social media plan, does @bcbsm social media team have specific goals for the week/ month?
Shannon: Q4: Of course, but they're a bit granular and vary from week to week :)

Me: Q5: what would ur employer consider as 'success' for @bcbsm and @HealthierMI?
Shannon: Q5: Goals vary by business area. For @HealthierMI 2011 is about building an audience, 2012 will be about loyalty/engagement.

That's the five. I honestly felt like asking 50! Found the responses very useful. It corroborated with some ideas I had in mind for my new work scope (updates in another post).

Thanks again, Shannon.

Here's the other thing: Shannon's responses were also examples where the Social Media Manager/ staff can respond off the cuff and still keep their jobs!

Obviously she did not have to obtain clearance from Blue Shield Michigan's official corp comms department for some of the responses (for instance, the one about their success criteria). Unless, their corp comms staff was sitting right next to her. I doubt that.

To recap what I mentioned at the start of the post:

Perhaps the more subtle part was this -- the level of competency and the manner of response, shown by the organisation's social media manager/ staff, says something about the overall competency of the organisation.

To me, it says a heck of a lot about the organisation's understanding and approach to online engagement. Particularly their intent and the service potential.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Social media response example: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (or, "Re-thinking Customer Service in the Social Media world")

OK, here's more of my rambly disconnected thoughts, this time about Customer Service Vs Social Media Engagement.

I came across this Youtube video (posted 25 Jun 2011), put up by a US health insurer the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The video showed the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employees, their friends and family performing a "flash-mob" style dance segment.

What caught my eye was this comment posted by an apparent customer: "My premium goes up 27% on 8/1. Glad it pays for nonsense like this."

Plus, the following response by the company's Social Media manager:
"I'm sorry you're frustrated about a pending rate increase. Please let me know if there is anything we can do to help. You can email me directly at with the 800# on the back of your card and I'll do my best to see if there is anything we can do.

Shannon Paul
Social Media Manager
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan"

Cool. They have a social media manager (perhaps a team?) who knew what he she was doing. Appropriate tone and all that.

Was obvious they took ownership of their YouTube channel and took immediate charge of the response (it seemed to be posted at the same time as the comment).

Social media response: Michigan Blue Cross Flash Mob at Detroit River Days - YouTube

That example got me thinking:

Did Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan have two separate customer service units? A traditional one and a social media unit? Perhaps more likely that their social media unit was part of the larger customer service unit, or the company corporate communications department. (Maybe they're monitoring the blogs and might post a comment here. Or someone might pass the message along to them). UPDATE: Check this out. A tweet response just minutes after I tweeted!

I'm wondering if the new norm might be for two independent customer service units -- at least independent in terms of their specific function, though their overall aim was still about customer management and relations.

One unit might handle the "traditional" channels like snail-mail, emails, and telephone calls. More reactive, in the sense that it's the customer who initiates the customer service transaction.

Then the Social Media unit would be in charge of trawling for social media mentions. This could be channels set up and managed by the organisation (e.g. an organisation Facebook page), or the broader social media-sphere (e.g. Facebook). Part of the scope might be to also engage in conversations with the customer. Particularly in the case of the latter scenario, where the customer may post a complaint on their own social media space rather than the organisation's. A mix of the reactive and proactive.

Extending that idea further, it's less about customer service using social media but more of customer engagement through social media channels. This may allow for easier distinction between a Customer Service department and a Customer Engagement department.

BTW, the term "service" makes me think of a production line. i.e. I bring my wonky TV set to be serviced. But as a customer, increasingly I'd expected to be engaged rather than to be serviced like a piece of equipment.

If having two channels is the "new normal", then there would inevitably be issue of ROI for the organisation.

I suspect at face-value, the traditional customer service unit would be more cost-efficient compared to the dedicated social media unit. Afterall, the traditional customer service unit is structured to be efficient. Basically, the customer service staff are like the production line, handling calls as they come in. Customers tend to be the ones waiting to be served.

The social media unit has to be accessed slightly differently. When we're talking about "engagement", I think we're talking about measuring in terms of customer satisfaction -- or the quality -- rather than efficiency of a customer encounter.

You can be efficient with the customer, but it doesn't necessarily mean the customer is more satisfied with what has taken place.

I think "engagement" is really about "reputation" and "goodwill". If the organisation has a way to measure the worth of its reputation and goodwill (which you can, in accounting terms), then I think that's a way to measure social media engagement.

What's harder to measure is linking the ultimate outcome -- which is sales or the customer's repeated use of the service -- to the amount of staff time expended. But that's the whole point about a social media engagement unit: you can't expect a causal relationship from engagement to 'sales'. That's seems more like a sales department function, in my view.

Well, you can chart trends or try and derive correlations.

But that's the other point: Mapping out trends means we need to take a longer time.

Can't expect instant wins where social media engagement is concerned.

p.s. Feel free to comment/ agree/ disagree. I'd appreciate any insights to help refine my thoughts on this matter.
p.p.s. How do you measure this? :)

RELATED: Social media Twitter interview: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Sunday, October 09, 2011

What has kept me busy, work-wise

My blogging frequency has decreased sharply since the beginning of this year. A big reason was that work had eaten into my personal time. First three months was just crazy.

A bit of that work, slogged over with several other colleagues, is finally in the open. It's reflected in the draft plans for the Arts and Culture Strategic Review (ACSR), under the part for "Communities for Reading, Writing and Storytelling":
ACSR draft report

We hope to build on the existing network of reading communities to nurture a vibrant reading culture and cultivate an understanding and appreciation of the literary arts. 
ACSR draft report

While the National Library Board (NLB) manages about 100 reading communities (which organise monthly book discussions), only a small number of such communities integrate all three elements of reading, writing and storytelling. Writing, and the appreciation of local writing, is still a very niche activity that has yet to take root. 
ACSR draft report

Singaporeans could be encouraged to come forward and contribute their personal stories (e.g. with old photos, letters) through communities for reading, writing and storytelling. These communities could be set up all over Singapore, in libraries, community clubs and even the places where we work and live. Besides enjoying books together, participants could be encouraged to write, share their stories, experiences and interests, and even produce creative works in both physical and online forms (such as blogs, video clips and audio recordings). These works could then be shared with their friends, family and online communities. 
ACSR draft report

The entire ACSR plans (still a draft as of this post, at the post-public consultation stage) has several components, and will be a mutli-MICA-agency effort. The National Library Board is one of those MICA agencies.

The ACSR was initiated by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) in 2010 and aims to chart Singapore’s next phase of cultural development until 2025. This review would also aim for twice as many Singaporeans – from 40% to 80% – to attend and benefit from at least one arts and culture event a year by 2025, and to encourage Singaporeans’ active engagement in arts and culture activities, up from the current 20% to 50% by 2025. This could include taking up or volunteering for arts and heritage activities in their personal time.

You can download the 50-page draft report here, at (public consultation just ended recently). Or you can scan through the summary list if recommendations, here.
ACSR draft report

There will be some other changes to my work scope. It's not a state-secret but I'll share more when it's finalised in a few weeks' time.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Remembering Project Gutenberg's Michael Hart (1947-2011)

Earlier this September, the world focused on the 10-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. Not surprising, for the events on 11th September of 2001 was a world-changing event.

I thought what seems to have slipped the world's attention was the passing of Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg.

Hart's project might not be world-changing on the scale of 9-11, but it certainly spanned the World Wide Web.

Project Gutenberg is, without a doubt for me, the precursor of ebooks.

Hart was best known for his 1971 invention of electronic books, or eBooks. He founded Project Gutenberg, which is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects. He often told this story of how he had the idea for eBooks. He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network. From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart's life's work, spanning over 40 years.
~ Dr. Gregory B. Newby, Obituary for Michael Stern Hart.

I only learned about Project Gutenberg after I entered the library profession in 1996. That was also the year I had any real practical experience with the World Wide Web and the Internet. I also did not realise -- until much, much later -- that Project Gutenberg was started in 1971 (I'm almost as old as it was).

Project Gutenberg, at that time, it was a no-frills website. It still is, by today's standards.

Then, and like now, you basically searched for titles and downloaded digital texts for free. Almost all 'books' in Project Gutenberg were texts from public domain.

However, it was not an online bookstore the way Amazon was. In terms of popular appeal, the public domain texts could never compare.

Still, I found Project Gutenberg impressive. I still do. It may seem a simple idea: converting texts from printed book form to digital files, then making the digital works available to the world. For free.

But for a 'simple idea' to be sustained since 1971, that alone has to impress.

The reading experience
Michael Hart's project didn't revolutionise the reading experience, not in the way Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad did.

Of course, I don't think he sought to do that.

I thought Project Gutenberg had two issues that prevented it from becoming truly world-changing. One, the reading experience wasn't 'wow'. Reading large volume of texts on desktop or laptop computer screens was impractical for most. It was more of 'reading off a computer' rather 'reading an ebook', not to mention the print resolution and several well-discussed issues.

Two, the content wasn't 'wow' either. Not when the rage was Tom Clancy and John Grisham etc.

I have an impression that when the world's reading experience was transformed with the appearance of Kindle and iPad (along with their respective supply of eBooks with modern and popular appeal), Project Gutenberg fell even more out of the public eye. Relatively speaking.

In the 90s, when the World Wide Web was a nebulous thing and librarians met it with calls of doom and gloom, I think librarians saw Project Gutenberg as a positive thing, but not a remedy.

Project Gutenberg was not a search engine. It wasn't an online reference (come to think of it: if it were, it would be seen as yet another threat!)

Renewed relevance?
I think with eReading devices becoming more accessible and affordable, an initiative like Project Gutenberg's Mission Statement may be well poised to take on the future:
The mission of Project Gutenberg is simple: To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.

This mission is, as much as possible, to encourage all those who are interested in making eBooks and helping to give them away.

Project Gutenberg has moved with the times. They have backed up their intent (of encouraging eBook distribution) by providing formats like EPUB and for Kindle.

And who knows? Perhaps a successful contemporary author, whose works have current mass appeal, may bequeath his works to Project Gutenberg. Or a philanthropist who decides to acquire the rights of popular works and make them available through the Project.

Or some one may leverage on Project Gutenberg's collection, add a new twist to its eBooks content or reading experience, and make it available as an Apple or Android app. Which might transform the world's reading experience.

Well, all are just conjectures.

Most of us did not see 9-11 coming. On a more positive note, neither did we foresee the Kindle or iPad. For that matter, did we anticipate a relatively simple idea like Project Gutenberg?

So who knows?

Thank you, Michael Hart.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Teaching racial harmony

The train doors opened.

An old man stepped in. I could tell he was quite elderly: his wrinkled skin; his unsure footing as the train moved off.

A much younger man noticed him too. The young man got up from his seat. The younger person's body language and eye contact was enough to signal his intent to the elder.

The old man shuffled towards the vacated seat. "Thank you, thank you," he said.

A few seats away, a young girl took it all in, glancing between the two.

Singapore MRT Cabin
Originally uploaded by xcode

The old man and young person were of two different races.


[Note: The above happened just the way I saw it. I was inspired to recount the above after reading Lucian's post. No where as elegant as Lucian's though.]

Friday, August 19, 2011

Singapore Wins Bid to Host 2013 IFLA General Conference and Assembly

There's about two years to prepare. This should be interesting for librarians in Singapore :)

I hope to see some of my IFLA friends and colleagues again.

From NLB's media release, dated 19 Aug 2011:

Singapore Wins Bid to Host Prestigious International Library Congress in 2013

Release Date : 19 Aug 2011

Singapore, 19 August 2011 – Singapore has won the bid to host the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress to be held in August 2013. This announcement was made officially at the closing session of the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2011 on 18 August 2011 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
This marks the first time that Singapore is hosting the Congress, which is the flagship professional and trade event for the international library and information sector. The Congress takes place in August each year in a city selected through a competitive three-stage bidding process that is overseen by the IFLA Governing Board. The hosting of the Congress rotates among the IFLA regions of Asia and Oceania, Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America and Caribbean. Previous host cities included Gothenburg, Sweden in 2010 and Milan, Italy in 2009. The last Asian host city was Seoul, South Korea in 2006.
Singapore's bid to host the 2013 edition of the Congress was jointly submitted by National Library Board (NLB) and the Library Association of Singapore and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The international convention in August 2013 is expected to attract over 3,000 participants from over 100 countries who will converge in Singapore to discuss the developments and new trends in the library arena. The programme will run over eight days, including three days of business meetings, a five-day conference programme, and three and half days of exhibition.
“Our successful bid to host the IFLA World Library and Information Congress will place us firmly on the world map of the library and information sector as the Congress offers a unique platform to promote knowledge sharing and exchange best practices within the international community. This will also pave the way for us to deepen relations and facilitate future collaborations with our global counterparts,” said Mrs Elaine Ng, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NLB.
“We are very pleased to be the city of choice for the 2013 IFLA World Library and Information Congress. Singapore's vibrant and pro-business environment, bolstered by quality infrastructure, and a strong global network of strategic partnerships, will provide an ideal platform for the exchange of ideas and collaboration among delegates,” commented Ms Melissa Ow, Assistant Chief Executive, Industry Development (II) Group, STB.
“Further, Singapore's rich multi-cultural heritage, diversity of business and leisure offerings, and upcoming developments such as Gardens by the Bay, and the world's first River Safari, look set to provide guests and delegates with a differentiated experience of our constantly evolving city.”
A national committee, chaired by CEO of NLB, comprising representatives from the local library and information sector will be set up to oversee the organising of the Congress.

Here's more, from the current Library Association of Singapore president.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Celebrating Singaporeana: Happy 46th

In my friend Lucian's post, he admitted having the sort of prejudice some Singaporeans might have towards things made or achieved by Singaporeans:
It is true that for some obscure reason, Singaporeans look down on other Singaporeans. “Made in America” comes with the notion that the product is heavy-duty; “made in Japan”, quality; “made in the UK”, quaint. But when you talk about something that is “made in Singapore”, it is always the Singaporeans who’ll be first in line to pull it down. You’ll often hear things like “trying too hard to be [insert name of western country]” or “cannot make it”. Best of all, these criticisms are uttered by the ones who’ve never had the guts to even try.

I know, because I’m guilty of it.
(Btw the context of his post was Inch Chua's Open Letter to Singapore; her facebook post has been removed but you can read a repost here).

Lucian's admission struck a chord with me. I, too, displayed a similar sort of prejudice a few weeks earlier.

I was reading a book containing stories written by Singaporeans. The title of the book isn't the point. The point was my unconscious judgement, comparing those stories with my favourite non-Singaporean authors. I felt the "made in Singapore" stories were not "good enough".

On one hand, I desperately wanted to like the stories. On the other, I wanted to admit the stories didn't appeal to me. I even tried to rationalise why those stories weren't appealing to my tastes. My reasoning came up short.

I was torn between wanting the stories to be great, and having to acknowledge they were not.

Then I realised something else.

Even though I would not consider those stories to be 'great', I had managed to read the entire book from cover to cover. I read every single story. That was already an achievement. There have been contemporary best-selling authors whose works I can never read past chapter one, or less.

Once I got past my mental literary-hang up, it was easy to see what else was good about those stories. They were technically competent. There were no glaring spelling or grammatical errors. The story ideas may not have made me go "wow" (actually, very few stories can) but they were not run-of-the-mill ones. It was clear the authors put in what they were worth, and not out to insult the intelligence of the reader.

I also realised I didn't have to like every single story in that "made by Singaporeans" book.

Perhaps this sort of reader reaction is part of the literary territory. We all have our personal yardsticks against what we consider as 'best'. And I think it's healthy to compare, so that there's some specific literary target to aim for.

However, I think we Singaporean readers have to be mindful not to confuse "setting a goal" with "expecting every Singaporean author to write like [insert name of your favorite author]".

Another friend of mine is fond of saying, "Don't celebrate mediocrity".

I agree.

I'm not suggesting we endorse or embrace, by default, everything "made in Singapore" or "by Singaporeans". If the works are shoddy, we should say so. But I believe we should not impose undue expectations or comparisons. Enjoy the work -- a play, music, a piece of creative fiction -- for what they are worth.

We should not confuse "not being unique" with "not good".

If we have a flower that smells like a rose, it's OK to compare with another blossom in the next yard. But let's not forget: that very flower, grown in our garden, still smells sweet.

Happy 46th, Singapore.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

App How-To: EBSCOhost iPhone/ iPod Touch app

If you access EBSCOhost resources regularly, you might want to give this EBSCOhost app a try (even if you don't it's still worth giving this a spin if you own an Apple mobile device).

It's compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad (though, the design/ app display size is more for the iPhone and iPod Touch than the iPad).

NOTE: After you've installed the app on your iPhone or iPad, you can't use it right away. You have to obtain and activate an Authentication Key from the EBSCOhost database page, which has to be done via logging into the library's eresources website. It seems you do this step once and it's valid for 9 months. It's also valid only for the individual database, which means you have to do the same authentication process for each of the EBSCOhost that you want to access via the App

Ebscohost iPhone app

Here's a step-by-step guide (btw, the steps were done via my iPad):

Download the app from the App Store (keyword search "ebscohost").

After installing the app, there's a few more preparatory steps. You need to obtain and activate the authentication key (if not, you won't see any menu options on the app).

To get the key, you first login to in order to get to an EBSOhost database (I'm assuming you've already signed up for a digital library account, or you're registered as a NLB library member. The site's How To section has details of how to sign up/ access the resources).

After logging in, browse through the database listings and click on the EBSCOhost database you prefer. The list is in alphabetical order, so you've to scroll the page to entries starting with "E".
eResources - National Library Board, Singapore

In this example, I clicked on an EBSCOhost database called "MAS Ultra - Public Library Editition". On the database page, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and click on the link "EBSCOhost iPhone/ iPod Touch Application":

You will be prompted to enter your email address, where the authentication link will be sent.

The authentication mail looks like this. Follow the instructions (the link has to be accessed via your iPhone/ iPod Touch/ iPad).

After that, you're done. When you open the EBSCOhost app, the menu appears.

Under the Settings option, I can specify the databases I'd like to access (note: you have to repeat the authentication process for every individual database. But

You can specify what results to display (e.g. show you full-text articles only, or filter by date ranges):

To search for articles, you type your keywords (there's no Advanced Search option in this app, but you can filter the results under the Settings option, as explained above)

Results are displayed like this.

The default display is by articles that the system deems as most relevant based on the keywords. In the above screenshot, the first article was published in 2006. is You can display the most recent articles by tapping on the Date tab (the following screen now shows the first listed article published in 2011).

READING (on and offline)
Tapping on the displayed article title brings you to a screen like this. It gives you the abstract, the link to save the article to your mobile device, or download the PDF or email.

Scrolling down the page shows information like the author, article source, subject headings, database name (tapping on them does an automatic search and display, based on those links):

When I tapped on the PDF icon, the app starts to download the PDF document:

The PDF document shows the scanned article, with all other contextual information (e.g. sidebar, ads) preserved on the page.

The display can be expanded by dragging. But the display window is definitely not as large as the iPad, so reading the PDF was a bit tedious (the app works on an iPad but resolution tends to become grainy when enlarged).

I was able to access my saved articles from the "Saved" tab.

The saved articles can be read off-line, which was great. When I disconnected from my WIFI, the app says as much.

The NLB libraries subscribes to the EBSCOhost databases, which you can access at

There are 14 EBSCOhost databases, out of which 11 are accessible from home (and hence via the app). The 11 are:
  3. EBSCOHost Funk & Wagnall's new world encyclopedia
  4. EBSCOHost kids search
  5. EBSCOHost MAS ultra : public library edition
  6. EBSCOHost MasterFILE premier
  7. EBSCOHost military and government collection
  8. EBSCOHost novelist
  9. EBSCOHost primary search
  10. EBSCOHost regional business news
  11. EBSCOHost searchasaurus

Of the 11, the ones in bold are accessible via the EBSCOhost app (at least, it's listed in the app).