Chinese New Year in Singapore

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Gong Xi Fa Cai! May the year of the snake shine light on libraries! 😉

Are libraries being galvanized by Google into scanning their collections?

Image credits: PolarStarFilms.com

Image credits: Polar Star Films

Google and the world brain” is an 89-minute documentary which premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. This documentary looks into the Google Books project which started in 2002 in an effort to create a giant global library, containing every book in existence and touted as the most ambitious project on the Internet

However, more than half of the books that Google scanned were in copyright which lead to authors all over the world to launch a campaign to stop Google which ended in New York in 2011 which led to ca courtroom battle.

You can check out the trailer of the documentary film below:

CNET.com’s Casey Newton gives an interesting take about the Google Books project and the film in this article.

The film and the article addresses a common concern – what if Google later decides to to restrict all those information they scanned in those books or maybe decide to charge for access? Do you think libraries are being galvanized by Google into scanning their collections, to put them online?

When a person dies

Hot Pink Underwear

Someone I dearly loved died this week.

After I found out she had passed, I turned invisible. Creatures around me became their own planets, rotating in separate orbits. Someone turned down the earth’s volume knob and the little pilotman in charge of keeping our world spinning slowed everything down.

The squirrel outside my car window acted like he couldn’t see me. I guess maybe he didn’t. But I saw him, and that made it worse because he was doing something important. It was obvious. He was focused and alive. The brown hairs on his back shivered. His tiny dark nails scratched the asphalt as he crossed in front of me.

Inside my car planet, I turned up the music, but familiar song lyrics took on new meaning.

“As many times as I blink I’ll think of you…I swear I won’t forget you.”

Everything reminded me that she was gone.

I drove…

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Don’t panic! Keep calm and ask a librarian!

Image source: UTS Library Facebook Page

Librarians have conferences, too?!

Librarians have conferences, too?” asked a student assistant with a bewildered expression when I told him that he will be assisting me in a conference. As perplexed as I was when I heard him say that, I was looking forward to be part of a conference which is largely attended by library leaders and this was an opportunity not to be missed.

From 4th to 7th June 2012, NTU hosted the 33rd Annual IATUL Conference at the Nanyang Executive Centre. The event was organised by NTU Library together with some librarians from the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University. In its 33rd year now, this was the first time that the conference was held in Asia since its inauguration in 1955. The conference assembles librarians from scientific and technological universities from 31 countries, including Oman, Latvia and Belgium.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Library Strategies for New Generation Users”, the users being those who engage in various technologies and new styles in their approach to learning. The conference focused on catering to such users and the initiatives that the libraries have taken.  True to its theme, the conference incorporated technologies such as live streaming video and social media. I was happy to be part of the social media team, tweeting away throughout the conference.

Day One of the conference began with opening addresses by the Chairman of the organizing committee, Mr. Choy Fatt Cheong, who is also the University Librarian, NTU as well as addresses by President of NTU, Prof. Bertil Andersson and President of IATUL, Prof. Ainslie Dewe, who is also the University Librarian for La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Following these, the first keynote was delivered by Prof. Rakesh K. Kumar from the Department of Pathology, School of Medical Sciences in the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.  An advocate of his university library and being a medical academic, he emphasised that libraries, besides providing the resources, have to be engaged in the academic work of the university, and not just be reduced to non-academic line of reporting. He summed it up by stating “Libraries are still extremely important in today’s environment”. The video of his keynote can be viewed below.

Besides the keynote speeches, the conferences included plenary, parallel & poster sessions, as well as social activities including a welcome reception and dinners. On the third day of the conference, the delegates embarked on the full-day Singapore Learning Journey, visiting attractions in Kampong Glam, Little India, Chinatown, Civic District, Esplanade – Theatres On The Bay, Singapore Food Trail @Singapore Flyer and ended the day at the world’s first nocturnal zoo, Night Safari. Though I was not part of the journey, I spoke with the delegates who were all praises about the journey.

On the final day, a social media forum was held where a representative from each of these user groups formed part of the panel: a librarian, a professor, an undergraduate student and a social media guru. It brought upon me that we librarians tend to assume that our mode of delivering information will be used or appreciated and we can be wrong about it, especially when the undergraduate student announced that he does not wish to receive e-mail updates from the library and would prefer passive updates via social media tools. Almost everyone roared with laughter upon hearing this quote, which I think is quite true:

The final day of the conference ended with the third keynote speech by Dr. Susan Gibbons, University Librarian of Yale University, who shared her research findings in Rochester University, where she was the Vice Provost and Neilly Dean of its River Campus Libraries. Her presentation titled “Trends, possibilities and scenarios for user-centred libraries”, spoke on her team’s initiative on brought in an anthropologist into the library. The library users were asked to show them where and how they worked and found “significant disciplinary differences”. Based on findings, library decided to focus on humanities students and looked into providing ideal spaces for them. Another interesting note was that the library decided to drop freshmen orientation and instead invited their parents over for breakfast with the librarians, initiating parents’ orientation, which turned out to be a winner. Dr. Gibbons gave one solid presentation which diverted my attention away from tweeting live updates. I’m sure her presentation truly inspired librarians on the importance of being user-centric.

In case you are wondering what happened to the student assistant I mentioned earlier, he had this to say:

“After this conference, I now have a different view about librarians.”

Now, I’m all smiles.

Some facts about IATUL and its conferences:

  • IATUL stands for International Association of Scientific and Technological University Libraries.
  • NTU’s University Librarian, Mr. Choy Fatt Cheong, is a Board Member of IATUL
  • The conference is held annually and is usually organized by universities
  • Delegates from 31 countries congregated for this year’s conference
  • The previous conference was hosted in Warsaw Poland and the next conference will be held in Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa

Dare to be a gang leader for a day…?

Title: Gang leader for a day : a rogue sociologist takes to the streets
Author: Venkatesh, Sudhir
ISBN:9781594201509

I chanced upon this book title while reading the text for the “Research in Information Studies” module.This book is a true life account of a sociology graduate student, Sudhir Venkatesh, who wanted to study urban poverty in an housing project (Robert Taylor Homes) with a multiple choice survey.

Though he was apprehended at first by the local gang members, he decided to drop this quantitative study of the gangs and took an qualitative approach to understand why drives the residents in the project to this poverty.This meant he befriended the gang leader, J.T. and moved closer to the other gang members and the project’s residents.This instantly got me hooked to the book and amidst all the reading for my course & work, I finished this book within two weeks which is a personal record for me!

I was surprised how African Americans are driven to the wall especially by those who are supposed to come to their aid.The author got a first hand experience as a gang leader as he used the opportunity to lead the gang, for a entire day!

Personally, I believe that any quantitative research may not reflect the true nature of  a society while a qualitative study may lead us to develop have personal emotions for the society we study.I noticed that the author had this guilt, for leading J.T. to think that the research was for the author to write a biography of the gang leader.This truly shows that the author treated him more of a friend than a research “object”, which you will notice in this book that more people in the project opened up to Sudhir.

I would recommend this book to those who are interested to know why a community functions in a way, urban poverty or even those who want to know how American gangs operate.Honestly, this book enlightened me that people driven to lead their lives in a wrong way even without given a choice, which is a sad fact.

Upcoming movies about women leaders

As an ongoing trend, biographical movies about women leaders portraying their tribulations during their rise of power an how they overcame them are being produced andreleased

This year, trailers of such two movies prompted me to write this post.They are The Iron Lady where Meryl Streep portrays former British Prime Minister and the only lady PM ever, Margaret Thatcher. I must confess, I have watched this trailer over 10 times and I can’t wait to catch this movie when it releases in February, here in Singapore.

Meryl Streep is one of the greatest actresses and I know no better actress to portray the former Prime Minister.

Another film, The Lady, directed by French film director, Luc Besson, is based on the true story of Aung San Suu Kyi,  the Burmese leader who have constantly been put on house arrests because of her fight for Myanmar’s freedom from its military rule.

If The Iron Lady made me excited for its release, this trailer gave me goosebumps seeing a lady standing against a cruel military government and fighting for her country’s freedom.

The irony is that these ladies are still alive and they may still have accomplishments in the future.

Hopefully, we will be able to see movies on other women leaders. Personally I would love to see biographical films of former Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi and as well as former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Will we ever see movies made about them? We’ll wait and see…

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Nothing to envy: ordinary lives in North Korea

I have always been curious about Korea, especially North Korea which has shuts its doors to the world.Through this book, I came to know that the North Koreans are still living in the 1960s when the world is rapidly advancing and yet they have no clue about it.Barbara Demick’s Nothing to envy:ordinary lives in North Korea narrates the true stories of six defectors, during the chaotic period of their “Great Leader” Kim Il-Sung and the “Ardous March”, the famine that took the one-fifth lives of the North Korean population in the 1990s.

The six defectors are:

  • Mrs Song – a pro-regime housewife, head of the block’s inminban
  • Oak-Hee – Mrs Song’s rebellious, yet eventually enterprising, daughter
  • Mi-ran – daughter of a kaolin miner, a South Korean POW, so with bad songbun disqualifying her from advancement
  • Jun-sang – a student with Zainichi Korean ancestry and Mi-Ran’s boyfriend in North Korea
  • Kim Hyuck – a street-kid whose father commits him to an orphanage as he cannot afford to raise him
  • Dr Kim – a doctor with relatives in China

Particularly, two personal accounts of defectors etched in my mind.

1.Mrs. Song manages to land in South Korean after flying in from China with a fake passport, accompanied by an “agent”.She approaches an airport personnel to convey that she is defecting.

“The next time she checked, he was gone. She ventured out in search of a security official to approach. She practically collided with a very tall man whose badge and photo ID were at Mrs. Song’s eye level. She bowed low, as one does when beseeching an official, and spoke her rehearsed line.

“I have come from North Korea. I am requesting asylum here,” she said.

The man was a janitor. He looked startled, but he knew what to do.”

2.This account reflects how bad the famine was back then.

“…Hyuck found a small and friendly stray (dog), wagging its tail as it followed him into his friend’s yard. Hyuck shut the gate behind them. He and his friend grabbed the animal and shoved it into a bucket of water, holding down the lid. The drowning dog struggled for ten minutes before dying. They skinned it and barbecued it.”

There are lots of documentary videos on North Korea on the net but only one fact makes me ponder over and over again  –  why is the North Korean government so bent on building nuclear weapons when its people are in hunger.Even North Korean watchers are unable to tell if things are improving in this hermit state.They were looking forward to the regime’s collapse along with the fall of other communist systems in the world but are still puzzled how North Korea is still going strong.

Along with South Koreans and other watchers in the world, I can only hope that the regime collapses in the near future to liberate its people and future generation from the authoritarian government.