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Faces of NLB

 



Luke Chua
(Manager, International Relations & Development)

 

"I build NLB's relations with international libraries."

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Mr Luke Chua is neither a stockbroker nor a forex trader, but his work on a typical day can also involve talking to various people over three continents across different time zones.

In the morning, the manager for International Relations & Development at the National Library Board (NLB) can be speaking to someone from China to arrange for NLB's senior management to visit the National Library of China.

In the afternoon, he may then be liaising with Singapore's embassy in New Delhi to ship books to the National Library in India. Come evening when his British counterpart has just started the day, Mr Chua will touch base with them, say, regarding an agreement to exchange materials between NLB and the British Library.

"This is no less exciting than an international stock broker’s job because we are having conversations about things that we share a passion for," he said.

His former job with the Ministry of Defence also included working with people from other countries and, even though the nature of work was very different, the English Literature major never lost his love for the written word.

Joining NLB six years ago, he was given an opportunity to amalgamate both interests – international relations and literature – into a stimulating career.

"Through our partnerships, library patrons in other countries have access to Singapore publications and in turn, we also receive materials from these countries, some of which may not be easily available in commercial bookstores," he said.

"There is much you can learn online these days, but there is also a danger in arriving at inaccurate and misleading information. Regardless of technological advances, there is always something different and irreplaceable with actual materials, books and human interaction."

"I would like to think that I am bridging geographical gaps and enabling connections on a daily basis – and that makes it all worthwhile."



Idah Mariyani Mohamed Sahid
(Senior Library Officer, Sengkang Public Library)

 

"I promote reading and make our libraries more accessible."

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Senior Library Officer Ms Idah Mariyani Mohamed Sahid saw a harried-looking man trying to print some documents at a computer terminal in Sengkang library in 2013.

He was having difficulty doing so because the software on that computer was not compatible and he needed the printouts urgently.

Ms Idah Mariyani was not familiar with the type of software needed but she did a search on the Internet and assisted him accordingly.

For going the extra mile, she was given Singapore Service Excellence Medallion Award in 2015.

"It may seem like a small gesture but it meant a lot to the patron because he needed to complete his research paper," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about the incident in a speech at the award ceremony.

Regular library patrons who have read about her in the papers regarding the award came up to her in the weeks after to take "selfies" with her.

"That was awkward but it gives me satisfaction when library users appreciate my service in big or small ways," said Ms Idah Mariyani.

Ms Idah Mariyani can usually be found behind the counter or patrolling the aisles to encourage patrons to uphold library etiquette and lend a hand in locating a book. She also performs other duties such as churning out monthly reports or going through the book collection to ensure that it is up to date.

Encouraging the habit of reading, especially among the young, is a mission close to her heart. During the temporary closure of Sengkang Public Library for renovation works in 2015, she was heartened to recognise some families with young children who continue to take their children to the Marine Parade library where she was temporarily based at.

She said: "Kids nowadays don't like reading or coming to the library but it is heart-warming to see how supportive parents are in involving their children with the fun activities and programmes that libraries offer."

 

 

Mark Wong Wen Wei
(Oral History Specialist, Oral History Centre)

 

"I record personal stories from all walks of life."

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Mr Mark Wong spends over a hundred hours a year sitting down to listen to people tell their life stories.

As an Oral History Specialist at the National Library Board's Oral History Centre, his job is to track down interviewees relevant to the topic of interest, convince them to share their experiences and record them down for the National Archives of Singapore.

"Many people come up to me and say, 'Wow, there is such a job?'", said Mr Wong. "It is a wonderful fit for me because I am interested in both history and interacting with people."

The Oral History Centre documents stories that concern the political, economic and social history of Singapore, such as its political development, history of businesses and ethnic communities.

Mr Wong said such work is important because there are gaps in the official history records. For instance, the Japanese destroyed many wartime documents while they were in Singapore before they surrendered.

"By recording the recollections of different people who lived through that time, we get a multi-faceted picture that there were people who had traumatic experiences but there were also others who had good memories of kind soldiers," he said.

"These recollections are precious because sometimes the individuals have not even shared them with their own family members."

Some personal stories also have national significance. For example, the oral history team interviewed E. W. Barker, Singapore's former minister of law who drafted the separation agreement with Malaysia and found out how much pressure he was under and how late he slept that night.

Said Mr Wong: "This is not the history found in history books, told in the abstract. When we hear it from people who experienced it themselves, we begin to understand more about why people do what they did and it broadens our perspective."

 



Suhaila Ghani
(Senior Library Officer, Jurong Regional Library)

 

"I make libraries accessible to all across the island."

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Ms Suhaila Ghani spends hours on a bus every day. But the bus is a special one. Instead of rows of passenger seats, it is fitted with shelves crammed with books and reading areas for people to pause and browse.

"It is a totally different environment," said Ms Suhaila. "I get to go to different places and reach out to people from all walks of life, as opposed to sitting behind a library counter and waiting for people to come to me."

The senior library officer gets on a small or big bus, called mini-MOLLY or big-MOLLY, and travels to special schools, primary schools, kindergartens and childcare centres situated in the heartlands or low-income estates.

The aim of the mobile library service is to reach out to people who do not have easy access to public libraries, especially the underserved or underprivileged.

Currently, there are one big-MOLLY and two mini-MOLLY buses plying the roads. The mini buses are able to visit childcare centres or kindergartens that have carparks which are too small for the bigger bus.

The buses also go to some neighbourhood estates such as Punggol during weekends. These are open to the public because such areas do not have a library close by yet.

"Through the bus visits, I'm grateful to be able to serve the community regardless of their profile or background," said Ms Suhaila.

"Seeing the positive body language and facial expressions of the special needs students whenever I interact or read stories to them makes it worthwhile."




Indrashah bin Md Isa
(Project Manager, Architecture & Innovation)

 

"I keep NLB at the forefront of technological advancements."

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Mention 'library' and most people picture a quiet space for reading amid towering bookshelves. So having a full-blown music jamming session within a library may seem too much of a crazy idea to some.

But music lover Mr Indrashah bin Md Isa, who is the National Library Board's (NLB) project manager of technology and innovation, was not deterred.

He did his research and acquired the technology to set up the first public Silent Studio at library@esplanade in 2009. Band members can jam together there without disturbing other users as the instruments are connected to one another via a mixer. The music created is then heard through headphones.

"I was previously based in the library@esplanade and I often thought how wonderful it would be if the library could truly live up to its name of being a performing arts library, by offering a music facility," said Mr Indrashah.

"Our notion of a traditional library has to evolve. Beyond being a place to borrow books and get information, it should be a social space where people discover new things," he added.

Mr Indrashah's job involves managing IT-related projects as well as its video and multimedia production team. He is also always on the lookout for new technologies that the library can adopt to improve its services.

For instance, Mr Indrashah has also been actively involved in NLB's recent projects like the 360 virtual 'From the Stacks: Highlights of the National Library' exhibition and the immersive storytelling room at Bukit Panjang Public Library.

Said Mr Indrashah, who has been with NLB for 17 years: "When people walk into a library, we want to have the resources for them to make their dreams possible."

 



Yashodha Ganesh
(Executive, NL Donors & Publishing)

 

"I engage donors and seek donations to build up our library's collection"

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Ms Yashodha Devi used to be the frontline officer behind the reference and research counter at the National Library. During the 13 years of duty, she helped countless library patrons with their reading and research needs, directing them to the vast treasures in the library’s collection.

As an extension of her previous work, she joined the S.U.R.E team, a five-year national information literacy programme aimed at equipping students and the public to be discerning users of information.

S.U.R.E stands for Source, Understand, Research & Evaluate – key concepts that will guide people in knowing how to find, evaluate and use information effectively and responsibly.

She developed materials for workshops and programmes which she conducted for students, teachers, working adults and senior citizens. She also did research and came up with learning resources such as infographics and blog articles on information literacy.

In April 2017, Ms Yashodha then joined the National Library Engagement team, where her main portfolio is donors’ engagement and promotion of the donated collections received by the library.

“Our donors play an important role in enriching the National Library’s collection, in particular the Singapore and Southeast Asia collections. Through their contributions, we receive many unique and historically significant material such as rare publications, original manuscripts, personal diaries and correspondence, maps and photographs,” she said.

“I have a sense of satisfaction seeing how my work contributes to the building and preservation of Singapore’s documentary heritage for current and generations to come.”


Last Updated On 11 August 2017

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