Otterman speaks... (2003-2007)
Weblog about cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore.
Otterman - Blog Home

Archives - Blog's RSS - Comments RSS - LJ - Email me - All my blogs - About me: 2004 - 2002

Make a permalink or URL tiny:
Blog email subscription

Enter your email address to receive the previous day's posts:


Mac and the Internet - NUS
Cycling - Life in Singapore - Meow
Singapore Naturalist - Mangroves
Science - World - Museum
Movies - Literature - Travel

Biology module blogs:
Biodiversity (Year 1)
Ecology (Year 3)
Structure & Function (Year 3)
Marine Biology (Year 4)
Natural History Blogs:
The Biology Refugia
Raffles Museum Toddycats
Intl Coastal Cleanup Singapore
Labrador Park
Pulau Ubin Stories
Pulau Hantu
Cycling in Singapore
Mac Meetup Singapore
Aboard the Götheborg
Otterman Projects
Zendogs/Wheels are Turning
Hopea sangal

Raffles Museum Toddycats!

Pedal Ubin!
Pasir Panjang Heritage
Raffles Museum Internship
MR-BT Briskwalkers

Mac Meetups

Some of my kakis

Kakis at home
Ad & Jen
Inertia is a Sin
Halfway between the gutter and the stars
Lost in the Jungle
Dawn, Cat Welfare
Compulsive Maniac
Deadpoet's Cave
Rambling Librarian
Cooler Insights
Pencil Shavings
Ling the Merciless
Philosophize Me Jelly
Dewi A

Kakis overseas
Alvin - Beijing, China:
* Alvin's spiel
Kevin - Buffalo, NY:
Theory is the Reason
Bonny - HCMC, Vietnam:
Jac - London, UK:
Dogged Wanderings
Jasmin - NY, NY:
The Worsted Witch
Marcus - Shanghai, China:
You only live once
Tse-Lynn - Wilmington, NC:
Musings of a barefoot traveller
Jani - Newcastle, UK:
Salted & Fried

Seow Hwa's
The Ice Cream Gallery

Local reads
Commentary Singapore
Singapore Surf

Museum Roundtable
Science Daily
Environmental News Network
National Geographic News
New Scientist news
Nature News
Google News
Resource Shelf
The Unofficial Apple Weblog
Boing Boing
The Daily Show
This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called My Handphone Photos. Make your own badge here.

Made on a Mac with
Claris Home Page 3.0.
Blog engine: Samizdat,
based on PHPosxom,
based on Blosxom.
Updated with TextWrangler.

Creative Commons License
© N. Sivasothi, 2003
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License.

Subscribe with Bloglines

Otterman speaks...

Cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore - Archives

List of Categories : travel * museum * cycling * Singapore Naturalist * science * kakis * mangroves * movies * mac and the internet * meow * NUS * life in Singapore * lit * world *

Sun 30 Apr 2006

Celebrating Libraries

Category : lit

I just hastily submitted a piece on my experience at NUS' Science Library - today is the last day for submissions; see The Celebrating Libraries Project.

Ladybug has a elemental story from her childhood that I hope she posts - she poured over books as a little kid, listened to stories and plastered a reading tree with "leaves" denoting books she read; even winning a prize for her enormous appetite. It was such a critical place for her as a child and her story would have been enough to redirect my efforts into libraries had governnment support not been so incredibly significant.

Rambling Librarian whose blog post reminder earlier this month put this task at the back of my mind, suggested I serialise an elaborated version in future. That's a nice idea since some aspects have interesting anecdotes and I should add a photo or two for good effect. And if its intersting enough, High Browse Online might be persuaded to add a category about library experiences. But I owe a few people several other articles, and I'd best post this up first; blog's useful this way.

Most importantly, the Science LIbrary staff know how I feel; I emailed them at least twice since the mid-90's to acknowledge the libraries' role in my work and I indicate my appreciation clearly for efficiency and/or plesantness when staff help me on the ground.

NUS' Science Library - a living and learning space

First encounters and the charm of an old system

In 1986 when I was still in the army, my former-JC mates who were now NUS Science students proudly showed off the newly opened Science Library housed in a spanking new building that also held the zoological specimen collection from the Raffles Museum where I now work in. Little did I know that it would become a second home in the years ahead.

In that first tour, I ended up flipping though a book on astronomy in the reference section. My interest was probably piqued by my father who used to point the constellations out to me when I was a child. The book still contained the loan card that students used to sign against when they borrowed the book - a system no longer in use. It was still inserted in a sleeve at the back of the book. To my surprise, I found my father's characteristic signature - he had borrowed the very same book several decades ago when he was a student in the university!

Librarians characterise a library

When I became an undergraduate, the Science Library was a popular hangout - it was a warm and familiar place to go visit. Not just because it was new (then), had a comprehensive collection of books and journals that we needed for studies and interest or was a restful place to study, but also because the librarians there were friendly and helpful.

When the university branded short bermudas as improper attire sometime in the early 90’s, the Science Library urged us, instead, to “Dress Well and Look Good” and left us alone, instead of attempting to put up fierce messages denying entry to ill-attired students; we were impressed!

Students in the Biological Sciences Society were also happy that the Science librarians wore our t-shirts for many years to the inter-library games between the late 80’s - early 90's. They must have been observing all our student t-shirts and settled on the best looking ones!

During exams which we took once a year, the librarians allowed us a little more leeway than usual as they were sympathetic to the concentration of essay writing-exams we had to take, one after another. We certainly appreciated the understanding they demonstrated and the library was practically a second home. After graduation, we returned to take photos in our graduation gowns at the library - it was a living space for us during our university years and home to a lot of memories. That's the way to build connections!

The Science Library and nature conservation

In later years, I set to unraveling as much information as I could about otters in Asia in order to better understand conservation issues. The Science Library's journals, books and its holdings of the Raffles Collection and other old books in the Closed Stacks proved invaluable.

The phenomenal support in reprographing articles and the annually growing Science Citation Index and Zoological Records was invaluable. With additional searches in specialist libraries and bookstores in Malaysia, I was able to write an authoritative account on the status of otters of Malaysia and Singapore that dispelled many myths and helped conservation efforts even today.

So much so when I later worked at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, we participated in "Library Fest" in April 2002 and put up an exhibition in the Public Gallery to explain the role of libraries and old literature in nature conservation.

Helping to build a good collection

The Science Librarians always encouraged us to make specialist book recommendations in the areas we knew well - they said to just send in an email and to forget about the forms. I was glad to do so and was able to help build strong collections in certain topics and should continue to do.

Beyond the building

When NUS introduced the Digital Library, we were hooked. We were able to able to dig up technical articles in seconds, which used to take hours or even days.

For example, I have accessed the Science Citation Index from my laptop at home and in cafe in the U.S. - it no longer means waiting for the library to open, signing out the CDROMs, waiting for a terminal with a reader and downloading results to a floppy disk. Academic staff who left NUS would lament about the loss of access to the excellent resources of the NUS digital library. It is an invaluable tool that has accelerated research and study.

Living spaces

Recently, I dropped in to Central Library on the hunt of some history books. I was shocked at the change – it looks very comfortable! Study tables, comfortable chairs and sofas interspersed amongst the collection, bright colours, modern loan machines and an accessible and approachable librarians table. With students encouraged to spend more time in the library, exploration of the collections and learning will hopefully follow. And beneath this veneer of its modern look and feel remains enough signs of the old sombre and serious Central Library I recalled from the late 80's.

I was lucky that at the peak of my library usage in the late 80's and 90's, the Science Library was already very much a "living space" and one of the strong foundations that helped catapult me into the world of science.

Posted at 4:15AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | , .