by Dr Natalie Pang, University Librarian
What does a library mean to us? Is it about the number of databases and rare collections we have? The services that we can find? Or the spaces that we can use? A library is many things, but most of all, it builds communities, and serves as a cultural institution for knowledge discovery and development.
Since taking over as University Librarian in July 2022, I have been privileged to continue building on the work that NUS Libraries has done. I’m both grateful and proud to have this opportunity to share how our libraries at NUS have continued to redefine what it means to be a library – and librarian especially during these times.
2022 saw the development of two new teams and services at NUS Libraries. The first is the formation of the Heritage Working Group, tasked with the vision to develop and tell the stories of NUS’ heritage through archival research and partnerships with other units such as NUS Museum and schools. The initiative is a reflection that as stewards of memory, it is not sufficient to only build collections; we must tell their stories too, and draw people to learn and to use the collections.
The second addition is the formation of the NUS Libraries Writers’ Centre in August 2022 with the transition of Yale-NUS College’s Writers’ Centre, and began working with the Centre for English Language Communication to mentor students and faculty in various forms of written and oral communication. The NUS Libraries Writers’ Centre is an exciting extension to our core mission to promote literacy and learning, and we hope to bring more writers and readers at NUS together in the coming year.
We also launched an inaugural call for the Undergraduate Research Library Fellowship in May, providing undergraduate fellows with library mentorship and a stipend to support their research projects. This is one of the many ways we are seeking to inspire new forms of knowledge discovery, but more importantly, build community and contribute to the development of undergraduate researchers.
Through these initiatives and other highlights you will read about below, we pursue our mission as an academic library even as we continue to expand and enhance our digital collections and services. Digitalisation has become central to many libraries, including NUS Libraries. But we must not lose sight of inclusion and equity even in these digital pursuits.
Some weeks ago, I was asked the question: What does a library have to offer since there’s so much information and resources we can already find on Google, and generative AI like ChatGPT?
I thought the question may be akin to asking why we need a GPS when there are so many roads. NUS Libraries takes on many forms in order to fulfil our core mission at NUS: as spaces for self-study and collaborations, as a memory institution of valuable knowledge and records, as places for wellness, and as places for community building and engagement. We have been able to do this only through the sheer resilience of our people – to everyone who has worked hard to innovate and adapt amidst a year of unprecedented changes, thank you for being like water.
Our gratitude also goes to the generous support of our donors, partners, faculty, and students – thank you for keeping us inspired. I hope in return you will be inspired by the initiatives and services we implemented in 2022.
Wishing you a happy and exciting 2023 and together with the NUS Libraries team, we look forward to further collaborations with all of you.
Preserving NUS Heritage
As the oldest and most prestigious university in Singapore, NUS is steeped in history that dates as far back as 1905 when it was first founded. To preserve and promote its rich heritage and cultural landscape, the Heritage Working Group (HWG) was set up by A/Prof Daniel Goh and then University Librarian designate Dr Natalie Pang in February.
Library staff, comprising a curator and two research assistants form the core of the HWG to plan, execute and see through initiatives under its wing. The team works closely with an advisory committee comprising members from NUS Museum and faculty to seek direction and counsel on strategic matters.
One of its first projects involves collaborating with the NUS School of Computing (SoC). Since the school’s inception in 1975, SoC has evolved significantly over the past four decades to become the largest educator of top-notch IT professionals in Singapore, and one of the leading computing schools in the world today. To mark its achievements, SoC plans to establish a Computing Gallery in 2023, followed by a Computing Museum in 2027. The Computing Museum would be the very first in Southeast Asia when it is completed.
The project is a colossal task which the HWG undertakes, underlining the library’s foray beyond what we traditionally do. As stewards of knowledge, we are excited and honoured with the opportunity to be part of a journey in documenting NUS’ remarkable history.
iF Design Award
The BookBridge is unlikely to go unnoticed if you stroll past the Central Library. Standing at 31m in length and 2.1m in height, it is a centerpiece that holds the library’s rare book collection. Made from tropical Mass Engineered Timber (MET), the BookBridge can retain atmospheric carbon in solid status for the long-term, becoming a true game-changer in the global warming era.
In May, the first-of-its-kind bookshelf was honoured with the iF DESIGN AWARD 2022 in the discipline of Interior Architecture. Organised in Germany since 1953, the prestigious award is a seal of excellence in recognition of good design for consumers and the design community.
We are grateful to Associate Professor Shinya Okuda and team – from the NUS Department of Architecture – for designing and developing the BookBridge. The design enables the public a panoramic peek at our library's closed rare book collection from the forum, with its long-span shelves symbolising one of our missions of "Bridging Knowledge".
Undergraduate Research Library Fellowship
Through the generous support of the Wan family, we launched the Undergraduate Research Library Fellowship in May. This is a new initiative that provides undergraduates with library mentorship in terms of our collections, and a stipend of $4,000, to support their research projects.
The programme was met with great interest from students at all levels since its launch, resulting in an overwhelming number of applications which we are thankful for. Amidst a pool of high quality submissions, 5 fellowship winners were chosen for their outstanding project submissions. Their research projects were selected for their significance in addressing scholarly gaps in Southeast Asia, potential in utilising/contribution to NUS Libraries’ collections, project innovation, and feasibility.
The student fellows will complete their projects by June 2023, and will share their research findings with the community. Through the fellowship programme, we hope to contribute many more transformative learning opportunities for students.
The explosion of technology over the past decade has led to institutions and educators seeking pedagogical innovation to stay relevant. Aligned with NUS’ mission of bringing transformational change to our community, our library hopes to inspire new teaching methodologies and breakthroughs through an environment enriched with new experiences. With this in mind, we proudly introduced the 360imx to our arsenal of technology-enhanced facilities in June.
360imx offers unparalleled learning opportunities — virtual field trips, simulated environments, immersive storytelling — through its fully immersive and collaborative space. The six-metre-wide cylindrical installation is fitted with 360° panoramic projection and surround sound system to bring to life a wide range of content. It hopes to encourage teaching staff to augment their pedagogy through cutting-edge technologies, to provide enhanced learning experiences and increase student engagement.
As the first academic library in Singapore to feature the 360imx, we believe it is well poised to bring our community to the forefront of education and discovery.
See What Our Users Have to Say
E-Reserves was a library service that provided students with course-related materials either electronically or physically via LumiNUS, NUS’ learning management system.
In 2021, NUSIT and CIT conducted a comprehensive review of the available learning management systems and recommended the adoption of Canvas as a replacement for LumiNUS. The transition to Canvas was to take place over two semesters, starting from AY2022/23 Semester 1. Along with the transition, E-Reserves migrated from LumiNUS to Canvas and was renamed Course Readings.
Launched in July 2022, Course Readings offers many upgraded functionalities. Faculty can enjoy greater autonomy in uploading their course readings with self-help functions. These self-help functions allow them to search through our extensive collection of e-resources to add readings at their own convenience. Another bonus is a seamless Copyright Declaration process for those who wish to upload copyright compliant materials. Last but not least, it also provides analytics of student engagement with the readings — another huge plus for faculty to stay on top of their students’ learning.
Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi collection
The library is a treasure trove of collections covering multidisciplinary subjects, as well as rare and irreplaceable materials of national and regional heritage. This year, we continued to enrich our collection by investing in resources that are of historic and academic value.
A notable collection we’ve acquired is the written works of Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi. Al-Syed Sheikh bin Ahmad al-Hadi was a writer and polemicist, journalist, and publisher who made significant contributions to modern Malay nationalism. He believed in the importance of education and women's emancipation and extensively wrote and discoursed on these issues. Al-Hadi’s works are highly referenced by students and researchers whose studies are mostly based on secondary sources.
This collection of primary source materials contains 7 series of Al-Imam (1907 – 1908), the first Malay Islamic reformist periodical published in Singapore, Malaya and Malay Archipelago; 18 series of Al-Ikhwan (1927 – 1930); two monographs on religious reformation and education, and 10 novels by Al-Hadi. Being extremely rare and highly sought after, we are delighted to acquire them from a private collector through generous funding by the Wan family. These resources are wonderful assets to add to our niche collection of Malay titles. They are magnificent resources for education and edification, and can potentially open up new possibilities for research and teaching.
NUS Writing & Communications Hub
The NUS Libraries Writers’ Centre in cooperation with the Centre for English Language Communication (CELC) launched the NUS Writing and Communications Hub in late August. This resource, available to the entire NUS community, provides writing and communications support with any kind of writing or oral communications work: academic, professional, or creative. Undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-docs, faculty, and staff can consult with trained tutors at any point in their writing or communication process.
The partnership with CELC seeks to offer a synergistic effort in providing writing and communication mentoring through a one-stop service – the NUS Writing and Communications Hub. By consolidating and tapping on a pooled resource of trained tutors in addition to more mentoring locations across the campus, we hope to benefit a larger community by making this popular service more accessible.
We continue to provide research and classroom support by building upon a database of resource guides. Information in these guides address research, course specific and topical how-tos in accessing library resources.
We partner faculty and departments to ensure that the guides are relevant and support NUS' goals. Examples of such guides are Innovation & Enterprise, Blended Learning Resource Toolkit, Bibliography of Legal Writing & Research and Copyright for Teaching, Learning and Research.
Collectively, our 120 resource guides receive nearly half a million views every year.
Academic libraries are instrumental in contributing to the University’s academic success. One such area where our librarians play a significant role is in the instruction of information literacy to students.
Through close collaboration with faculty, our librarians deliver customised Information Literacy Programmes (ILPs) that integrate interdisciplinary aspects into each module. Besides equipping students with the knowledge needed to use subject-specific databases, librarians also impart students with soft skills and informational tools pertinent to the module. For instance, in teaching modules such as EG2301 (Value Creation in Innovation) and EG3301R (DCP Project), we integrated skills and tools required for business research into existing ILPs.
This marks a significant shift from content based ILPs to a more interdisciplinary approach that requires the use of a wide range of authoritative sources.