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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On Being a Librarian" by Ms Ch'ng Kim See

Professional & International Relations (PIR) at NLB kickstart 2011’s Professional Talks Series with an up close and personal session with Ms Ch’ng Kim See, Head of ISEAS (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies) Library today:

Topic : On Being a Librarian
Speaker : Ms Ch’ng Kim See, Head, ISEAS Library, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Date : 11 May 2011, Wed
Time : 4.00pm – 5.30pm
Venue : Possibility Room, Level 5, National Library Building

Ms Ch’ng's personal insight into her choice of librarianship as a profession, with almost forty years’ experience under her belt is something interesting to me and it does evoke emotions and memories for many of us.

As Singapore librarians rarely share their personal stories, hence this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for me to hear from her.

Among many stalwarts of the library profession, Ms Ch'ng is one who remains steadfast in her unwavering belief and conviction of libraries and librarians amidst today’s rapidly changing environment.

Synopsis of Talk

After nearly 40 years on the library hustings, some reflection is natural.

Librarianship as a profession was not a first choice, but in the late 60s, it was a new opening for women in Malaysia who had hitherto only two other choices: teaching (in schools) and nursing.

There was of course the law, medicine and engineering, but they were not within the grasp of the majority. Law was a first option, but it was not available in the peninsula, and it would be a financial burden.

Determined to avoid the trappings of teaching (a pervasive profession within the family), and nursing, was journalism. After a short stint, circumstances got in the way, and librarianship came into the fore the next best choice .

It was more than a year after postgraduate studies and practice, that the need to settle down and move on became a reality.

What does it mean to be a librarian? Is it a profession? Is it a calling? What are the benefits? Are there risks and hazards associated with its practice?

In the mid-eighties there was a passionate debate amongst Singapore librarians on the stress and lack of stress on being a librarian.

The raging debate spilt into the public arena, carried in the Straits Times. What does it take to be a librarian?

Is there a consensus today?

Speaker’s Profile

Ms Ch’ng Kim See is Head, ISEAS Library, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore.

A library and information specialist on Southeast Asian studies, she has written more than 40 articles, edited and indexed a number of books, and compiled several bibliographies, one of which is the Bibliography of Southeast Asia: A Decade of Selected Social Science Publications in the English Language 1990-2000 published by Scarecrow Press.

Her academic interest is in the history and politics of Malaysia, Southeast Asian Chinese, and the international relations of Southeast Asia and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

She is currently researching on Tan Cheng Lock, a Malaysian politician, founding president of the Malay(si)an Chinese Association. Prior to her present position, Ms Ch’ng worked in Kuala Lumpur as a journalist in the Straits Times Press; Head of Cataloguing, National Library of Malaysia; and Director/Chief Librarian of the U.S. Information Service Lincoln Cultural Center.

In Vienna, she was also Head of Technical Services, VIC Library, (a U.N. common-user service for 12 agencies in Vienna), Vienna International Centre. Ms Ch'ng has a B.A. (Hons.) (University of Malaya), Postgrad. Dipl. in Librarianship (University of New South Wales, Sydney), and M.Sc. (Soc. Sc. - Information Studies) (University of Sheffield).

She is a seventh-generation Baba/Nyonya, has travelled widely, and is interested in the arts, Buddhist meditation, qi gong, holistic and healthy living, charitable causes, environmental issues and human rights.

In 2001, Ms Ch'ng was nominated Outstanding Librarian of the region (for Singapore) by Ms Yolanda Beh, Chief Librarian of Regional Language Centre (RELC) . She has served in both Library Associations of Singapore and Malaysia – for over ten years in each association.

She was the President of the Library Association of Malaysia (Persatuan Perpustakaan Malaysia, PPM) from 1977 to 1978. After she moved to Singapore in 1988, she served in the Library Association of Singapore (LAS) from 1989 in various capacities, such as Council Member, Chair of various Committees and represented the LAS in the Committee to study the feasibility of a postgraduate school (PRIM).

She was the Hon. Secretary, Executive Board, CONSAL V (Fifth Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians), the conference of which was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 25-30 May, 1981.

LAS Professional Development Scheme (PDS) Points: 46 (Applicable only to librarians who are participants of PDS)

Source of information: email from dated 3 May 2011

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