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Monday, November 05, 2012

Passing the baton at Aberystwyth: 100-word story

On 4 June 2012, Ms Shirley Khew, wrote me an email and told me that she is volunteering at LAS for the IFLA 2013. One of their projects is to publish about "Librarians in Singapore". 
Her job is to contact librarians who are not in the mainstream libraries, but still in the library community providing support in one way or another.
She gave me some ideas on what to contribute, and attached the following template "Your contribution" as a guide:
Personal details -  Name (as you are known in the library community), Contact email. Library related qualification, year, institution.

Duration of service and associated organisations you have worked in or are working in.

Brief overview of career in relation to the library industry.

Most memorable/significant/impactful events – e.g. first big project, first big break, etc.

What would you do again/do differently if you had an opportunity to do so?

Some thoughts on the future of librarians and libraries in Singapore
In my write-up, I may provide anything else I think is relevant.  Photographs or news articles about anything related to the write out are also welcome. 
She also suggested interviewing me via Skype and recording the it as a movie clip.  As I thought I did not have anything significant to say about my library career at that moment, I just shelved the invitation for a while.

The first deadline given was end of June, and I had it extended till months later. Yet, nothing happened till the second week of October as I found it too hard to use the template to organise my thoughts.
Perhaps it was too organised and being in Doc format, it is linear, and I find it difficult to view and link my library experience that way...
Now, I finally produced a 500+ word story with the help of Mr Yit Chin Chuan, who initiated the following first "100-word story" on 11 Oct 2012, a few hours after we had tea at the end of the NLB Professional Talk by Director, Library of Alexandria on "The rebirth of the Library of Alexandria & the future of libraries".
I think the professional talk by Dr Ismail Serageldin, Director, Library of Alexandria, was so inspiring that I saw the meaning in recording personal memories of the past decades. This trigger on that spur of moment suddenly kick-started my thoughts on how to create the first few lines of my library memory...
Lin Mui, my former classmate, was there among many librarians who stayed back for tea after the talk and we started to share our common journey in librarianship with Mr Yit. With that 15- 20 mins conversational content, the quick-working Yit produced the following 100 word story in an email at 10.18 am the next morning:
Hi Dexterine,
(I am cc’ing Ngian and Lin Mui as their names were mentioned).

Thanks for your sharing of an interesting aspect of librarians’ development, here’s a rough draft of a 100-word story for your review and consideration (it would be great if you could also provide us a resume of sorts about your personal library career (we are planning to also set up a website that host information about Libraries and Librarians in Singapore – this will ultimately be like a directory of library and librarians of sorts):

 “Passing batons at Aberystwyth” – by Dexterine Ho

We  (Ngian, Lin Mui and myself) did not attend the course at Aberystwyth for our professional certification altogether, but at different times, and I for one found that this "turn-taking" created a beneficial hand-me down effect. 

I remember fondly the marvellous notes left by Ngian that helped me in my studies and the winter clothing Lin Mui passed to me that kept me warm through the winter months.

Passing the baton not only meant the support given unconditionally but the unspoken trust and encouragement that said, “I have done it, so can you!” Likewise, we can only pay forward the benefits that we have received to those who come later – both librarians and users.

Story and librarian context: Dexterine was amongst many who went for overseas training for professional librarianship certification during the 80s. To find out more about Dexterine and her library experiences please visit



After a few rounds of editing and verification of facts and figures, on 23 Oct 2012, the full write-out with 500+ words were produced, and now I just follow Yit's suggestion to publish it on my blog:

Hi Dexterine,

Please post your full story on your blog (it’s your content after all!) – for our printing purposes, we will use of the 100-word version (otherwise it would be weird to have different lengths for different stories) – if you could share a permalink to your blog post – we could state that the 100-word version is an abridged form of your original story and link to it.

“Passing the baton at Aberystwyth”
– by Dexterine Ho Soo Miang
We (Ms Ngian Lek Choh, Ms Wee Lin Mui and myself) did not attend the Postgraduate Diploma Course in Librarianship at College of Librarianship, University of Wales, Aberystwyth for our professional certification at the same time.  Nevertheless, I was fortunate enough to be in the unofficial loop and took the same course in turn and greatly benefited from the unofficial baton relay. 
In 1981, when I attended the PG (postgraduate) course, I was naturally not a librarian yet and did not know Ms Ngian.  As a History degree holder who aspired to be a teacher but was not selected by the Institute of Education, librarianship seemed to be the next best choice.
Ngian was the pioneer in this Aberystwyth relay, Lin Mui, my university classmate, the second, and I was the third. Most of us are self-sponsored library science students. I think our aspiration to be a professional librarian connected us through CLW (College of Librarianship, Wales) and the link amongst CLW Alumni is the bridge that spans over three decades.  
This bridging created a hand-me down effect. I fondly remember the marvellous notes left by Ngian that helped me in my studies and the winter clothing Lin Mui passed to me that kept me warm through the freezing winter months.
Passing the baton not only meant the support that was freely given but the unspoken trust and encouragement that said, “I have done it, so can you!”
Likewise, we can only pay forward the benefits that we have received to those who come after – both librarians and users - sharing with them the wealth of knowledge that enriches our lives. I think they, too, will "pass the baton" in many unknown ways to benefit and warm the hearts of others!
* I would like to thank Ms Ngian and Lin Mui (now Mrs Law Lin Mui), not only for the help they rendered when I was an "infant" librarian, but also for their continuous support and friendship throughout my library career.

Ms Wee Lin Mui, in front of the Padan House, Aberystwyth on 1 Feb 1981
* Amongst all the winter clothing I received, the woollen overcoat from Ms Loi Sai Bay (Studied in Liverpool Polytechnic in 1979, retired in 2009 from NIE Library) was the most appreciated item during the winter months.  (My ex-colleague Ms Yvonne Yin, also from Aberystwyth, would like to add this sentence: When the wild Welsh winter winds whistled and howled down the valley, I was well-wrapped up!)

  Dexterine Ho Soo Miang wearing the woollen overcoat
from Ms Loi Sai Bay, at the hill top, in front of the castle, Aberystwyth in 1981
* Thanks also to Mr Jim Davies and Mr Ng Soo Kwee, two ex-IE/NIE Chief Librarians for their guidance and their support in my being granted the NIE staff development scholarship in 1989/1990 for the Masters Degree in Information Science, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

* A big thanks to Mr Yit Chin Chuan for initiating the first edition of this 100 word story, and Ms Ngian Lek Choh, Mrs Law Lin Mui and Ms Yvonne Yin for their editing and new input. 

* Many thanks also to other librarians, friends, teachers and people in my life journey who have guided and helped me to grow from an infant librarian to a lecturer/trainer/assessor in library and information studies. My first dream to be a teacher finally realised in my library career.
Story and librarian context: Dexterine Ho Soo Miang was amongst the many librarians who went for overseas training for professional certification on her own during the 80s. She has recounted her experience in a heart-warming manner. To find out more about Dexterine and her library experiences please visit: 

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