26 June 2018: The Yale-NUS Library: A place for research, learning and inspiration

By Julian Low | Images provided by Yale-NUS Library

Most visitors who venture into the College’s Library often say that it looks like a stage set from the popular Harry Potter movies. With its ‘instagrammable’ interior of predominantly wood accents and warm lighting, the Library is a popular place for students and faculty to work quietly on their assignments and research over the years.

However, Dean of Educational Resources and Technology (ERT) of Yale-NUS College, Mr Ronald Milne believes that the Library can be more than just a conducive environment for studying or for borrowing books for research. “I believe the Library should be a place to learn and be inspired,” he remarked.

With information rapidly changing and evolving in the digital landscape, Mr Milne feels that the Library plays an even more crucial role in providing students and faculty with the necessary support and resources in their academic endeavour. “This is perhaps the most significant facet of the Library’s role at the heart of our community of learning,” he said.

The Yale-NUS Library team. Top row (from left to right): Ms Balbindar Kaur Dhaliwal, Ms Bethany Wilkes, Ms Joy Wheeler, Ms Michelle Quak; Bottom row (from left to right): Ms Jadely Seetoh, Ms Sarah Aini Binte Mohamda Ruslan, Ms Koh Ai Gek, Ms Priyanka Sharma, Ms Chelsea Chin

Concurring with this vision is Access Librarian (ILL/DDS, eReserves) Ms Jadely Seetoh. “Other than lending support for research and learning, the team also seeks to provide a more service-oriented collection to the community. My role as a librarian would be to ensure that all course reserve materials, both print and electronic, are available and accessible in a legitimate manner to the community,” she explained.

Mr Milne elaborates, “Our library staff also provide education on optimising digital tools for managing information.  This assistance is provided through research consultations or through library workshops. The Library also provides course support by purchasing books and other materials for the reserves collection and by making course readings easily accessible through Canvas, our learning management system.”

Resource materials are not just confined within the walls of the Library. Mr Milne adds that members of the College have access to all eight libraries that form the National University of Singapore’s (NUS’s) library ecosystem as well as items in university libraries in other countries, such as Israel, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States, through the inter-library loan system.

Besides adopting a supportive role, the Library plays a part in rolling out initiatives for the College. Some of these include hosting workshops and talks by librarians and faculty to explore different aspects of research, as well as obtaining major digitised primary materials such as The East India Company database and the Foreign Offices Files for Japan, 1919-1952. “These two databases are important sources for the history of the Southeast Asian region. They are essential material for faculty from both our College and the wider NUS community,” Mr Milne shared.

Mr Ronald Milne (third from right) and his team welcomed the Mexican Ambassador Nathán Wolf Lustbader (third from left) in the celebration of Dia de los Muertos at the College last year in November.

The Library also works together with administrative departments and external parties to support and deliver engaging activities. These have included a collaboration with the Asian Film Archive to screen classic Asian films and support for the Dean of Students Office’s Diversity Week in April, through art exhibitions and book displays to create awareness of diversity that exists on campus. There have also been various cultural exhibitions, such as the colourful Mexican festival Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and the insightful African Diaspora by Iwani Mawocha (Class of 2018). Activities like these truly celebrate the vibrant diversity at Yale-NUS, which is home to more than 800 students from over 60 countries across six continents. The Library has also run engaging events such as the recent book spine poetry contest where students explored the Library’s collection and used the titles on book spines to create poems. According to Mr Milne, these activities contribute to the pursuit of academic excellence and cultivate curiosity and self-directed learning.

In the new academic year, the Library will focus on developing its collections further and collaborate more with faculty and administrative departments to further develop information literacy skills. Mr Milne shared, “We hope to integrate components into courses such as Comparative Social Inquiry, a module in the Yale-NUS Common Curriculum, to ensure that our students are well equipped to evaluate and select relevant and reliable resources for their research.” He added that the Library has initiated an oral history project to share the experiences of key College figures in the nascent years of establishing the College and had implemented an online capstone repository for the community to store and review past capstone papers.

Last, but not least, there are plans to build strong and balanced foundational collections, particularly in the humanities. “Getting the correct balance between print and digital collections will be important, with digital being the key to accessing the primary manuscript and print resources held in libraries and archives all over the world,” Mr Milne said.

Although Mr Milne recognises that the Library cannot emulate the great libraries of the world in terms of physical documentary heritage collections, he and his team aim to build a library that meets the needs of the College. “Library visionaries of the past, like Gabriel Naudé and Anthony Panizzi, promoted the concept of super libraries in which one could fathom intricate inquiries and where every enquirer’s needs were met. Although it may seem a bit of stretch, in many respects my vision for our Library is not much different. That is, to have a Library that addresses more than just the basic needs of students, staff and faculty,” Mr Milne said.

Echoing his sentiments, Ms Seetoh concluded, “For me, an ideal vision of an academic library is one that provides quality resources and innovative services that allow the community to get excited about their research. We also aspire to stimulate curiosity and a love for learning, while at the same time, ensure that we impart a heart for service and an attitude of humility and integrity.”