Arts Librarians Tea Session (10 May 2018)

On 10 May, the National Library hosted the 2nd Arts Librarians Tea Session at the National Library’s newly revamped Learning Space cum Donors Gallery (level 10), gathering librarians from the various arts libraries in Singapore to share and discuss ways we could share our resources or collaborate.

As arts librarians would have it, the group decided to “disrupt” the formal seating arrangement and found opportunity to catch up and make new acquaintances before the session started, followed by a warm welcome by the Director of the National Library, Mrs Wai Yin Pryke to kick off the session.

The first presentation was by Michelle Heng, Librarian (English Literature), National Library, on the resources available at the National Library and some new initiatives started by the library. The bulk of the presentation provided a survey of the primary resources available that would be useful for students and researchers investigating into the history of Singapore arts. Many of these materials were donated.

Some highlights included manuscripts from writers,

Muhammad Ariff Bin Ahmad’s manuscript of ‘Taman Puspa’
Yao Zi’s manuscript

pop culture ephemera/serials like film magazines, movie handbills and flyers from the 1950s,

Cover of an issue of the monthly Malay (Jawi) entertainment periodical “Asmara” in 1956
cover of a 1962 “Majallah Filem” featuring P. Ramlee and his wife Saloma.

donated monographs with the writers/artists’ annotations showing their thought processes, donated music scores, postcards, scripts and others. Some recent donations include Alpha Gallery’s ephemera, The Substation’s ephemera/photo collection, The Stage Club’s scrapbook of productions since its establishment in the 1940s, Rufino Soliano’s handwritten scores, P. Krishnan’s and Patimah Jaludin’s radio scripts, and the Liu Kang collection.


A sketch by Liu Kang
Selected photos form Liu Kang collection

Aside from the physical collection, National Library also has its own digital repositories of Singapore resources, like NewspaperSG, MusicSG and the Digital Archive of Tamil Theatre (DASTT), which is a new addition to its NORA (National Online Repository of the Arts) portal. In terms of resource pathfinders, it has the online resource guide platform that points users to different resources available on topics or personalities.

Resource guide on Leong Yoon Pin – selected resources from NLB and other institutions

Michelle also shared about what the National Library Arts Librarians have been doing to revamp the Arts Library. Drawing from the library-within-a-library concept, the librarians worked to create a gallery cum collection space (The Arts Space) within the arts library using heritage paintings in its collection and juxtaposing them with its collection (e.g. poetry, prose, etc.). Check out the upcoming post for more details of this new space.

Michelle ended off her presentation with some new updates and services of the National Library. While Legal Deposit is not new, a new dimension to it will be the addition of digital content (e-pubs & .sg domain websites) to its Legal Deposit Scheme. This is to keep up with the trend of born-digital publications to preserve them for posterity. For now, users can browse the PublicationSG catalogue for the print & AV materials deposited over the years. Aside from that, NLB has also launched the Eye on Asia Resource Centre (read more in our previous post) and the appointment-based Consult-A-Librarian Service for Singapore history, heritage and literary arts resources.

After Michelle’s presentation, we had a presentation from our “guest”, Jennifer Chor, Head of the NAFA library.

Jennifer shared how she works with the artists in NAFA as a librarian and how she has learned to understand their perspectives which at times differ with how a librarian may work.

One of the projects the school has been working on is NAFA: Our Campus, Our Stories, which is a showcase celebrating the 80th anniversary of NAFA which was established in 1938. As the custodian of NAFA archives, the library played an important role in providing material for the showcase.

Jennifer also shared about how NAFA and National Library is collaborating, with the first link-up being a mini-exhibition by NAFA students “Wicker Work” at The Arts Space.

The session closed with a tour of the new Arts Space and the revamped Donors Gallery, and of course a good mingling and catch up session over some light refreshments.

I must say a good vibe was going on among the arts librarians and we hope for more of such sharing sessions hosted by different arts libraries so we can find out more about their “secret” collections that other libraries may not know about. In these times of tight resources, sharing and collaboration is a good way to optimise library resources. Talks of reviving the defunct/dormant Arts Librarians Group also surfaced. Probably we could explore a Facebook Group/Page rather than maintain networks using a mailing list? Look forward to the next session at one of the other arts libraries.


Reported & submitted by:
Kong Leng Foong, Librarian, National Library
Member of LAS Publications Committee


Are your libraries collaborating on any initiatives? How do you share information with other libraries/librarians? Write to us at and let us know!