Reflections from the 2021 LAS-PPM Conference (PM Session)

The afternoon session of the 2021 LAS-PPM Conference consisted of six presentations by librarians from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The topics ranged from rebuilding library to digitalisation of learning. The session closed with a Q&A segment facilitated by PPM President Dr Rashidah Binti Bolhassan. The respective abstracts accompanying the presentation can be found on the conference webpage.

Among the six presentations, the cross-cutting conference theme of “Collab, Camaraderie and Commune” rang true in the varied experiences of librarians from the three countries. Apart from the conference theme, what bound the six afternoon presentations together was the showcase of librarian tenacity in overcoming challenges, be it COVID-19, resource crunch, or a fire, and how user-centricity aided innovation. The following article highlights the key takeaways from the six presentations.

Presentation slide taken from “Libraries Holistic Support to Heutagogy Based On Biological Information: A Case Study in West Java, Indonesia during Pandemic Covid-19” showing the connection between blood types and heutagogy fun learning styles.

In the first presentation by Susanti Agustina from Faculty of Education Science, Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, we heard about differentiated self-directed learning styles based on blood type and helping students understand their own learning styles. Her presentation titled Libraries Holistic Support to Heutagogy Based On Biological Information: A Case Study in West Java, Indonesia during Pandemic Covid-19 examines the link between biological information (in this case, blood type) with heutagogy. Heutagogy refers to the study of self-learning or self-determined learning.  During school closures in Indonesia due to COVID-19, students faced learning problems such as excessive assignment, unintegrated resources and technical support problems leading to stress and anxiety. Additionally, individual learning styles can impact students’ learning outcomes. The research team conducted focus group discussions (FGD) with students and parents to pair their learning pattern with their blood type. The FGDs provided insight to the students to understand their code of self and context in the community of learners, and highlighted the importance of knowing heutagogy learning behaviour based on blood type in leading to more customised curriculum in collaboration with librarians, teachers students and parents.

Slide taken from “Rebuilding Library as Pulau Tuba Community Hub” showing the debris of the library fire.

The second presentation, by Firdausiah Ahamad from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, titled Rebuilding Library as Pulau Tuba Community Hub was a particularly heart-wrenching yet hopeful one. The community library in Pulau Tuba, a remote island near Pulau Langkawi, was destroyed in an arson case in May 2019. The interior of the library and its collection were burnt, and the team, in collaboration with University For Society (U4S), spent many days of physical work just to restore and clean the area, such as cleaning the debris, repainting and rewiring the library. Apart from just restoring the space and collection, the library was reimagined and restored as a community hub where knowledge sharing and activities were held. Throughout the presentation, the online chat was abuzz with messages of sadness and eventually heartened congratulations as the new library was unveiled, evident of the camaraderie amongst librarians.

Slide taken from ““Migrating Seniors to eNewspapers – Our Journey to Bridging the Digital Divide” showing the impact of COVID on newspaper platform migration.

The third presentation was a joint presentation from Melissa Kawasoe and Sheila Jang from the National Library Board (NLB) of Singapore, entitled Migrating Seniors to eNewspapers – Our Journey to Bridging the Digital Divide. The backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for hastened digitalisation of library services as more library users were sheltered in place. The presenters shared NLB’s experience in getting seniors to use digital resources, especially the adoption of electronic newspapers, and how the NLB ensured users had continual access to electronic newspapers despite disruption to in-library access terminals. This involved collaboration amongst various stakeholders across and outside the organisation. The presenters highlighted that the pandemic resulted in an unintentional opportunity in rapid digitalisation in the nation, which had a positive impact on the library’s effort to educate seniors on digital access. Two key focus areas were user engagement before implementing the measures to reduce the number of physical newspapers; and a robust communication plan as part of the implementation to help users transit to the new modality of e-newspapers.

Slide taken from ““e-LMM: Smart Way to Learn Literacy Media and Information in Pandemic Covid-19 Outbreak” showing the self-assessment tool in the learning platform

Along the same lines on providing library services during disruptive times of COVID-19, the fourth presentation was by Beghum Ulfhat Shehnaaz binti Amir Razali and Nor Shamsinar Baharom from the National Library of Malaysia (PNM) entitled e-LMM: Smart Way to Learn Literacy Media and Information in Pandemic Covid-19 Outbreak. The presentation focused on how PNM pivoted from holding in-person media and information literacy classes to an online learning system, the e-LMM and its features. The e-LMM is a personalised learning experience for users by first having the users complete a self-assessment before the first module. After which, modules are pitched to users depending on their level of literacy. At the end of the modules, users would complete a post-learning self-assessment, which also gave the team a measurement of effectiveness of the modules. The e-LMM also endeavours to scale up media and information literacy class roll-out to learners, which would allow the Subject Matter Expert trainers to free up time for other duties.

Slide taken from ““Mining the richness of digital chat transcripts – An SMU Libraries experience in connecting with our community” summarising the benefits of the project.

The fifth presentation helmed by Shameem Nilofar Maideen and William Koh from Singapore Management University (SMU) Libraries was titled Mining the Richness of Digital Chat Transcripts – An SMU Libraries Experience in Connecting with Our Community. The university library operates an online chat service for their students and the team saw an opportunity to analyse the data collected through over 7,000 chat transcripts. Through Machine Learning and artificial intelligence (AI), the team was able to process the wealth of data to detect patterns, draw out sentiments and analyse user needs. One metric studied was the Chat Index which showed the peak months with more chats, helping the department predict and allocate more manpower to months with higher index. The benefits of the data analysis were manifold as it answered the question if the community were receiving the right help at the right time, and if resources were right-sized to handle the queries. Such a feedback loop would allow better planning of resources and ensuring the service remained relevant to the users.

The final presentation of the conference was by Siti Khadijah Rafie from Universiti Teknologi MARA Cawangan Kedah entitled Issues and Challenges of Malaysian Rural Libraries. She examined the issues underpinning the under-utilisation of rural libraries in Malaysia, under-funding, under-staffing and lack of good Infocomm Technology (ICT). The team focused on 6 rural libraries and interviewed 12 of their members of staff. The interviews found financial constraint, old building, location and staffing as key challenges faced by these libraries.  Even as the team made recommendations, the rural libraries could be operated by different parties; there are challenges to attempt a one-size-fits-all solution. One recommendation for funding challenges was for rural libraries to develop ways to generate income for its operations and services, such as for libraries with larger spaces to sublet their space for entrepreneurial activities.

All in, the joint conference brought together and showcased the best practices of librarians in the region, even in the face of disruptions and crisis, testament to the resilience of those in the library world.

Contributed by:
Lo Wan Ni
LAS Publications Committee Member