Sylvia Yap gets LAS Professional Service Award 2009

The LAS Professional Service Award was presented to Ms Sylvia Yap on 16 October 2009. Here is her thank you speech:

“Professor Tommy Koh, our Patron, Mrs Yeap, Ms Puspa Yeow, LAS President, Ms Ngian Lek Choh, Immediate Past President, fellow LAS members, colleagues, and friends. Good morning and good evening.

Thank you for giving me this recognition. It is a treasure that will remind me of the many happy times spent promoting the profession, working with dedicated professionals and forging lasting relationships along the way. In my wildest dreams I never imagined that this accidental librarian would one day receive this honor.

In 1973, upon my graduation, I had to meet my mother’s deadline to look for a job by July, or face the prospect of continuing with my studies. I heard that the then University of Singapore Library was looking for a science graduate to be a librarian and temptingly it come with an overseas scholarship. In fact, at that juncture, I would have taken any job that came along. I applied to SU, they accepted me and I took my first wobbly baby steps into the profession.

I was posted to the Cataloguing Department and on my first day at work I was handed the AACR2 tome to read. After a few days, I realized that the job involved just summarising each book into author, title and 3 subject headings. As writing was never my forte, the attraction of not needing to write reports was most appealing. So I innocently thought then that I had found the perfect job – one that did not require me to write, is surprisingly enjoyable and most importantly it didn’t bore me to tears. To me, every book that I handled was unique and something new.

The attraction of profession slowly seeped into my blood and grew into a passion. A job that I took as a temporary stop gap turned into my life’s vocation. This I attribute to God’s quiet nudging, guidance, and always opening new doors to keep me challenged. I am truly blessed.

A major crossroad for me came a few years after I returned from library school. I was getting a bit restless and was looking for more challenges. The call to continue with my academic pursuit was strong. With labs just a stone’s throw away I was so tempted to do a part-time Masters. As I pondered over the idea, I was swept into the thick of LAS activities, again, accidentally. It opened up a whole new exciting world for me.

Now I wish to address some often-asked questions. Why join LAS? What is in it for me? My personal testimony is, serving the LAS is hard work but the returns although intangible are manifold. Through LAS:

  • I met many prominent persons and the opportunities to interact and learn from them were priceless
  • I made many lifelong friends and experienced their caring and sharing. LAS provided a nurturing environment where professionals can grow and forge trusting relationships. Wonderful relationships were made that lasted a life time, even after retirement. The trust developed is an important ingredient that gelled and held the profession together.
  • I learnt management skills beyond the job positions that I held for which I am now reaping the rewards

So from me, LAS, thank you. I owe you so much.

Now as I near retirement, I look back over 36 years with very fond memories and remember all the beautiful people who had shared my working life.

I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge all who were responsible for my many achievements through the years.

  • God, for helping me choose this profession and for staying close by me ever since.
  • NUS libraries staff for their strong support and belief in our shared vision and values.
  • LAS colleagues, past and present, for your friendships, advice, unstinting support and encouragement which I will always treasure.
  • Mrs Hochstadt and Ms Namazie, my role models — they made me believe in myself and provided me the opportunities to grow. I learnt from them firsthand what professionalism is all about, how to lead with a heart and to create a caring family culture at work. They both inspired me to grow professionally and instilled in me a sense of mission to promote the profession.
  • Wee Joo Gim, once a very active LAS member, who first roped me into the excitement of LAS activities. She taught me the proper way of doing things, the importance of governance and discipline. She took me under her wings and patiently guided me. I remembered, at the beginning, she had to practically write my first Council minutes as I did not even know what was “Matters arising”.

It has been a very long, fruitful and exhilarating journey. And today I am so grateful that you have all surprised me with the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.

Thank you so very much and I wish all of you a fruitful professional journey too.”