The public libraries in Singapore have collaborated annually in ‘The September Project’ (TSP) – www.theseptemberproject.org – in one way or other since 2004. TSP events have libraries as the focal point for dialogue and discussion. It is a project initiated by two academics from the University of Washington (USA) where “on or around September 11, people worldwide will attend activities of discussion, dialogue, and reflection in public, academic, and school libraries.”
In 2004, our collaboration involved Jurong Regional Library in a photography competition with ‘Peace’ as the main theme. In 2005, Jurong Regional Library and Tampines Regional Library organized a live web-chat session with teens and librarians from Sugar Grove Public Library (based in the US).
We hoped that The September Project 2006 would showcase the library as a “social learning space”, where teenagers can share ideas and thoughts on global issues. Having an event that had an international perspective was also consistent with the Singapore Government’s call for connecting with the world at large. All 23 public libraries were featured as participating venues, with Youth.SG from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and overseas libraries as our collaborating partners.
The broad objectives for TSP 2006 were to engage and increase awareness among teens in global issues through the expression of art, music, writing in any media (digital formats such as 3G mobile phone clips, mp3, powerpoint slides, Microsoft Word documents, postcards, scrapes, own blogs or online file sharing services, for example YouTube). This event was also planned in conjunction with International Literacy Day in September 2006.
We encouraged teens to express themselves by adopting a broad theme of ‘My Global Neighborhood’ with suggested discussion points like, “What does September 11 mean to you?”, “What does being poor mean to you?”, and “What does literacy mean to you?”. Activities and discussions also centered on the importance of literacy and how literacy strengthens ties between countries. We hoped the participants would make use of their knowledge (gained through books or any authoritative resources) to voice their views, stands or opinions through this project.
We received approximately 100 entries from Singapore and overseas and these entries were featured on the Youth.SG blog. From the entries, we felt the students’ thoughts and ideas were creatively expressed in abstract art, drawings, collage, writing, poetry, book reviews and letters, using topics such as despair, terrorism, world peace, “Why I’m proud to be Singaporean”, global warming and pollution. See http://youth.sg/blog/2006/09/01/the-september-project/ for the entries submitted.
The teens from our Pseudo Book Club at Verging All Teens expressed their thoughts through book reviews and poetry. At their own initiative, the session was filmed and uploaded onto youtube.com for submission. See http://youth.sg/blog/2006/09/30/the-september-project-the-making-of/
We found that having an online platform serves as a good resource or archive to showcase the teens’ contributions, particularly in highlighting qualitative aspects like creativity and expression. It would be worth exploring the use of such a platform or online learning community organized around youths and teens.
Last but not least, feedback from our collaborating partners and the September Project organizers has been positive:
> “This is such a creative and empowering event idea. Bravo.”
> “It is great that you allow teen expression in the formats that *they* use. It is very forward thinking.”
Contributed by Lim Li Sa, Adult & Young People’s Services, Jurong Regional Library, NLB