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Library Review 2014

The Library completed its year-long operational and policy review in 2013. The changes, mainly in the areas of acquisitions and collection access, have been positively endorsed by both internal researchers and external users as reflected in its 2014 Users Satisfaction Survey which majority of the respondents rated the Library collection to have met their research needs, as illustrated by feedback such as “The library is doing a great job of expanding our access to e-journals. This needs to continue” and “Our access to e-journals have however improved so significantly in the past year and I would like to commend the library on this achievement.”

About two-third of the respondents also expressed their satisfaction in the area of borrowing privileges.

Reference & Circulation 

As of 31 Mar 2014, ISEAS Library has a total of 828 registered members. About 1/3 of them (353) are new members registered in 2013, majority from local academics and institution users. This increase corresponds to the recent change in the Library’s open access policy. The Library has continued to refine its borrowing privileges and loan policy to further facilitate the use of the collections.

Library New Registered Users FY2013/14

A total of 3,265 users came to the Library to use its facilities and resources in FY 2013/2014, with approximately 40% of visitors being external users. This again corresponds to the change in our access policy and the effort in promoting the Library and its rich collection on the region.  

Library Visitors FY2013/14

410 reference enquires were received and answered in FY2013/2014. Majority of the enquiries and requests to retrieve materials were fulfilled within 30 minutes, a new KPI introduced to monitor Library’s reference service level. The average satisfaction rating on library service and reference facilities is 4.7 (with 5 being highest score).

ISEAS Library Selects: a new information service

As the Library shifts towards delivering high quality services, apart from handling the standard reference enquiries, an information alert service containing links to selected news and blog articles on Southeast Asia and special topics relevant to the research agenda of ISEAS was rolled out in July 2013. Between July 2013 and March 2014, 16,500 articles were selected on a daily and weekly basis, by librarians including Head Library. These materials, after being circulated to subscribers (both ISEAS researchers and external researchers) for their research information needs, became part of our digital collection. The initial feedback on the Info Alert service has been encouraging: 75% of the survey respondents rated that the info-alerts were useful in meeting their research needs or have exceeded their expectations. 

Country/Topic Profile of the Archived News and Articles

Collection Usage

Collection Development

In FY 2013/2014, the Library added about 3,800 Southeast Asian publications from different countries in line with ISEAS’ research directions, bringing the total size of our core collection to 601,886 items which includes materials such as monographs, serials, audio visual materials, microforms, manuscripts and private papers. The Library will continue to actively build up its collection through acquiring research materials relevant to ISEAS research areas, encouraging researchers to deposit their works, and maintaining the Gifts and Exchange Programme with exchange partners.


In Feb 2014, the Library acquired four full-text databases (JSTOR, Proquest, Project Muse and Stratfor Global Intelligence Brief) as well as its first eleven e-books, which signifies a breakthrough in expanding the electronic resources collection over the past decade and an improvement in meeting research needs through enabling faster access to information. The Library is currently adopting a cautious approach in building up the e-book collection due to two reasons: firstly, the relevance of e-book titles available as the majority of which are for general reading; secondly, the varying access rights of e-books among publishers involving short-term and long-term access.


Besides acquiring library materials, the library is continuing to digitize selected portions of our collection as it is one of the KPIs meant to build up and improve the accessibility of our collection to library patrons. This involves the progressive digitization of microfilms, selected rare books and private papers and these digitization projects began in 2013. As of March 2014, the  researchers are now able to access digital surrogates - 88,950 pages of private papers (from H.S Lee, P.G Lim and Ivan Polunin collections); 1,779 thin documents, 209 rare books and 52 reels (out of the total 18,046 reels) of 35mm format microfilms  reformatted to 49,948 images in PDF-A1 file format.

Collection Management 


A total of 5,930 titles (1,942 new titles and 3,988 backlog titles) were catalogued in the FY2013/2014 and this represented a significant overall increase of 88% from the immediate past year (3,144). Of which, the library managed to achieve its KPI of cataloguing, processing and shelving 85% of new titles within 14 days as 95% of these new books and journals were released on shelves for consultation and loan by library patrons within an average processing time of 14 days.  


The Library’s first stock take exercise on the entire library collection was completed in July 2013 and 659 missing items were found (0.18% of the total collection). With the implementation of RFID tagging in mid-2013, the Library foresees future stock taking exercise will be more effective and efficient to be incorporated as part of our routine operation.

The stocktake exercise also allows the Library to adjust its shelving plans and cater to the projected collection growth for the next 10 years.  

The stocktake reveals that up to 80% of the ISEAS Library’s microfilm collection (78,000 reels) are at risk – the acetate-based films are deteriorating in various degrees. To protect our investment and information loss, the Library mounted a microfilm scanner to commence the digital conversion exercise in mid Nov 2013 and the project is expected to be completed before end 2015.

Another collection that was assessed during this stock take exercise was the oral history and audio recordings collection. The assessment reveals that the media of the recordings – VHS, C-60/90 cassette tapes are fast becoming inaccessible and deteriorating and need also be migrated to a more durable and open format medium. As the volume is small, we expect the conversion to be completed by September 2014.  

Online Finding Aid

Following the transfer of hosting for the SEALion server from Australia back to ISEAS in April 2013, the Library has since achieved a faster database loading speed (down from 15 seconds to less than five seconds) and a drastic drop in the bounce rate, from 49.7% (Q4 FY 2012/13) to 29.5% (between May 2013 and March 2014) – a relative indication that users navigation is now more efficient and the online finding aid is more engaging and better utilized. Furthermore, the Library is now able to access the backend system directly and make basic changes in real-time to improve the look and feel of the search page, loan transactions and tracking usage. The table below shows the breakdown of our virtual users by geographic regions - 96.2% of them come from Southeast Asia, with the majority from Singapore (86.6%).  




Library Network

Visit by IFLA Delegates

On 23 August 2013, the Library played host to 36 conference delegates from the 50th International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Conference.  The Library’s collection, works of the librarians, as well as the fumigation and digitisation facilities were showcased during this visit.


Work Experience Program for Raffles Girls School students

The Library conducted a two-week Work Experience Programme for 10 humanities students from Raffles Girls School (RGS) as a platform for them to learn about the work of librarians. Highlights of the program (3–14 June 2013) include drafting of thematic resource info-alerts to promote the library collections to researchers, the numbering of Private Paper collections and the transcribing the Oral History recordings. Students were thrilled to have first-hand experience in sending information alerts to ISEAS researchers. They also appreciated the opportunity to handle the private paper collections of Mr Lim Swee Aun, Malaysia’s senior MCA Party member.

RGS Work Experience Program 2013

Given the positive feedback of the 2013 Work Experience Program, Library conducted the second internship programme for 12 students from 2-13 June 2014.

In view of the positive feedback received from past two year’s Work Experience Program, the Library expressed its interest in organising the programme for the RGS students again next year to the teacher in charge as this had been a win-win programme to the students and the Library. The Library is also following up with Director’s feedback, seeking another internship for this December, targeted at another secondary/technical school for students from the normal stream.

Professional Development

The Head of the Library continually encourages Library staff to attend a wider range of courses and training programs to acquire new and relevant skills and knowledge. Some of the Library staff attended a Critical Thinking Course conducted by Civil Service College where they learnt about common work situations and expand their problem-solving, decision-making and goal-setting skills.

For professional growth, in February 2014, the Library engaged Ms Heather Brown, Assistant Director of Paper and Books in Artlab Australia and External Consultant, University of South Australia, School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences to conduct a customized 3-day in-house training course on library collection management.  As part of the Library's continuous efforts to network with other library professionals as well as assist other libraries in their training programmes, four external librarians from Indonesia’s Lemhannas Library and Singapore Press Holdings Resource Centre were also invited to join the training. 

The topics covered during the training program included Collection Development; Collection Management: Preservation and Conservation; Integrating Preservation Management of Physical and Digital materials; Project Management and Disaster Planning, in a holistic manner as these areas  are all interconnected. The ISEAS Library staff also took the opportunity to share their assessment on the new Library Descriptive standard RDA that was introduced to the international library community in late March 2013.  Head Library also conducted two sessions on repository housekeeping and the use of ISO and Singapore Standards as a management instrument in defining open digital formats for long term access and delivery in the digitization service standard.

Challenges Ahead

Firstly, budget constraints and a shortage of manpower are the main challenges the Library continues to face. The Library plans to clear all the backlog and provide researchers with online access to the microform and private papers collections. However, this can only be possible with a sufficient budget and manpower provisions.  The annual subscription rates to periodicals and databases are also increasing. Given the budget constraints, it is hard for the Library to continue subscribing to the existing databases and information sources with same budget.  The Library therefore has to be very selective in making acquisition decisions.

Secondly, another challenge that we face is attracting more users to use our library. The number of physical library visits have dropped slightly compared with the previous years due to the additional subscribed electronic resources available and the information outreach from different types of Information Alerts provided.  Hence, the Library has shifted its direction to measure the use of library by collecting usage statistics instead of merely counting number of visitors.

Lastly, Library is looking into ways to enhance the use of technology to improve the productivity of disseminating information to users. For example, Info Alerts are currently disseminated to subscribers via the use of third party software which requires a significant amount of effort and time for typesetting prior to sending out the information. Hence, Library is exploring other means to improve on the procedure to more effectively and productively disseminate it to subscribers.