ISEAS Library Annual Review FY 2017


Acquisition of Books & Serials

In FY17/18, the Library purchased 1,738 new publications, about 9% less than the previous financial year.  Our international exchange partners contributed a further 143 books and 68 serial titles to the collection, a decrease of 15% year-on-year.  The Library currently subscribes to 16 international newspapers, 14 published in the Southeast Asian region. The number of hardcopy newspapers was further reduced to 12 as subscription costs continue to rise and more newspapers are now available for online access. Through subscription to six electronic databases, namely Bibliography of Asian Studies, JSTOR, Project Muse, ProQuest, Stratfor Global Intelligence Brief, and Economist Intelligence Unit, our users have access to 9,600 e-journal and e-newspaper titles.

Private Papers Collection

Among the new additions to the Library’s collection were 29 folios of documents and architectural drawings on the National Theatre building project from Singapore pioneer architect Mr Alfred Wong.  

In October 2017, the Library launched an e-catalogue on the private archive of Professor Wang Gungwu. The launch attracted over 50 scholars, including some of his former students.

(Left) Mrs Margaret Wang, Prof Wang Gungwu, Mr Pitt Kuan Wah, Dr Leo Suryadinata and Mr Gao Jiankang looking at part of the collection on display at the event; (Right) Participants viewing selected materials from Wang Gungwu Collection on display at the event.

In the following month, a comprehensive catalogue featuring the Toshio Egawa Private Archive Collection that the Library acquired in December 2016 was published and launched. This collection is a gateway to the study of many aspects of Japanese history and culture from the eyes of Toshio Egawa, the Japanese industrialist and public intellectual. In his video message which was recorded in the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo, Mr Egawa explained why he considered giving his lifelong collection to ISEAS:

“My personal connection with Singapore has spanned close to half a century, almost as long as Singapore has been an independent country.    I consider it only natural to donate this latest collection to Singapore.  I know that the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute will be a good home for them, where they will be carefully studied by the esteemed team of researchers, bringing new insights into history.

“My collection is the result of my thoughts together with my wife. When my wife and I turned seventy, we started to think about what to do with our collection. We thought that collecting is not an end in itself: collecting is a kind of borrowing of these things. I enjoyed very much my collecting and enjoyed the knowledge gained from our collection. After such a period of time, I realised I should pass our collection to the ‘next borrowers’.
Oral History Collection
The Library archived 25 hours of oral history interviews conducted by Senior Visiting Fellow Mr Ye Htut with retired political leaders in Myanmar, and a further three hours of an interview conducted by the ASEAN Studies Centre with Tan Sri Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Secretary General of the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry from 2010 to 2016.
Photographs Collection
The Library received close to 40,000 digital photographs dated between 2001 and 2016 from the office of the late Made Wijaya (Michael White), a renowned landscape architect known for his works in Bali and other parts of Indonesia. He had earlier on donated his pre-2000 photographs and colour slides to ISEAS Library in 1986 and 1992.  The collection comprises both his works as well as his photo documentation of cultural and religious landscapes of the 80s and 90s is now available for online access.

Photographs from the Made Wijaya Collection. (Top left): Ubud, Bali; (Top right): Candi Penataran, Blitar, Java; (Bottom left): Desa Bayunggede, Bangli, Bali; (Bottom right): Merajan Agung Puri Pejeng, Ubud Bali.

Audio-Visual Collection

The Library archived approximately 231 hours of audio and video recordings of 99 seminars, conferences, workshops, and symposiums organised by the Institute.


The Library has 250,277 titles in its print collection, of which those published in vernacular languages of the region made up 52% as shown in Figure 1.


SEALion Online Catalogue

The SEALion registered an 86% increase in search sessions year-on-year. Four geographical regions contributed to almost 99% of our users: Southeast Asia, Europe, the Americas and East Asia. Within the Southeast Asia region, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand were the top three usage groups. Table 1 has the breakdown.

Table 1: Virtual User Sessions on SEALion Online Catalogue

Continents FY14/15 FY15/16 FY16/17 FY17/18
Africa 14 17 8 0
Americas 237 506 219 188
Europe 149 364 809 125
Oceania 70 94 63 165
Central Asia 2 0 0 0
East Asia 124 247 167 108
West Asia 7 16 15 5
South Asia 44 55 37 109
Southeast Asia 12,634 13,643 13,526 27,177
Undetectable sources 59 171 110 3
All 13,340 15,113 14,954 27,880

SealionPLUS for Online Access to Digitised Contents

Whilst SEALion is a platform for searching published books and journals available in the Library for loans, SealionPLUS allows registered users to search and access digitised materials from the Library’s non-print collections: Private Papers, photographs, audio visual recordings of seminar proceedings, oral history interviews and the Library’s daily selection of news articles from online sources. Like SEALion, users of SealionPLUS mainly came from the Southeast Asian region (62%). The other users that showed a strong presence came from Europe and North America (20%) and East/South Asia (16%).  Table 2 below shows the usage of digitised contents by media types:

 Table 2: Usage of digitised contents on SealionPLUS

Collection Unique page views1
in FY16/17
Unique page views1
in FY17/18
Photographs 25(5%) 496(29%)
Private Papers 139 (29%) 308(18%)
News Articles & Commentaries 129 (27%) 282(16%)
Miscellaneous Print2 79(17%) 195(11%)
ISEAS Publications 39 (8%) 188(11%)
Oral History Interviews 14(3%) 97(6%)
AV Recordings 29(6%) 66(4%)
Digitised Newspapers 12 (3%) 34(2%)
Theses& Dissertations3 29(2%)
Maps 10 (2%) 17(1%)
Total 476 (100%) 1,712(100%)

1The number of sessions during which the specified page was viewed at least once (this excludes the scenario where a user keeps refreshing the same page within the same period of time).

2This consists of the Ding Choo Ming Pantun Collection and the ISEAS Library Selection of Journal Articles.

3The Theses & Dissertations collection was created in FY17/18 and contains theses deposited by various universities in the Southeast Asian region.

Collection Stocktake

Following two comprehensive stocktakes over the last five years, the Library performed a partial stocktake of 25% of RFID-tagged titles, amounting to 49,181 volumes. A total of 567 books were selected for minor repairs and close to 1,600 faded labels were replaced at the end of the exercise.

Info Alert Service

The Library released a total of 382 Info Alerts (totalling 24,404 selected articles). Since FY13/14, a total of 114,101 articles have been added to our newspapers/journals collection.  This financial year also saw 67 new subscribers added to the Info Alerts mailing lists, 85% of whom were external users.


The Library recorded a total visitorship of 5,739 this year, about 30% from external. Among them were students and delegates from the Centre for ASEAN Studies (Cambodia), Raja Ali Haji Maritime University (Indonesia) National Library of China, and Singapore Management University. The Library also received ISEAS Distinguished Fellow Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of the Kingdom of Thailand.

The following are examples of feedback received from visitors about the Library and the Yusof Ishak Gallery.

  • “I learned more about Singapore; it’s nice to know more about President Yusof Ishak.”
  • “I belong to the fortunate generation who knew Encik Yusof Ishak, a beloved statesman, and Puan Noor Aishah. They made Singaporeans proud. Thank you for this exhibition, ISEAS.”
  • “一个好的图书馆是进行求知研学的第一步。你们在如此优秀的图书馆,真的为你们骄傲,愿ISEAS越办越好。(A good library is the first step leading to knowledge and research. I am proud of you for having such an excellent library. I wish ISEAS every success in future endeavours.) ”


Highlights of Library visits. (Top left) Students from Centre for ASEAN Studies, Cambodia, 11 April 2017; (Top right) Students from Archaeology Field School, 14 August 2017;  (Bottom left) Visit by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of the Kingdom of Thailand, 21 January 2018; (Bottom right) ISEAS research officer showing foreign visitors the Exhibition at ISEAS Library, 20 March 2018.


Work Experience Program (WEP)

The Library conducted its 5th run of the Work Experience Programme with Raffles Girls’ School in November 2017. The students worked on various tasks including the processing of private papers and digitised microfilm images, collection stocktake, etc. Through the programme, students gained a better and deeper understanding of the professional role of librarians in supporting research and how the various departments of the Library interact internally to provide services to library users.

Highlights from RGS Programme 2017. (Top left) processing of private papers; (Top right) processing of digitised microfilm images; (Bottom left) collection stocktake using RFID device; (Bottom right) Group presentation sharing the work experience at ISEAS Library.

Ms Emyle Ng, the RGS student shared her views with the Library after working on the private papers collection of Dr Mary Somers Heidhues, a German-based veteran anthropologist who spent nearly a decade working on various projects in Indonesia:  “We were amazed by Dr Heidhue’s ability to understand multiple languages, including Dutch and German; she also did not let her inability to speak Bahasa Indonesia hinder her research as well, looking for translators to help her interpret the text. Her determination was truly inspiring. Her use of keysort cards to organise her collection also open our eyes to a different time, one where the digitalisation of information was not yet common, the level of organisation and time it must have taken to compile her life work into hundreds of keysort cards would have required a tremendous amount of patience, which is not easily found in today’s generation.”