ISEAS Library Annual Review FY 2018


Acquisition of Books & Serials

The Library acquired 2,002 new publications, about 15% more year-on-year. About 20% of the titles came in through donation and exchange with other research and academic libraries from the region. The Library also subscribed to a total of 15 international newspapers and six databases which collectively provided our users annual access to over 10,000 titles.

The Library continues its efforts to fill the gaps in its newspaper archives by acquiring 216 reels of microfilm of The Star, New Straits Times, and Utusan Malaysia, bringing the time gap to 2008, 2011 and 2013 respectively.


Private Papers Collection

Todate, the Library has in its custody of 32 private paper collections deposited by prominent individuals, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia. Among the new additions were Jill Quah’s Collection of Papers on Maurice Baker and private papers from the late Professor Ian Glover. Ms Jill Quah is a retired NUS Librarian who had assisted Mr Baker with the writing of his autobiography The Accidental Diplomat: The Autobiography of Maurice Baker. The collection comprises Mr Baker’s papers, the manuscript of the book, and research materials for the book collected by Ms Quah.

The private papers of Professor Glover, an Emeritus Reader in Southeast Asian Archaeology at University College, London. consists of research materials, field notes, and correspondences relating to his archaeological works predominantly in Southeast Asia, such as Ban Don Ta Phet (archaeological site in Kanchanaburi Province, Western Thailand), Ratchaburi Province (Western Thailand) and Tra Kieu (the ancient Cham capital in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam).

Plan and context recording sheets associated with excavation in Ratchaburi Province, Thailand from Ian Glover Collection

Photographs Collection

Mary Jane Edleson Photograph Collection

This collection includes rare aerial photographs of Jakarta and its waterfront taken in the 1970s and 80s documenting the city’s changing skyline and landscape, as well as Ms Edleson’s collection of Indonesian topeng and aerial views of Bugis boats comprising the largest wind-powered fleet in the world at the time. Some of these images were captured by professional photographers and are of exhibition quality. Mary Jane Edleson has authored several works on Indonesia, including the well-researched Sekaring Jagad Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat and Jakarta – a 5-volume work on the capital city. During her 24-year stay in Jakarta she built up a large photograph collection comprising close to 3,600 images, mostly 35mm colour slides and 2×2” unframed positives on Indonesia covering nearly three decades, documenting the changing landscape of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

(Left)Ms Mary Jane Edleson explaining how she grouped her collection by subjects; (Right)One of the photographs from the Mary Jane Edleson collection: an aerial view of Jakarta in the 1980s.

Oral History Interviews

As part of the documentation for Myanmar’s modern political development and transition from military to civil government, the Library worked with ISEAS Visiting Fellow Mr Ye Htut to conduct oral history interview with ex-military officers and former political leaders in Myanmar over a period of two years. In this FY, a total of 88 hours of recorded interviews from 13 interviewees were archived, covering a wide range of subjects documenting both their personal life experiences and their involvement in various aspects of social and political development of post-war Myanmar. Ten of these interviews are available for immediate access by scholars and academics while the rest will be made available for access in 2022 and 2023.

Audio-Visual Collection

The Library archived approximately 138 hours of audio and video recordings of 48 seminars, conferences and workshops organised by the Institute.

Overseas Archives

To support researchers who need to work on primary resource, the Library acquired 76 digitised file records (approx. 8,607 pages) from the UK National Archives and National Library of Australia. Some of the records relate to the late Prof John Legge, ISEAS’ second Director from 1969-1970, and shows the early corporate history of the Institute.



The Library catalogued a total of 2,543 titles of newly arrived books and journals, bringing the total print collection to 251,916 titles, of which those published in languages of the region made up about half as shown in Figure 1. The Library’s non-print collection includes a further 4,254 titles on microfilm and 59,427 titles on microfiche.

Library Catalogue

In this FY, the Library produced three descriptive catalogues to its private collection.  Wong Ah Fook Collection: A Descriptive Catalogue of a Collection of Research Materials on an Immigration, Builder and Entrepreneur was published in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of Wong Ah Fook.  The catalogue documents Wong’s business activities in Johor Bahru and Singapore, such as his construction of palaces and other significant government buildings that form the bulk of the heritage buildings in Johor Bahru today, with the most important of them was the construction of a palace, the Istana Besar, for Sultan Abu Bakar, as well as his visionary undertaking in the establishment of Kwong Yik Bank in 1913- the first Chinese bank in the turn of 20th Century.

An enlarged catalogue of Toshio Egawa Collection, featuring four rounds of donations that the Library received from Mr Egawa progressively from 2010 to 2018. The collection includes rare and historical documents, handwritten research notes and reference books predominately focusing on the Meiji –Taisho Period. The catalogue is a gateway not only to the study of Japanese culture and history, but also to Mr Egawa’s deep insights into art, philosophy and history.

An e-catalogue of Tommy Koh Private Papers on the Law of the Sea was completed listing private papers relating to The Third United Nations Convention on the Law of The Sea (UNCLOS III). This collection consists of UN sessional reports, academic journal articles, research papers, seminar papers, newsprint articles and books on UNCLOS III and the Law of the Sea from the early 1970s to the 1990s.  There are also newsletters of the Southeast Asian Project on Ocean Law, Policy and Management (SEAPOL) and seminar papers presented at SEAPOL workshops from the 1980s to the 1990s available in this collection.

The e-catalogue of Wang Gungwu Collection that the Library launched in 2017 was also updated.

Collection Stocktake

The Library performed its second full stocktake of its RFID tagged collection, amounting to 221,838 volumes. From the process of stocktake, books that are not in good physical condition or have wear and tear, were discovered by staff. They are then taken out where faded labels are replaced or given to the Library conservator for minor repairs. 631 hours were spent performing minor repairs and replacement of faded labels for close to 850 items. A further 17 rare/antiquarian books were outsourced for major repairs and conservation treatment.

(Left) The Library conservator repairing the spine of a damaged book; (Right) Library staff conducting a stocktake of the general collection.


SEALion Online Catalogue

The SEALion registered a 30% 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 (excluding Singapore), Indonsia, Philippines and Malaysia were the top three usage groups. Table 1 has the breakdown.

Table 1: Virtual User Sessions on SEALion Online Catalogue

Continents FY15/16 FY16/17 FY17/18 FY18/19
Africa 17 8 0 1
Americas 506 219 188 303
Europe 364 809 125 160
Oceania 94 63 165 111
Central Asia 0 0 0 0
East Asia 247 167 108 464
West Asia 16 15 5 30
South Asia 55 37 109 63
Southeast Asia 13,643 13,526 27,177 36,686
Undetectable sources 171 110 3 27
All 15,113 14,954 27,880 36,213

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%).  The top five usage of the collection in the database are as follows: Private Papers, Oral History Interviews, Photographs, News Articles & Commentaries which are the archived Daily News Alerts, followed by ISEAS publications and miscellaneous prints which includes research articles produced by ISEAS and extracted from other journal database.

Table 2: Usage of digitised contents on SealionPLUS

Collection Unique page views1
in FY17/18
Unique page views1
in FY18/19
Private Papers 308 (18%) 737(28%)
Oral History Interviews 97 (6%) 589(22%)
Photographs 496(29%) 410(16%)
News Articles & Commentaries 282(16%) 347(13%)
Miscellaneous Print2 195(11%) 238(9%)
ISEAS Publications 188(11%) 194(7%)
AV Recordings 66(4%) 49(2%)
Digitized Newspapers 34(2%) 15(1%)
Theses & Dissertations3 29(2%) 23(1%)
Maps 17 (1%) 22(1%)
Total 1,712(100%) 2,624 (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.

Library Membership

305 new members were registered in this fiscal year, majority came from ISEAS and other academic institutions as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 New Library Members by Affiliation

Research Enquiries

In this FY, Library processed 386 enquiries, which represents a slight increase of six per cent year-on-year. The majority of the enquiries came from ISEAS researchers, followed by foreign academic students and staff.

Collection Usage

For the year under review, there were 4,630 items consulted by users within the Library, representing a noticeable increase by 22 percent year on year, while the loan transactions of Library materials showed a slight reduction.

Info-Alert Service

The Library released a total of 357 Info Alerts (totalling 26,446 selected articles). Majority of the articles related to Malaysian (33.5%) and Indonesian affairs (11.2%) followed by ASEAN (8.0%) and Myanmar (7.9%).  In this FY, there were 93 new subscribers added to the mailing list. Since 2013, a total of 139,445 articles have been added to our newspapers/journals collection, 36% (49,974 articles) of which have been uploaded to the library online database SealionPLUS.


The Library visitorship stood at 5,126 this year. About 47 per cent came from outside the Institute, among them are delegates from Singapore Management University Libraries, UiTM Kedah (Malaysia), Raja Ali Haji University (Indonesia), University of Helsinki (Finland), and Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (South Africa).

Highlights of Library visits. (Top left) Sharing session on collection management with SMU librarians by Head of ISEAS Library, 6 July 2018; (Top right) Head of ISEAS Library guided a Tour to Library repository for antiquarian books, 6 July 2018; (Bottom left) Head of ISEAS Library showing Toshio Egawa Collection to visitors from University of Helsinki, 1 November 2018; (Bottom right) Staff demonstrating Library online catalogue to visitors from Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis, 29 March 2019.


Work Experience Program (WEP)


The Library conducted its sixth run of the Work Experience Programme with Raffles Girls’ School in November 2018. The students assisted in accessioning and describing private papers of Professor Ian Glover and Mr Toshio Egawa, accessioning DVDs of digitised microfilms, and archive selected Daily News Alert articles. Through the programme, students acquired knowledge and skills relating to library management systems, and became familiar with various measures that the Library has taken to protect the books and primary documents.

Ms Zhang Ziru, the RGS student shared her views with the Library on the work experience: “We were brought to the fumigation chamber, which is really cool. We did not know how it works, it turns out a lot of chemistry… The entire process is very interesting, it can kill all the pest in the books. We learnt a lot from the process on how to protect and keep the old books.”

Highlights from RGS Programme 2018. (Top left) Students doing technical processing of books from Toshio Egawa Collection; (Top right) Accessioning DVDs of digitised microfilms; (Bottom left) Students accessioning and describing Professor Ian Glover’s papers; (Bottom right) Group presentation sharing the work experience at ISEAS Library.

Donations to Regional Libraries

The Library donated 56 duplicate titles to the University of Surabaya in Indonesia, through Dr Hélène Njoto, Visiting Fellow, who was there to conduct the NSC Archaeology and Art History Field School in July 2018.