Learning journey from SMU Libraries to SOTA Library

Reach out to your neighbor – and literally we did. This was a mutual objective shared by Singapore Management University (SMU) Libraries and School of the Arts (SOTA) Library as we bonded over a learning journey in the afternoon of Friday 25 August 2017.

A university with a key focus on business and law – and a pre-tertiary specialized arts school – what do we have in common? How different are we? More importantly, what challenges do the libraries in these 2 institutions face? Read on to find out more!

In part due to physical proximity, SMU Libraries thought it a great idea to visit SOTA Library as part of their Learning Circle activities to share and learn good practices. The Learning Circle is a series of continuous professional development for staff of SMU. These could be in the form of faculty talk, conference sharing, learning journey, training, development, and the like. These activities aim to support the SMU librarians in helping them to keep abreast of the latest library and information industry trends. These trends are constantly evolving in today’s increasingly digital age.

About 25 visitors from the SMU Libraries team visited SOTA Library. They were from both the Li Ka Shing Library and Kwa Geok Choo Law Library. The visit started with an introduction by Ms Adeline Neo (Senior Manager, SOTA Library) on the library layout and its range of facilities, before bringing the visitors on a tour to the various venues in the library. She also shared on new initiatives to optimize space usage and improve ease of retrieval of library items for users, such as building of new shelves to house the teachers’ resource collection. This collection had been housed in a room that had, over time, been used more for meetings and other activities.

The visitors had a good time exploring the facilities in the numerous discussion rooms, which are also equipped to be used as classrooms. We learnt that SMU Libraries has many open spaces for individual use, as well as for research and collaborative pedagogy. The range of facilities include 24/7 Learning Commons, Investment Studio, Learning Labs, Project Rooms – all of which are designed to be conducive for learning.

One of the highlights of the library tour was when our visitors tried on the node school chairs in the newly furbished Learning Centre – where they enjoyed manoeuvring these flexible and mobile chairs, which are designed to enable quicker transition from one teaching mode to the next, as compared to the conventional school tables and chairs.

As we came to the Cool Stuff Zone, which is the library’s main display area and often doubled up as a venue for talks and programmes, Adeline pointed out on the specially designed book display shelves showcasing a selection of Singapore Art Museum (SAM) publications. Earlier in 2017, SAM and SOTA had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to work together so as to provide greater access to quality resources on Southeast Asian contemporary visual art. Initiated by the Visual Arts faculty in SOTA, SAM would extend copies of its publication to SOTA Library. SOTA Library would include these into its collection to support teaching and research of Southeast Asian contemporary art, develop student knowledge of the visual arts sector, as well as generate greater awareness of and participation in SAM programmes.

Our SMU guests then sat down for a quick break of refreshing fruit platters at the Teacher’s Resource Centre. After which, I conducted a presentation on SOTA’s background, curriculum and programmes. At this point, our guests let on that they used to have the impression that SOTA is a vocational school for secondary school students. They were glad to quash their misconception and learn that it is the only national pre-tertiary specialised arts school with a six-year integrated arts and academic curriculum, which leads to the International Baccalaureate Diploma or Career-related Programme for youths aged 13 to 18 years old.

I further spoke about the ongoing partnership between SOTA Library and the various faculties to identify, select and source for relevant materials that support informational, research, curriculum and reading needs of the SOTA community. Beyond print, SOTA Library is looking towards the direction of leveraging more on electronic resources. Database trials for Infobase’s Science Online, Bloom’s Literature and Classroom Video On Demand are recent potential additions to SOTA’s range of subscribed online resources.

Following that, I briefly explained SOTA’s pedagogy and teaching philosophy – one that celebrates experimentation, expression and discovery as a school of the future – and how it nurtures the students into tomorrow’s artists and leaders. The visitors were impressed to learn that a SOTA alumnus, Ms Cheri Wee, was among the five students who had been awarded the 2017 President’s Scholarship, making her the first SOTA alumnus to receive this highly prestigious award.

The presentation concluded with recent events organized by SOTA Library for its users, such as National Library Board librarians showcasing their resources as part of professional development for teaching staff on 6 July 2017, Chinese writer’s sharing session for students by library committee on 4 August 2017, amongst others.

The presentation sparked off interest and a lively dialogue ensued. Together with Adeline, I led a discussion with our SMU guests on the sharing of best practices in support of teaching and learning needs. One of the many interesting points raised was the feasibility of libraries leveraging more on electronic resources to support information literacy and research needs of its users.

While SMU and SOTA differ in several aspects such as the age group of students, type of courses offered and so on, we found that the libraries of the 2 institutions share the same commitment to provide a user-centric learning space and support the information needs of our users. Both libraries agreed that there are certainly common areas that we could possibly explore further together that are mutually beneficial. The visit ended with a group photograph at the spiral staircase near the library entrance as a backdrop, as we bade goodbye to each other.

SOTA Library had received compliments on the visit and our SMU guests thought that it was planned well, such that they had an enjoyable learning experience. The goodwill was reciprocal, and SMU Libraries team had expressed their interest to host the SOTA Library team in the future.

Article By: Foo Soo Chin (Manager, SOTA Library)

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