The seventh Asian Cambridge Librarians’ Day was kindly hosted by Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok) on 22nd January 2018.  The event attracted more than seventy librarians from HE institutions across Thailand, and was also attended by sixteen members of the Cambridge Asian Librarians’ Advisory Board (CALAB) and its guests, some of whom gave presentations at the event.  The theme of the day was Digital Resource Building: a New Era for Libraries.

Print to digital
Khun Saifon Taokaew, Manager and Librarian at Chulalongkorn University, explained both the rationale and the challenges behind planning a digital collection.  Many of the issues she raised – business models, the time taken to contact and communicate with vendors, technological problems such as broken URLs, the advantages of single-search and full-text and the difficulties, sometimes, associated with achieving them – will resonate with librarians throughout the world.  She concluded by sharing Chulalongkorn Library’s headline challenges: to have reduced the print stock by 50% by 2020, and to have increased the digital stock by a similar amount.

Digital collection building
After lunch Mrs Lee Cheng Ean, University Librarian, National University of Singapore, Mr Foster Zhang, Director of the Library, Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ms Nawang Purwanti, Director of the Library, UGM, Indonesia, participated in a panel session entitled Building a Digital Collection.  Mrs Lee particularly emphasised the need to promote a digital collection once it is in place; she said librarians need to work hard on developing information literacy in users, collaborating with users to secure the right content and broaden its reach, and reaching out to users both physically and online in order to ensure that e-content is discovered and used to maximum effectiveness.  Ms Purwanti talked about the desirability of blending commercially-produced digital content with the university’s own digitisation projects, which in the case of UGM includes digital collections of rare national heritage collections and students’ digitised theses and dissertations.  Mr Zhang said that digital collections have their downside, including the cost (both financial and in terms of librarian input) of maintenance, ensuring discoverability and the fact that publishers often don’t make all the material librarians want available in digital format. In future, he said, he would like more content to be digitised on an ‘on-demand’ basis.

Ng Chay Tuan, Deputy Director at the Office of Knowledge, Information and Library Services at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and Ms Mazni Yusof, Head of the Multimedia Unit at UKM (Malaysia) each spoke about Tools for Promoting the Library’s Services. Ng Chay Tuan presented the audience with an encyclopaedic number of ways in which the Library can raise the profile of itself and its resources, while Ms Yusof concentrated on describing promotional activities using video clips and social media.

Chulalongkorn Library

Chulalongkorn Library collections
After the meeting, CALAB members and guests were taken on a tour of the Chulalongkorn Library.  This yielded many high points, including a display of traditional Thai medicines and two exhibitions, one to display some of the books from the King’s collection, which was given to the University by the Thai Royal Family in the twentieth century (and contains many books written in the English language); the other to celebrate the journey of King Rama IV, who in the nineteenth century made a tour of all the western countries that were also colonial powers and made an eloquent case for them to allow Thailand (then called Siam) to remain free.  As a result, it was never colonised.

US papers
The Library holds an important collection of papers collected by the USA during the Vietnam war.  After the Americans withdrew from the conflict, they donated all the intelligence they had gathered on each of the countries in SE Asia to those countries themselves.  This seems to be a collection that would well repay digitisation!

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