Jobs 101: Associate librarian

Not everyone who works for the library likes to work in silence.

Justin Hui

Published: 15 April 2016, 1:10 AM

I assumed that anyone working for the library would not appreciate large groups of noisy children. Then I met Sing Ying, an associate librarian with the National Library Board (NLB), who enjoys organising interactive workshops for children.

Who: Chan Sing Ying, 28
What: Associate librarian
Studied: Chinese in Nanyang Technological University

Tell us more about yourself!

I’m an associate librarian with Read! Singapore, a team trying to get Singaporeans to read more.

When we first started, we had an anthology with short stories inside that we cross-translated into different languages. Our main job was to promote the collection and also get people interested in reading. And it provided exposure for the local authors, if they were in town, to meet the readers.

Under One Sky was oe such anthology with stories translated into four languages. 

We don’t come up with the anthology any more, but we try to programme as many local authors as possible, so we have this SG Authors Series. Every month, we will have a local author come to the libraries or go to the schools, and we will try to promote their works.

Why did you join the library?

When I was in university, I was working on projects that had to do with kids, so I thought it would be fun to continue working with kids.

I knew for sure that if I got a deskbound job, I would get bored at the end of the day. So, it’s nice that I can meet people. That’s one thing that attracted me to the job – that I can interact with the public.


Describe a typical day at work.

It depends. When we have programmes (especially during the June school holidays), I will be in the office, before going to the libraries or schools to do the logistics set-up and conduct the programmes.

When we don’t have programmes, we have discussions with colleagues in the office about upcoming programmes. We also reply emails, and get sponsors and collaborators on board for programmes.

What are some of the challenges you face as an associate librarian?

When you’re trying to push reading to people and they are like: “Sorry, I have no time!” We realise that there are too many distractions, so people might not necessarily think of reading when it comes to looking for a leisure activity.

So, we try to plan interesting activities to attract people to first come to the library for an interesting programme. They could get to know the author (if it is a meet-the-author session), or participate in craft sessions related to the story (for the kids), and perhaps be interested to read the book eventually.


What motivates you in your work?

When I have people coming up to thank me, because they really enjoyed a session and want to come back for more, I feel very encouraged. Or when I have the kids showing off their craft activities, I am like: “Oh this is so nice, you’ve done a good job!”

You must be happy then that we now have a National Reading Day, on Jul 30. Were you involved in making that happen?

I wasn’t involved in the proposal part, but I’m now involved in executing the event. There will be quite a number of activities happening in the libraries, so do keep a lookout for the details nearer the date!

What advice would you give to youths considering a career with the library?

They need to love reading and should be passionate about promoting stories or books that they think are good. You have to love working with the public because they are the main customers you face.

Educational requirements: A good degree from a recognised university.

Qualities needed: Passion in promoting reading, keeping up-to-date with information technology and reading trends, ability to interact positively with youth.

Working hours: Typical five day work week with 42 working hours, but you will be required to work on weekends for certain events.

Salary range: $2,900 to $3,400 for entry level positions

Career prospects: NLB librarians have opportunities to specialise in the different areas of library work. Candidates are encouraged to study for a Master of Science in Information Studies.

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