by Isaiah Hinsley and Bonnie Butcher
In June 2015, Associate Professor and Head of Instructional Services Anne Barnhart visited Singapore with three members of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Immersion. The small team of ACRL Immersion Faculty trained 65 librarians from the National University of Singapore, Yale-NUS College, Singapore Management University, and Nanyang Technological University.
The ACRL Immersion Faculty is a team of academic librarians from the U.S. and Canada
who provide educational training opportunities for librarians around the world. Anne
and the other scholars trained the librarians in topics including writing student
learning outcomes, pedagogy techniques, assessment techniques, practical management,
and teaching with technology.
Part of this program consisted of teaching librarians how to see themselves as teachers and how to take ownership of their classrooms and workshops. But first, Anne decided to do some preparing of her own, reading novels from Singapore to better understand the culture.
The workshops were held in the library at the National University of Singapore (NUS),
where most of the librarians with whom they worked were initially anxious about applying
some of the more assertive techniques that were discussed.
“Some actually said, ‘This is not the United States,’ and insisted that the cultural differences were too great for them to even try some of what we taught,” she recalled. “We had to repeat that the administrations of the libraries where these participants work paid our airfare and lodging and brought the four of us there precisely because the administrations support these ideas.”
Even though the librarians were very reserved in the training sessions, the faculty found a creative way for the librarians to enjoy their training, participate, and get involved.
“Singapore is a relatively new country, with a truly multicultural society,” Anne said. “Citizens learn at least two languages, English and their ‘mother tongue.’ The majority of the population consists of people from India, Malaysia, and China. Amidst such diversity, the people of Singapore have blended together easily. There was no imposition of a ‘right way’ to do things. Each culture and tradition is honored. That really impressed me.”