Relocation -to pack or not to pack

Flashback: 2009 (Before the move)

Preparing for the BIG move was quite a headache.  We are given  weight quotas for sea and air freight.  We had to decide the stuff that would be brought over from Singapore over to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

I’m a sentimentalist; my other half more pragmatic.  In this situation, pragmatism won over the other one.  Only the ones that were needed most were shipped.  Before the packing day arrived, my wife had an idea to create a space where we would gather all the stuff for air / sea shipment.  This was done to reduce confusion.  The packers would just pack those in the ‘staging’ area.

So, the day finally came for the packing:

Shipment arrival in KAUST: 

Delivery day:  I requested the men to assist me in unloading and unpacking plus placing them in the rightful place: pots and pans in kitchen, clothes in the respective rooms and so forth.  I was thankful and grateful for all the prayer(s) and help for the smooth delivery of all our goods/stuff.  Wouldn’t have done it without my wife’s initial planning, coordination of the logistics departments in KAUST and the freight companies.



Out Fishing :)

Fishing@RedSea.  Tell you the truth, I never had any fishing experience. So you can imagine how fast my heart was beating when we headed out to sea, the Red Sea 🙂  My local friends taught me how to catch fishes using just a bait and a fishing line (without the rod).  They’re the experts and me, novice/amateur.  I didn’t manage to catch any but the other guys caught some while others caught seasickness (unfortunately).  At the end of the whole trip, my mother got wind of my ‘escapade’ and ‘ban’ me from ever going out for open-sea fishing.  Looks like I’ll be going to be pier / jetty if I ever wanted to do any fishing.

Doha Reloaded 2016 (Drinking water while diving, “Sambil menyelam minum air”)

Whirlwind business trip to Doha, Qatar. Attended workshop organized by LIAQ, (Library and Information Association, Qatar) on “Library trends: leading into the future” in collaboration with Mortenson center for international library programs.

Had a good discussion with Dr Clara Chu, Director and Distinguished Professor of the Mortenson Center.

Stayed at the Torch Doha. Wonderful place, plus it’s beside Villagio 🙂

The room is controlled by an ‘intelligent ipad’.  It controls all the room functions: from drawing curtains, the room lights, launching the internet, TV, movies, etc etc. Cool.

At the same, I visited my brother whose wife had just given birth: baby Boy.  (his third).  My parents were there too and I celebrated Mother’s day there as well.

Met up with an ol’ buddy.


Airport scenes:

Tools of trade

Below is the list of tools (not exhaustive) which I find useful in my area of work.  (Not the ones in the illustration 🙂 )


My favs are Evernote, Trello and MS Sharepoint

Why Evernote? Helps me in keeping track of outstanding e-resources issues – I can attach information  to the notes in Evernote.  These also serves as a knowledge-base for me whenever I’m resolving similar e-resources issues.   Another feature that I find useful is collecting information from various sources such as internet, email snippets, etc.  On top of that, Evernote is also a tool that helps me collect and manage my information when I am planning for family activity such as vacations.  I’d plonked useful information into a notebook in Evernote for future references.

Trello is another tool: Simplifying project management.  I’m still learning this and it’s fun.  I ‘jot’ down all the tasks needed to be done for a particular project, tracking their progress, marking their completion dates and so forth.

MS Sharepoint:  I can create team worksites, document libraries, wiki and blog sites and even forum discussions.  I can share documents selectively, providing admin rights for certain staff and so forth.  There are loads of other features in Sharepoint.

What tools work for you? Appreciate your comments.

What does it take to work as E.R.S. over here …

My office desk - May 2010This doesn’t look like my desk but I’m hoping to get 4 screens if possible 🙂

ERS? It’s Electronic Resources Specialist. In some places, it’s also known as Electronic Resources Librarian etc.  My work deals mostly with electronic resources: electronic books, electronic journals, images and so forth.  I manage the life cycle from start to end; ensuring that trial, acquisition, access, troubleshooting and maintenance and renewal stages are completed.  I have a team of 4 (including myself).  It’s a thankless job at times; no thank you-s until someone cannot get access / download an article or chapter.

I’m not going to ramble on the competencies listed by several organizations such as NASIG (North American Serials Interest Group), UKSG (United Kingdom Serials Group) and the like.  Those are the intrinsic criterion needed.  I’ll list them down later in this blog post.  What I’m touching on are more on the ‘soft’ side of it.  For me, there are a few. They are:

  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience

Quick check in Oxford Dictionary:

  • Patience:  “the ability to accept delay, trouble or suffering without becoming angry or upset”
  • Perseverance: “continue doing something in spite of difficulty or lack of success”
  • Resilience:  “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions”

In our work life, we have, in one way or another, face with testing situations.  In my case, it revolves around people or technology.  The technology part: that’s not that too difficult. Find the relevant manual, read it and you can get the answers.  Otherwise , you can contact the vendor techies and they are willing to check it out on your behalf.  Googling for answers would also be an alternative.

However, when dealing with humans, that can be tricky.  For example, not many would admit that they are wrong even when presented with facts.  The worst part is the “blame game”.  I believe that we can learn a lot when we readily admit our mistakes. Learn from it and move on.  Humans are never perfect.


Coming back to the 3 traits, let me touch on the first one: Patience:  Leading requires patience. Mistakes happen; sometimes accidental; sometimes due to lack of knowledge.  Addressing those mistakes are important.  That’s where learning comes in: for both parties.  It provides a chance to address our shortcomings.  An opportunity for someone to learn new skills; an opportunity for someone to understand personality differences and how to navigate around it.  Win win scenario; hopefully.

The way we address these issues are also important.  Whether its one on one sessions or during team meetings, it will affect whether our message will get across.  Sometimes one to one meetings would work better than others.  In the context that I am in, I believe that having one to one ‘chats’ usually works.  Nobody likes to be mocked in public.

I do tolerate mistakes but if the same mistakes keep happening more than 2 times; that will set off alarm bells in my head 🙂  Either its a case of being incompetent or just insubordination.  Dealing with such cases require more tactfulness.

Perseverance. When the going gets tough, keep on moving, keep on striving.  For example, I encounter issues such as electronic resources sudden access disruption.  Now, the business work week in Saudi Arabia starts on Sunday till Thursday.  Imagine on a late Thursday afternoon, electronic publisher X (located in the States with business week starting from Mon – Fri) decided to pull the access plug for a particular product title ABC.  Reason: Detected excessive downloading activity.

I’ll be scrambling to get publisher X attention to inform them that we are on top of things and identifying the potential root cause.  Next, I have to make sure that our access is re-activated.  If I’m lucky, access is restored by Friday evening. Otherwise I would have to work during Friday (which is a weekend) by the way, to get it up.  If I miss it, then access would be affected till Monday afternoon when the publisher office starts work. (due to geographic time differences). Note that our work week starts on Sunday over here.

To complicate things, we may have researchers who are in need of access and who aren’t able to do so.  They may not know and do not want to know the reason why access is denied. What they want to know, when can they get access to the desired information.  In these instances, people management skills come in handy 😉

Resilience. Before taking my present job, I was previously a Reference/Subject Librarian and a Library webmaster.  Though electronic resources was not something new for me, I was faced with a steep learning curve.  I had to learn most of my stuff fast.  Sometimes you learn on the job.  On other occasion, you will rely on your intuitive and experience to get the task completed.  I had my ‘wins’ and my ‘losses’.  I faced setbacks.  Those setbacks provided a platform for me to learn and a reminder that my learning journey is never ending.

I had no mentor over here.  They expect me to hit the ground running.  Hence the expat terms 🙂  However, the support I got back then (and now) is enormous.  I’m grateful for that.  My superiors were ever willing to allow me to go for overseas conferences and trainings to complement my knowledge.

The adventure continues ….

Oh by the way, here’s the core competencies for Electronic Resources Librarian from NASIG.


Study Visit: Technical Services, Duke University Libraries (USA) 2015

I spent a week of ‘attachment’ with the Tech Services at Duke Uni Libraries (Oct 2015).  (Thanks to my superiors for their approval).  Met a lot of wonderful people.  Thank you Beverly, Jacqui and Will for your kind hospitality.  It was a pleasure getting to know all of you as well as the other library staff.  (just too many to recall their names).

Stayed at this neat hotel:

It used to be a hospital once. Historical Information about the hotel:

The hotel was a 10 minute walk to the Library Technical Services offices.

The Library Office’s name: Smith Warehouse.  It used to be a tobacco warehouse but converted into offices. (Pictures Below).

Whenever I have the time, especially in the morning, I’ll scoot off to get some food at the cafe:


And best of all, they gave me a little office 🙂


During my one week attachment, I had the chance to learn more about Duke Libraries’ Tech Services handling of their electronic resources.  It was an eye-opener for me.  They have a huge collection of electronic resources.  How they are handling this is amazing.

One of my areas of interest:  Troubleshooting electronic resources.  Asked a lot of questions on the common e-resources problems, how they ‘triage’ the issues, main root causes and how to resolve them.  I got to know the systems that they are using, the procedures and so forth.

All in all, it was a worthwhile trip.

** By the way, while exploring the bookstore downtown, I saw this on the shelves:


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