An interview with our recently retired Chief Librarian, Dr Nor Edzan Che Nasir


1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born on 29 May 1957 at the Kuantan District Hospital in Kuantan, Pahang. The time of birth was recorded as 5.05 am and it was a Wednesday. Apparently people in the US was listening to an Elvis Presley’s song titled All Shook Up in the week I was born. In 1960, my sister and I followed my late mum to Bromley, Kent in England to stay with my late dad for a year. He was studying in UK then. My schooling was in Kuantan – Methodist Girls’ Primary School, Sultan Abdullah School, Methodist Girls’ Secondary School and finally Sultan Abu Bakar School.

2. Can you tell us how you started working at the Library and about the roles you have had here?
In 1974, I registered at ITM Shah Alam for the Diploma in Fisheries course. Then in 1978, I registered as an undergraduate at USM Pulau Pinang and in 1983, I took up the post of Pegawai Tadbir at the USM Library. I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship from AUIDP to do a Post Graduate Diploma (Librarianship) at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia in 1984. I came back to Malaysia and was promoted to Penolong Pustakawan and was posted to USM Kampus Cawangan Perak in Ipoh and then Tronoh. In 1991, I moved to the UM Library in Kuala Lumpur, did my M.Sc. (Information Studies) at Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK and in 1999, I left the UM Library to join the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology in UM. I managed to get promoted as an Associate Professor and read for my Ph.D. My last post at the Faculty was as the Deputy Dean (Postgraduate Studies) before returning to the UM Library as the Chief Librarian in November 2007. I finally retired as the Chief Librarian on 28 May 2017.

3. What is the hardest part of being a Chief Librarian?
Hands down I would say staff. With more than 200 staff to take care of, it is not easy since we are dealing with people and personalities. It takes so much out of you when you have to deal with a staff who has issues.

4. What is something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
I am an introvert and I don’t enjoy making small talk but I adjust accordingly.

5. How do you juggle all the people – library staff, academicians, library users, friends and family? Is there a certain priority you place on one versus another?
During my working hours, my priority is definitely to the UM community. I handled them as and when there is a need. My weekends are for my family. My friends outside of the UM community suffered the most since I am left with very little time for them. We normally catch-up at social functions such as weddings or reunions.

6. Do you have a particular management philosophy you could identify with?
Not really. There are so many management gurus and texts telling us this and that. But at the end of the day, you find the style that suits you best and it is a mish mash of various philosphies.

7. Are there any books or conferences that you think are absolutely essential?
I am constantly reading so that I know what is happening within the profession and the organisation. I also read to keep in touch with the latest developments in libraries and librarianship. If I don’t do this, I would not be able to move the Library forward. There are so may conferences in our field and I normally pick the ones that would allow me to see and hear about what the others are doing in the libraries and the profession. I do not subscribe to a particular conference but I look at the theme. Going to conferences and presenting at conferences allow me to promote the UM Library and UM and it also allows me to form a network of colleagues.

8. How has the Library changed over the years?
The Library has definitely changed. It is more user centred and we have adapted our space, facilities, services and expertise accordingly. The Library has to be a living library and this means that there must be changes over the years.

9. What have been your most memorable moments?
Funnily enough, it’s my moments with the staff. The last two weeks prior to my retirement are moments that I will cherish forever. I will definitely miss all of my staff. They have been instrumental in supporting me for the past ten years and I am truly grateful to them.

10. What plans do you have for your retirement?
My last working day is a day short of the fasting month of Ramadhan. I will go through Ramadhan, Syawal and then I will be going off to Wroclaw, Poland as a volunteer for IFLA WLIC 2017 for a week or so. Then, I will spend the next few months touching base with my siblings before going full steam for IFLA WLIC 2018. My plans only go as far as 2018 and after that I have to wait and see, but I do not see myself going into another full time job. I want to spend whatever time I have left with my daughters and granddaughter and do all the things I could not do whilst I was working full time. Most importantly, I need to spend time with the Al Mighty. No one lives forever.

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