Innovation is about observing and learning what is happening around you, leveraging on existing methods, tool and technologies, then creating something or building on something that becomes useful.
The RFID Revolution
In 1998, the National Library Board embarked on what was to be a defining moment in Singapore’s and the library world’s history. The RFID project aimed at eliminating queues in the library and permitting patrons to check out their books without human intervention.
NLB also wanted its library patrons to be able to return books at any time and at any library branch. To that end, NLB became the first library in the world to employ RFID technology to its entire physical collection. To date, NLB has an estimated 10 million tagged items comprising books, magazines and audio visual media.
In March 2012, NLB successfully upgraded the RFID system, the highlight of which was a multiple item checkout feature, which allows patrons to borrow up to 6 items simultaneously.
Dare to Try
This willingness to try is manifested in NLB’s desire and enthusiasm in exploring new technology for improving library services, and is an approach that epitomizes the NLB innovative spirit. Acknowledging that not every concept on paper will be successful when implemented, NLB adopts a method of prototyping an idea on a small scale. The Portable library concept is one such example, spawning from the notion of the library going to people, rather than waiting for patrons to visit the library. The Library Dispenser, whilst popular with patrons due to its convenience and novelty, could not take off due to operations issues.
Rather than throw out the entire concept, NLB continued to explore different possibilities in the accessibility and self-service checkout aspects of the Dispenser.
More recently, NLB developed a new mobile service enabling library members to borrow materials using their mobile devices. With NLB Mobile, patrons can scan the barcodes on library items to obtain information including item details, item availability and a list of similar types of resources. At home, patrons simply have to scan the barcode of a particular item to find out the due date, and are able to renew the loan if they wish. Location-based technology is used to help users discover libraries in the vicinity as well as browse upcoming library events in that location. The application also leverages on social media such as Facebook for better resource discovery by allowing sharing among peers.
Singaporeans are increasingly relying on mobile devices to access information and perform transactions on-the-go. By harnessing this platform, NLB aims to extend the reach of its library services and resources, meeting the needs of our patrons, anytime, anywhere.