While the dot.com era is gone, the basic forces of the New Economy are still around. The New Economy is about transformation, new business models, innovation and customerisation at an unprecedented scale. It is about reinventing our companies to create new value and to compete in the future. It is an economy where intellectual capital replaces physical capital and assets as the key driver of growth. The challenge lies in our ability to do things faster and in more innovative and creative ways.

Our Government has focused its efforts on developing our human capital by investing in a learning nation. Lifelong learning will ensure that our people will be equipped with the right know-how and knowledge to stay relevant in the competitive economy. The acquisition of knowledge through learning can, thus, no longer be confined to formal institutions and learning environments.

Libraries play an important role in quenching the thirst for knowledge and encouraging its absorption and application. However, in the New Economy, the role of libraries as an important knowledge provider has been challenged. The rapid growth of information and the fast pace at which it becomes obsolete coupled with the complexity of knowledge and its representation in many new forms beyond the book are contributing factors.

In Singapore, we have reinvented our libraries as vital and creative learning spaces providing our citizenry with a lifestyle choice. We have strengthened our position as a social institution supporting lifelong learning. We have transformed our libraries into a world-class library system to encourage learning and discovery. Libraries@Singapore have set in place an enabling infrastructure to promote learning in a multitude of ways. We have forged links with local and international libraries and industry partners to augment our collection and services.

Our libraries have become public spaces where people come to reflect, interact and learn either individually or collectively. Our modern facilities and rich reservoir of knowledge attract people from all walks of life to the library. Our extensive network of physical public libraries act as "street corner universities" providing universal access to information and thereby supporting wealth creation in the New Economy.

The library system has a distinct part to play in the advancement of every citizen, regardless of age and background. Our social inclusion strategy involves narrowing any technological divide across society by providing facilities and info-literacy training to create a more IT and info-savvy society. We strive to bridge any disparities amongst the information haves and have-nots. Our citizens can enjoy the facilities and services and experience life in the digital era at our libraries.

We have placed emphasis on literacy and have through the myriad of programmes and activities, promoted reading, learning and information and IT literacy to the masses - from children to adults and senior citizens. Our users were introduced to emerging trends through programmes such as Life Sciences@the Courtyard and IT@orchard. KIDS Discover@Marine Parade allows kids to explore and learn in a fun, innovative and interactive manner. The Asian Children's Festival attracted international participation and instilled a lifelong interest in reading, literary arts and culture.

We continued to preserve the past for future generations to understand and learn about our cultural and literary heritage. We have continued to adopt new technology to further enhance our business operations and improve the quality of our services, thus making it convenient and accessible to all. Through the application of digital technologies, our users gained rapid access to rich sources and experienced new forms of reading, intellectual and cultural exchange.

All these resulted in some 21 million people visiting our libraries and borrowing over 25 million items. Our libraries will play an even greater role in supporting a nation of learners. Libraries@Singapore will remain both the physical and virtual portal of choice that nourishes the citizenry with information and knowledge that inspires discovery, exploration, adoption and learning. We will strive to foster an enquiring and open mind and nurture a passion for learning among our citizenry.

In the 21st century, Libraries@Singapore will strive to impart KNOWLEDGE and spur the IMAGINATION of our citizens and open their minds to endless POSSIBILITIES. KNOWLEDGE, IMAGINATION and POSSIBILITIES will be the common touchstones for all segments of the population.

Dr Tan Chin Nam