It was an eventful year for the National Library Board (NLB).
We made an indelible mark in the global library community by hosting two international conferences. We paid tribute to our pioneer generation though our exhibitions and services. We also created an early literacy library for children below six and their parents.
library@chinatown and “My Tree House”, our first two community-supported libraries launched last year, have been well received by visitors.
We also tapped on the opportunities created by the digital momentum and social media to engage the community, developed new services, and spearheaded a special programme to help Singaporeans navigate the avalanche of information in today’s digital world.
In August 2013, NLB and the Library Association of Singapore, supported by several government agencies, organised the 79th International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress (WLIC). More than 3,700 delegates from all over the world discussed the infinite possibilities for libraries in the future.
We were very heartened by the support from volunteers and the business community. 337 volunteers from different walks of life came forward to assist us with the logistics, hospitality and operations, and contributed significantly to the success of the conference. Businesses were generous in providing door gifts to delegates. We received numerous compliments from delegates who were touched by Singapore’s warmth and impressed by our efficiency.
Prior to the conference, we also had the rare honour to be the second city to host the International Summit of the Book after its inauguration at Washington D.C. in 2012. Prominent intellectuals, academicians and publishers exchanged views on the importance of libraries and evolution of books.
Our experiment with a volunteer-driven model to operate library@chinatown (sponsored by CP1 Pte. Ltd. and Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple) has been promising. It has shown us that the community can be more involved in the running of libraries. We will step up our engagement efforts with our volunteers and create more opportunities for them to contribute their valuable time and expertise. “My Tree House,” our green library for kids (sponsored by City Developments Limited), has been awarded the Platinum BCA Green Mark Award for an Interior Project. Both libraries have been widely recognised as examples of how the private, public and people sectors can work together to serve the community.
This year, we created a welcoming space in the Jurong Regional Library for a very special group in our community: the very young ones. The Early Literacy Library caters to children of ages six and below, and is a place for children to discover that reading is fun and to cultivate a love for reading. We offer a range of programmes to help parents nurture their children’s learning and development. The library also serves as a resource centre for early childhood educators.
We continued with efforts to bridge the digital divide in our community. With generous support from sponsors, we expanded the eDevice loan service to six libraries. We also assisted and encouraged our senior citizens to make good use of the Silver Infocomm Hotspots, where they get to enjoy an hour of free internet access daily at the libraries.
As our users move towards a mobile and digital lifestyle, we are increasing our online services. Next year, we will introduce a user-friendly e-book portal and a more powerful search engine to access content across our libraries and the National Archives of Singapore (NAS).
The proliferation of online sites and social media has churned out a vast amount of information. NLB launched S.U.R.E. (which refers to Source, Understand, Research and Evaluate) to promote information literacy in our community. This is to equip Singaporeans with the skills to distinguish between fact, fiction and opinion. We also worked closely with the Ministry of Education to introduce S.U.R.E. to students.
We continued to work with the community to collect memories for the Singapore Memory Project (SMP). Our users can now experience this treasure trove of memories at SMP’s home at Jurong Regional Library. The homely setting of this space reflects the heart and soul of the personal stories contributed by individuals, partners, and organisations. Some 1,500 memories about Singapore are presented in different formats, bringing visitors through a multi-sensory journey of what Singapore is all about.
We also paid special tribute to the pioneer generation, who occupy a unique place in our community. Many had migrated from other lands and experienced challenging times in the early years of nation-building while working together to shape the Singapore of today. Their diverse and rich memories give us insights into Singapore’s past and remind us of our own memories. We captured and presented some of their stories through two exhibitions: Hands: Gifts of a Generation, and Roots: Tracing Family Histories.
NLB is working in partnership with the Tamil Digital Heritage (TDH) Group and other government agencies to digitise Singapore’s Tamil literary heritage. This initiative will enable 50 years of Tamil creative writing to be preserved for future generations. The Indian community will be presenting this as a gift to the nation during the 2015 Jubilee celebrations.
History enthusiasts can also look forward to digital versions of Malay manuscripts from the 17th to 19th century and rare materials such as the early maps of Singapore and archival material relating to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles on our website. With support from a donor, these materials will be digitised and made available on NLB’s portal.
Over the next two years, NAS will be uploading more than 3,000 oral history interviews to a new portal. This will enable more users to discover interesting and intimate accounts of Singapore’s past through personal stories. This portal will feature enhanced search options such as voice-to-text technology, keyword scanning and time-stamping.
We were touched by the strong support from the local film community as we welcomed the Asian Film Archive (AFA) to our NLB family this year. With a rich collection of more than 1,600 films including classic Malay films from the Cathay-Keris Studios and productions by local filmmakers, we will expand our programme offerings to include film screenings and workshops on the cinematic gems of Singapore and the region. Local filmmakers will also benefit from the NAS’s conservation expertise and state-of-the-art facilities to professionally restore, preserve and catalogue their films for future generations.
Together with Cengage Learning Asia, NAS published《新加坡选择了李光耀》(Singapore Chose Lee Kuan Yew), a nine-volume compilation of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s illustrious career of over 60 years. Each volume is based on a different theme and presents different aspects of his political career and personal life. This is the third in a series of publications and provides the reader with an insightful record of Mr Lee’s beliefs and contributions to the country.
We are looking forward to another exciting year with new libraries, programmes, and digital initiatives.
The upcoming year will see the opening of library@orchard and the reopening of Sembawang Public Library. Both libraries will be equipped with special digital self-service features. We will also be celebrating the 10th anniversaries of two major reading programmes that have touched thousands of Singaporeans: Read!Singapore and kidsREAD.
In addition, we will roll out two new mobile libraries (MOLLYs), sponsored by the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple. We will also bring our digital collection nearer to the people by developing virtual bookshelves at public spaces like bus stops and schools where users can scan and download e-books on the go.
NLB is proud to be a service excellence leader and we will continue to put delighting library users at the heart of all our connections. All these are possible only with support from our library users, volunteers, donors and partners, and the commitment of our board members and staff.