How we adapted to the new normal and continued meeting the evolving needs of our patrons
Despite unprecedented changes during a year of disruption, the National Library Board (NLB) saw all-round increases in the usage of its digital offerings. Digital loans moved up by 26.2%, cumulative downloads of the NLB mobile app jumped 36.5%, and there was a 46.5% spike in residents using our digital channels. Beyond the increase in digital uptake, the number of loans and visitors to our libraries has also been steadily rising since the gradual reopening of libraries and archives in July 2020. The total number of loans rose by 14.2% and visitorship by 88.9% from July to December 2020.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we pivoted quickly to provide a wider variety of digital offerings to help Singaporeans continue to read and learn from home. As a result, we saw almost 7 in 10 residents visiting libraries and archives, and/or accessing NLB’s content digitally in 2020, which was on par with 2019. To meet the new needs of patrons in 2020, we increased our number of eBooks by 33%, eDatabases by 30%, and eNewspapers by 4%. The digital initiatives helped fill the gap during the closure of libraries and archives from 7 April to 30 June 2020 (circuit breaker period), and an ongoing restriction of physical programmes that started from 1 July 2020 when libraries reopened and that is gradually being eased as the COVID-19 situation improves.
The move towards even greater digitalisation in 2020 saw over 80 million pageviews and usage of subscribed eBooks and e-Databases. Specifically, usage of e-Databases increased by 121% as compared to 2019.
“The National Library Board strives to champion reading, promote lifelong learning, and grow an inclusive digital society. We introduced many digital offerings to facilitate learning, reading, and upskilling to better serve our patrons amidst the disruptions brought by the pandemic. We will continue to work closely with communities, individuals, and partners to ensure that our libraries and archives stay relevant and meet the needs of our patrons,” said NLB’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ng Cher Pong.
To build on the success of our digitalisation efforts in 2021, we will continue to work closely with our stakeholders to deliver pilots and innovative solutions that promote reading, lifelong learning, and digital readiness. For instance, we launched our revamped mobile app on 23 February 2021 to provide patrons with a smoother user experience and personalised reading recommendations. With a library in one’s pocket, the mobile app boasts over 900,000 eBooks and audiobooks, as well as more than 7,000 eNewspapers and eMagazines from over 100 countries – all for free and easily accessible with a few clicks.
To be inclusive in its digitalisation journey, NLB also introduced the Library Learning Journey on 26 February 2021, to educate seniors on new ways of using the library’s digital services. NLB also conducts online sessions to help seniors learn about topics like data analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cryptocurrency.
Physical touchpoints were not neglected during the difficult pandemic year. We rolled out first-of-its-kind initiatives in response to changing consumer behaviour due to the pandemic. We piloted The Little Book Box in October 2020, a children’s book subscription service that brought reading and learning to the young ones in the comfort of their own homes. All 1,000 slots from November 2020 to January 2021 were fully taken up in five days, including 200 subscriptions sponsored by The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund for children from lower-income families.
With the Choa Chu Kang Public Library undergoing a revamp, we also introduced a first Book Dispenser at Choa Chu Kang for its residents to conveniently browse and borrow a selection of curated books, eBooks, and materials. The dispenser has facilitated 14,600 loans and renewals from July 2020 to January 2021.
NLB’s Year-in-Review 2020 infographic can be downloaded at Facts and Figures.
About National Library Board
The National Library Board (NLB) nurtures Readers for Life, Learning Communities and a Knowledgeable Nation by promoting reading, learning and history through its network of 27 public libraries, the National Library and the National Archives of Singapore. NLB also forges strategic partnerships that encourage awareness, appreciation and greater discovery of Singapore’s history through its rich collections on Singapore and the region.
NLB achieves excellence through innovation, focusing on citizen engagement and co-creation, resource and digital innovation. This creates learning opportunities, greater access to library resources, services and archival collections, as well as a continual development of innovative library spaces. Established on 1 September 1995 as a statutory board, NLB is under the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).
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