Singapore, 20 October 2021 – The National Library Board (NLB) today announced LAB25 (Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025), a five-year journey in its next phase of transformation.
Learning, discovery and, particularly, reading – long seen as the mainstays of NLB – have been transformed by the forces of social media and digitalisation, seismic societal shifts and the enduring effects of the ongoing pandemic. Throughout these, NLB has continued to capitalise on emerging opportunities, to innovate and keep its place in the hearts and minds of people in Singapore – reaching around 7 in 10 residents annually.
At its heart, LAB25 is an invitation for partners and the community to continue collaborating with NLB in this journey of innovation and experimentation to reimagine libraries and archives. Our goal is to evolve to be even stronger companions to our patrons as we navigate a changing social, cultural and economic context.
Over the last 18 months, we have engaged our patrons, volunteers and staff to help map out LAB25. The online and in-person engagements reached a diverse range of people from young adults, seniors, persons with disabilities to businesses.
We have identified four roles that can help those we serve to meet this moment in time: building a Learning Marketplace, nurturing an Informed Citizenry, inspiring Singapore Storytellers, and being an Equaliser. Behind each of these roles is a question and aspiration that will guide us and our partners as we work with the community in iterative cycles of co-creation to ensure our next generation of libraries and archives continue to be an indispensable part of Singaporean lives and communities.
“The pandemic has shown us that there is not much that can be predicted with absolute certainty. In this changed world and the world that we will transit into, we have to be prepared to adapt and ride on possibilities that present themselves,” said NLB’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Ng Cher Pong. "LAB25 is NLB’s response in this spirit and sets out how we will be with you as together, we refocus libraries and archives to empower you to learn and discover continuously to be ready for the future."
1. Learning Marketplace
Question: Do we just continue to grow NLB’s user and usage base or can LAB25 leverage that base and open it up for an even greater public and national good?
NLB has a formidable base of users and usage with more than 4 million members who account for 80 million digital accesses, and 20 million visitors coming through our doors each year.
The aspiration behind “Learning Marketplace” is to multiply and expand this base into a major national platform by opening its doors to partners interested in advancing lifelong learning and discovery. These partners can benefit from this expanded platform and play their part in expanding it further in a virtuous cycle of agglomeration by bringing in their content and audiences. Patrons will be able to enjoy a far greater and more diverse outlay of content and services in their lifelong learning journey.
To realise the "Learning Marketplace", NLB will focus on three areas. First, transforming our platforms. NLB currently operates a network of 27 public libraries, the National Library and the National Archives of Singapore, as well as offers digital services through its website and the NLB Mobile app. Over the next 5 years, NLB will fully integrate its physical and digital offerings into a network of immersive hubs and nodes. The present NLB Mobile app could be further expanded into a digital "Learning Superstore" to provide seamless omni-channel user experiences. It will connect users to all of NLB’s and our partners’ content and services, offering enhanced access to online resources, and provide a "learning GPS" to guide their journey. NLB will transform physical libraries to provide experiential learning, and nodes to reach out to new patrons. Second, providing multiple learning pathways such as personalised recommendations for each patron with the use of data and machine learning to string resources to help lifelong learners continually build on their learning. Lastly, supporting learning communities led by volunteers (known as LearnX Communities), by connecting patrons with similar learning interests and leveraging the timeless power of libraries as effective social spaces for people to come together.
2. Informed Citizenry
Question: In this age of distraction and polarisation, can LAB25 seed the habit of T-shaped discovery – so that one may read and learn deeply and widely to appreciate a range of perspectives?
The aspiration of informed citizenry is to nurture thoughtful people who reflect deeply on what they come across every day. Powered by two of NLB’s movements – the National Reading Movement (#1) and S.U.R.E. (#2) – and their extensive networks of partners, NLB will be a key platform through which the public can access thought leaders and content creators, a wide range of resources and perspectives, as well as the skills to be discerning. Through this platform, everyone will be encouraged to learn deeply and widely, and steer clear of rabbit holes and echo chambers.
#1 The National Reading Movement was started in 2016 to encourage the community to “Read More, Read Widely, and Read Together”.
#2 The National Information Literacy or S.U.R.E. programme was started in 2013 to promote information searching and discernment in today's fast-paced and complex information environments. The SURE (Source, Understand, Research, Evaluate) principle is designed to show the steps to seek, evaluate and use information effectively in a digital world; it empowers a person to think critically and develop informed views from reliable sources. Find out more here: https://sure.nlb.gov.sg
3. Singapore Storytellers
Question: Can LAB25 unleash the proliferation of diverse Singapore stories that will document and pass on the Singapore experience?
Through “Singapore Storytellers”, LAB25 hopes to nurture a stronger appreciation and understanding of the Singapore experience in four parts – gathering content about Singapore as a collector, leading digital preservation of this content as a keeper, enabling discovery and use of this by others as a connector, and inspiring generations of storytellers. With these, NLB will make Singapore content accessible and relevant, and weave it into other areas of learning.
We envision this role to be a shared partnership with the community, eliciting wonder and shaping understanding of Singapore's heritage and identity in the process.
4. The Equaliser
Question: Going beyond promoting reading, can LAB25 be a powerful force for good to equalize and elevate as gaps open up and those with less are in danger of staying on the wrong side of emerging divides?
NLB is working with and seeking partners to be an Equaliser by bridging gaps, including more and empowering all in this digital age.
Equalising and Including More. We will expand our work in reaching out to children from lower income segments to bring the joy of reading and learning to them, as well as equipping seniors with skills to prepare them for life in a digital society. NLB will also work with a network of partners on digital inclusion, readiness and wellness across different segments, through showcasing emerging technologies, expanding partnerships, programmes and resources, and equalising access. Punggol Regional Library, which will open in 2022, will be the first fully-inclusive library, pioneering integrated services for persons with disabilities(#3) which will be progressively rolled out in libraries in other regions.
Empowering and Elevating All. With the help of industry players, NLB will be a platform for everyone to experience and understand technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud tech and virtual reality. Even those who are comfortable with technology will be able to elevate their appreciation and knowledge, and find new opportunities for learning and advancement.
#3 Persons with disabilities include those with deafness, visual impairment, physical disabilities, autism and intellectual disabilities.
Upcoming key initiatives that will illustrate each LAB25 role include:
(a) A network of hubs and nodes to build a Learning Marketplace
NLB will be transformed into a vibrant network of hubs and nodes. By integrating both our physical and digital offerings to create a seamless and omni-channel Learning Marketplace and ecosystem over the next 5 years, NLB will reach our community where they are.
Nodes in surprising spaces such as shopping malls, supermarkets and parks will act as new entry points into our wide array of content, providing even more access points for discovery and learning. From 21 October 2021, the public can look for the first rollout of nodes in the form of immersive wallpapers and lift decals featuring NLB’s eResources in malls such as Bedok Mall, IMM, Junction 8, Parkway Parade and PLQ Mall. This will be followed by the launch of life-sized installations, interactive digital doors and gachapon machines on 28 October at Jem, Plaza Singapura and Waterway Point. Our network of physical libraries and archives will continue to serve as Hubs to provide a comprehensive range of offerings.
In 2022, we will experiment with a pilot of a digital "Learning Superstore", a recommendation-driven platform that will unlock many new resources and experiences, and encourage users to deepen and broaden their interest areas through self-discovery.
To augment an individual’s quest for knowledge, NLB will also grow and provide support for communities of learners on their journey of discovery by curating programmes and resources from its collections with partners. To start, there will be eight learning focus areas (LFAs) for programming and content curation, namely Arts, Career and Personal Development, Digital, Health, Reading, Science, Singapore, and Sustainability. NLB has partnered Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) to co-develop these LFAs, which set out clear learning outcomes based on robust research.
In addition, NYP will launch more than 40 free taster programmes in the public libraries over the next 24 months, starting from November 2021. These programmes are drawn from the LFAs and complement NLB’s suite of content and programmes. After trying out the bite-sized taster programmes, individuals who are interested can enrol in more in-depth and mapped courses at NYP. NLB will continue to forge partnerships with other partners to make more learning content available to everyone.
(b) Read to Be Sure content and conversations to nurture an Informed Citizenry
In an age of distraction where the need for constant information filtering is important, NLB will refocus patrons’ attention to help them develop informed views across multiple perspectives. Read to be Sure is a mashup between our two flagship campaigns, the National Reading Movement and S.U.R.E. This new series encourages patrons to engage in thoughtful reading, critical thinking, and well-reasoned and lively discussions on current and emerging issues. Starting from end November 2021, the first Read to be Sure content package, "Is Fast Fashion Bad?", will investigate the Green Economy through a bite-sized video, article and social media engagements. The content package will be accompanied by a debate-style panel discussion with industry experts at library@orchard, which will be livestreamed over Zoom. Moderated conversations between diverse audiences will develop empathy and critical thinking, while resources for further reading invite patrons to explore topics broadly and deeply.
NLB will also strengthen the Singapore reading eco-system through partnerships with local and international networks of authors, publishers, and booksellers, to build the habit of reading. For example, NLB is collaborating with Singapore Book Publishers’ Association (SBPA) to cultivate a culture of reading and writing through NLB's collection and SBPA's programmes and network.
(c) Curiocity, a creative showcase of the history of our cityscape by Singapore Storytellers
Over the years, NLB has scaled up its efforts in collecting, preserving, and providing access to the rich materials in the National Library and the National Archives of Singapore (#4). The launch of the inaugural Curiocity seasonal showcase in January 2022 will enable Singapore collections from NLB and our partners to be made accessible outside of our libraries and archives in new ways. An ode to the places and perspectives that make Singapore home, the Curiocity showcase will feature creative installations, events such as treasure hunts, and digital experiences. Through a mix of always-accessible and seasonal offerings, the public will be inspired to discover, engage with, and create new Singapore works.
(d) Programmes supporting the digitally vulnerable and Singapore’s first fully inclusive library signal NLB’s commitment to our role as an Equaliser
As Singapore moves forward as a Smart Nation, NLB is similarly ramping up efforts to encourage digital readiness and wellness across all age groups through a new suite of curated programmes and resources, starting with our seniors. A new MakeIT Time of Your Life series of workshops will be piloted in December 2021, dedicated to teaching seniors emerging fabrication technologies like 3D printing and digital cutting. These classes can be enjoyed without prior expertise and are specially curated for seniors with familiar points of reference and easy-to understand explanations.
NLB plans to foster collaborations with tech companies such as Amazon Web Services Singapore and industry advocates to enable the community to experience, learn and use emerging technologies through Tech Showcases at the libraries. In the coming years, NLB will work together with our existing and new collaborators to empower different groups of users with the key skills required to thrive in the digital age.
#4 Beyond digitising heritage materials, NLB has been crowdsourcing public contributions to capture the diversity of Singapore experiences, most recently through the Documenting COVID-19 public call and SoundscapeSG.
To increase accessibility for everyone, Singapore’s first fully inclusive library, Punggol Regional Library, will open in 2022. The new library will feature inclusive spaces, technology, programmes, and special collections for persons with disabilities (#5).
Please refer to the Annex for more information on the upcoming LAB25 initiatives, which will be introduced progressively in the following months.
#5 Persons with disabilities include those with deafness, visual impairment, physical disabilities, autism and intellectual disabilities
Details on the Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025
In the next five years and beyond, NLB will focus on these four roles under LAB25:
#1 The National Reading Movement was started in 2016 to get the community to "Read More, Read Widely, and Read Together".
#2 The National Information Literacy or S.U.R.E. programme was started in 2013 to promote information searching and discernment in today’s fast-paced and complex information environments. The SURE (Source, Understand, Research, Evaluate) principle is designed to show the steps to seek, evaluate and use information effectively in a digital world; it empowers a person to think critically and develop informed views from reliable sources. Find out more here: https://sure.nlb.gov.sg
#3 The S.U.R.E. team recently rolled out a virtual learning journey (https://sure.nlb.gov.sg/tours-and-workshops/learn/) and self-directed learning content to support students. For adults and seniors, S.U.R.E. Skills Series, focusing on topics such as deepfakes and cognitive biases, has seen strong support since it was launched in July 2020.