Opening Remarks by Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, Official Opening of Read! Fest 2018 at National Library Building on 22 June 2018

Mr Gabriel Lim

Permanent Secretary for Communications and Information

Mrs Elaine Ng

Chief Executive Officer, National Library Board

NLB Board Members

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening, everyone. I am very happy to join all of you at the launch of Read! Fest 2018.

An inclusive effort to promote reading

2. Since its inception, it has been the mission of the National Library Board (NLB) to promote reading and learning across all segments of our society. This mission is of both personal and social importance because reading not only allows us to acquire knowledge and new skills, but it also ensures that we as a society are able to broaden our horizons and it allows us people to bond through the joy of reading and the shared experience of reading together.

3. NLB’s efforts to ensure an inclusive reading environment in Singapore includes the digital literacy programmes for seniors and also kidsREAD for young Singaporeans. Over the past 10 years, the NLB’s fleet of mobile libraries, or MOLLYs, has also been bringing library services to residents in the heartlands and to special-needs students, and to ensure that everyone has access to the library’s resources.

4. I think these are important efforts, and two years ago, we launched the National Reading Movement (NRM) to encourage adults and seniors to read more, read widely and read together. Through the NRM, we hope to make library resources more accessible and inclusive — by going digital, by collaborating with volunteers and partners, and by shining the spotlight on the Mother Tongue languages and Singapore Literature. And so far, we have been making good progress.

Furthering our inclusive effort

5. Today, we are Reading More by going digital. As e-reading becomes more popular, NLB has stepped up our digital offerings. NLB has been steadily growing our e-book collection to meet the demand — just last year, NLB saw a record 1.55 million loans for eBooks and audiobooks, which is almost a 70% increase from 2016; and gives us a measure of how popular this modality is. We currently have over 450,000 titles in our eBook collection. A quarter of these are in Mother Tongue languages, and we will continue to expand the collection.

6. To cater to the needs of working adults, we launched the Digital Business Library in October last year, which offers a curated collection of over 25,000 eBook and audiobook titles.

7. Apart from more choice for readers, we are also making library materials more accessible by adapting them to the changing reading habits and for the needs of the mobile platform. For example, many young adults read while using public transport and tend to prefer eBooks. To make reading easier on-the-go, the NLB Mobile app now brings the library’s e-collection directly to our smartphones. I just had an experience with that earlier in the week and I found it a liberating experience.

8. We are also Reading Together. At work and in our communities. Read@Work partners like Mediacorp are bringing workshops such as Corporate Storytelling to the office, and NLB continues to work with organisations to provide curated, relevant content to the staff. Last year, 528 partners supported the National Reading Movement, a 38% increase from 2016. We are heartened by this dedication and support, and we hope to further galvanise the community, and bring everyone together through volunteering and reading.

9. Last but not least, we are Reading Widely in our Mother Tongue languages. Literature in our Mother Tongue languages is an important window for us to learn more about ourselves and our heritage. Over the past three years, we have tripled the number of Mother Tongue language programmes to 1,200, broadening the range to meet the needs of our diverse readers. As a result, we have seen an over threefold increase in participants, from 18,000 to nearly 60,000 in these programmes.

10. Many Mother Tongue language works are also available in both the original language and in English translations, as part of the library’s physical and e-collections. These translated works form a rich resource for us to better appreciate each other’s culture and also to foster mutual understanding.

Promoting our Mother Tongue languages

11. To keep up this momentum, this year, almost half the Read! Fest programmes are focused on the Mother Tongue languages, the largest number to date.

12. For example, Vaasagar Vattam (Readers Circle) will be holding a special book club discussion session with Tamil author Shanavas. Ms Anuradha Sureshkumar, a member of Vaasagar Vattam, said that Tamil literary platforms such as her reading club introduces her to various genres of books, and allows her to bond with others through the shared reading experience.

Supporting Singaporean authors

13. We also have the highest number of Singapore Literature or SingLit authors participating this year, with numerous programmes that highlight our Singapore heritage through their stories and lived experiences.

14. Mr Jamal Ismail will be holding a discussion session on his book, ‘Songsang’ (Inverse). As one of the founders of the former Writers’ Corner at Toa Payoh Public Library, Mr Jamal cited reading clubs as having played an important role in refining his writing skills.

Promoting lifelong learning

15. Furthermore, in line with NLB’s commitment to promote lifelong learning, this year’s Read!Fest will also feature more non-fiction programmes for participants to learn about topics such as innovation, wellness, mindfulness, mental tenacity and broadening perspectives.

16. Asher Ong, for instance, will be sharing more about his family’s travels across the United States and how they managed to do so on a shoestring budget. I am sure that that was a very soulful experience. You can learn more about their challenges and gain refreshingly new perspectives in the Ong family’s book, “6 Kids And A Pop-Up Camper.”


17. I think we would all like to hear more from Asher, but before he comes on stage, I want to make sure that I acknowledge and express our deepest appreciation to all of NLB’s volunteers and partners for your support. Without you, Read! Fest, and indeed many of NLB’s very good work, would not be possible, so we thank you for your support. I would like to conclude, by saying that I think I speak for all when I say that we are eagerly looking forward to this year’s programmes and events.