Brief Remarks by Ms Catherine Lau, Assistant Chief Executive, Public Library Services of the National Library Board, at the Readers' Choice Awards Presentation Ceremony 2019 on 7 December

1. Good morning everyone.

2. I am delighted to be here again at this important annual event. Before I begin, I would like to ask everyone how much have you been reading? Since we are gathered here at a literary awards event, I believe we all love to read.

3. The National Library Board promotes reading and learning to nurture a knowledgeable nation. In this era of endless digital entertainment and social media, it is encouraging to note that reading is still a common activity amongst Singaporeans. The findings from our National Reading Habits Study show that 95% of Singapore residents read at least once in the past 12 months, and 88% read more than once a week. Reading materials include news, online articles, as well as books and magazines in physical, audio or digital formats. Singaporeans are reading – and this goes beyond physical books.

4. There is clearly a gradual shift of format. Our e-book loans, in fact, hit more three million last year. This is about two times more than 2017, and e-book loans constitute about 9% of total loans. Therefore, developing our e-collections is a vital and natural response to consumer habits. In that regard, we are also similar to how POPULAR has progressed alongside developments in technology and people's reading habits. IT gadgets, devices, and smart phones are a familiar sight in POPULAR retail stores today.

5. Through our National Reading Habits Study, we also wanted to know what people were reading. News remains the top of the list with 77% engaging with it more than once a week. Top non-fiction topics include self-help, Singapore, and politics and current affairs. The books nominated for the English Adult category for this year’s POPULAR Readers’ Choice Awards mirror Singaporeans’ non-fiction preferences. Asking Why by Ho Kwon Ping and Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story by Peh Shing Huei are also highly popular amongst library-goers.

6. It is heartening to see an increasing number of local writers and Singapore literature books published over the years. They are suitable not just for adults, but also for children. Today, it is common to find SingLit titles for children, and even entire book series. How lucky that children these days can read a book, one after another, following the adventures of the same characters as they do with series like Sherlock Sam by AJ Low and Secrets of Singapore by Lesley-Anne and Monica Lim. These nominations of the English Children category are well-deserved, and will continue to promote Singaporean writers and the future of SingLit.

7. At the beginning of my speech, I had asked whether Singaporeans were reading. I am heartened to say that yes, indeed we are. However, what is important is for us to move in tandem with the habit and preference of readers. I believe that in Singapore, reading is a part of our lives, regardless the medium. I hope that together, we can share insights to continue to promote reading among Singaporeans. Thank you.