Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information at the Opening of library@harbourfront on 12 January 2019

Mrs Elaine Ng,

Chief Executive Officer of the National Library Board (NLB),

Friends and Patrons of the Library,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A very good morning. First of all, I would like to wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous year in 2019 – all the best to everyone. And let us give the students from Gan Eng Seng Primary another big round of applause. Well done!

Transformation of our Libraries

2. Today is a special day, as we are here for the opening of the newest of our libraries, library@harbourfront. This library is the latest of our next-generation libraries - where libraries are changing to meet the changing needs, changing demographics and changing patterns of behaviour amongst our population in Singapore. We need these transformations to ensure that our libraries are keeping pace, and that they are meeting the evolving needs of our community.

Not just a repository of books

3. The first part of that change is about the role of our libraries. It is no longer just a place where you come to read or to borrow books. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but we want to broaden and expand the scope of the role that libraries can play. That is why we are evolving this and many of our other libraries into a place of learning and a place of sharing – where students, parents, community members can come and participate in various learning programmes, to broaden their horizons, acquire new skills as well as to share their experiences with one another.

4. This library, over the next year, is expected to have more than 500 programmes, which will help participants acquire new types of skills, including skills for the digital economy, and more fun types of skills as well – recreational, knowledge acquisition and skills development – all of these are important.

Digital Channels

5. The second aspect of the change that we are seeing in our libraries is about the channels we are using to reach out to the community. The channels have to take into account the fact that we are an increasingly digitalised society. More and more, we are obtaining our information through mobile phones, tablets and other devices. Our libraries have also evolved such that at the national, and at the local level, we are able to reach out to more people.

6. One of the key elements is the exploitation of digital channels. An excellent example of that is the NLB Mobile App – a mobile app which I have downloaded and used actively – it is a marvellous way of having a seamless experience. Here in this library, you can borrow books physically, and you can also see what is available in the digital collection; and have that seamless experience from the digital to the physical, and back. You can do all that, while enjoying the views of Sentosa island.

The Library’s place in our communities

7. Thirdly, I wanted to say about our libraries, is where we are locating them. We want to bring our libraries closer to the people, physically, not just in terms of the activities alone but also in terms of where they are sited.

8. Whether it is in a shopping centre like the library here in VivoCity, whether it is integrated with community facilities or community centres, or other locations – the idea is to bring our libraries closer to our people, so it is easier to spread the joy of reading, and enjoy learning together. library@harbourfront is a very good example, in terms of how we are able to bring our facilities closer to residents.

Libraries are about our people

9. The last point I want to make is that after all these changes, whether it is about digital channels or about locating libraries closer; changing the facilities and adapting them for new needs and purposes; libraries at the end of the day, are about the people.

10. It is not about having a space with just books or lounges and so on. It is about students, children, parents, grandparents, coming together to enjoy the facilities, and having a shared experience in reading and learning.

11. We want to encourage more of that. The programmes that NLB runs are an important part of that exercise, so are the volunteers – I know that in this library, the Adults’ and Teens’ sections are completely volunteer run – that is a good example, and we have also had this good experience in other libraries as well.

12. We want more members of the community to come forward, participate in the programmes, and also contribute as volunteers and become actively involved. The library is a community asset. It is our national asset – take ownership for it, get involved with it, be engaged and be energised by it.

13. Thank you very much. I wish you all the very best.