Remarks by Mr Lee Seow Hiang, Chairman, National Library Board, at the Volunteers’ Appreciation Evening 2023 on 8 November 2023, 7.00pm, at Gardens by the Bay (Flower Field Hall)

1.                Good evening, everyone.

2.                 I am delighted to see so many familiar faces and also welcome our new partners and volunteers to the NLB community at today’s Volunteers’ Appreciation Evening. I am glad we have the chance to come together again, to have an evening to enjoy one another’s company over dinner, and watch an exciting concert later.  

3.                 Tonight, we celebrate our volunteers, and your invaluable contributions to NLB. Many people speak well of our libraries and archives, and we could not have achieved that without your partnership, commitment and energy. Such partnership is integral to NLB’s LAB25 (Library and Archives Blueprint 2025), launched in 2021, to reimagine the future of libraries and archives. Let me elaborate a little on how you have made a difference in shaping our libraries and archives:

a.                 In LAB25, NLB wants to build a Learning Marketplace. Through it, NLB aims to transform into a national platform for lifelong learning. Many of you have been helping to grow this Learning Marketplace well, by sharing your skills, talents and passions in various areas. Many of you volunteered every week at our libraries helping users to discover books and other library services.  And increasingly, more have volunteered with programmes.  For example, some are visual designers and urban farmers who have generously shared their knowledge through our free programmes for the community. Another group of facilitators has tirelessly run our LearnX Communities on themes such as sustainability, digital, science and the arts. 

b.                 We also want to nurture a nation of Informed Citizenry through LAB25. Among you, we have many volunteers who help NLB patrons understand the importance of Source, Understanding, Research, and Evaluate, or S.U.R.E.. This framework enables patrons to improve on their information literacy, to separate facts from fake news. 

c.                 In our third LAB25 role, we have passionate Singapore Storytellers who inspire others to discover more about our shared identity and heritage. There are bilingual talents among you who have helped to annotate and organise donated materials related to one of our pioneer artists. Volunteer guides at the Punggol Stories exhibition at the Punggol Regional Library have also help us tell Singapore stories and memories to all. 

d.                 And with the LAB25 Equaliser role, many KidsREAD volunteers have spread their love of reading to less privileged children. As we build a more inclusive society in this digital age, our volunteers have also helped seniors to pick up digital and knowledge, such as at the Tech Bazaar at our libraries. 

4.                So, thank you to each of you, who have made such impactful contributions, and made the experience great for many NLB patrons, which our libraries, as buildings alone, cannot do. I am further encouraged by how many within our volunteer community, have shared about the work you do with others, and inspired more to be part of the NLB family! At last year’s Volunteers’ Appreciation Evening at Changi Jewel, I announced NLB’s goal to triple our pool of active volunteers to 6,500 by 2026. I am very happy to share that we are making steady progress. We had more than 4,200 volunteers in 2022 across our Public Libraries, the National Library, and the National Archives of Singapore. The NLB management and I wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you. Your dedication to working hand-in-hand with us to build a vibrant reading and learning culture across all ages is truly inspiring. 

5.                This year, I am especially proud to announce that we have three NLB volunteers who have received the Special Recognition Award from the Ministry of Communications and Information. This award recognises volunteers for their substantial contributions, high quality of service and consistent level of commitment over a period of at least five years and more. Our three award-winning recipients are Mdm Shamimah Mujtaba, Mr Pok Cheng San, and Ms Norhayati Mahat. 

a.                 Mdm Shamimah Mujtaba initiated and currently leads not just one, but three LearnX Communities: the Singapore Literature Book Club, the Ukelele Jamming Group, and the Let's Dance LearnX Community. 

b.                 Mr Pok Cheng San is our pioneer tour guide and our only Chinese-speaking guide for the Former Ford Factory (FFF) exhibition “Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacy”. 

c.                 Ms Norhayati Mahat is our kidsREAD club coordinator who manages two junior kidsREAD clubs and has dedicated over 552 volunteering hours in the past five years alone. These are just some of the ways volunteers like you have helped the communities we serve to flourish, so please give yourselves a big round of applause!

6.                As we look to the future, we have some exciting initiatives in store at NLB. 

a.                 Recently, we launched the new online crowdsourcing Singapore Memories platform where anyone can contribute images, documents, and even audio clips about Singapore. This will help us to enrich our collections of documentary and published heritage, and preserve these memories for future generations. 

b.                 For the comics lovers among you, there is a new, colourful Grab-n-Go Comics Library at Anchorpoint with books in English, Chinese Malay and Tamil. We also launched a unique Garfield and Mr Kiasu Node at The Centrepoint shopping mall, where patrons can check out physical and digital comics. 

c.                 Come January 2024, the Central Public Library will reopen at the National Library Building with many new spaces and exciting features. You can look forward to new volunteering opportunities such as being library guides to help patrons discover and make use of the new services at the Central Public Library. NLB will be holding a series of briefing sessions in December and January, so do look out for details for that. Do continue to encourage your peers and family members to join the NLB volunteer community, and also explore the many opportunities to be a part of NLB’s mission.  

7.                This evening is a celebration of you, our esteemed NLB volunteers, and your efforts, passion and dedication. We look forward to your continued support and welcome more volunteers and partners to join us as we forge ahead. I thank you again for your smiles, your time, and your conviction in NLB’s mission. Have a wonderful evening ahead.