Audiovisual services in community libraries, 1984-1999

Singapore Infopedia

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala


Audiovisual Services were first introduced in December 1982 when the Arts Resource Centre (ARC) was established in the Reference Services Division at the National Library at 91, Stamford Road. The service was made possible by funds provided by the Cultural Foundation. The ARC, occupying an area of about 175 square metres, was officially opened on 10 January 1983.

Before the establishment of the ARC, the National Library had a small collection of audiovisual material since early 1970s. The collection consisted of long playing records, films, filmstrips, slides, talking books, audio cassettes, and video tapes. These audiovisual materials were used during library programmes such as film shows, storytelling sessions and talks to promote reading. In October 1981 the National Library submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Culture to provide Audiovisual Services at Community Libraries. The Treasury approved the Library's proposal in November 1981 and the service was implemented at four community libraries at Queenstown, Toa Payoh, Marine Parade and Bukit Merah in January 1984. An audiovisual room of about 56-75 square metres was provided at these libraries with audiovisual equipment and designed furniture.

The audiovisual service was a reference service. Viewing or listening to audiovisual materials was done on the premises. There was no lending service. The service was free of charge. The titles in the AV Collection were listed in the Nalinet database available in the OPACs. Printed lists of titles by subjects and audiovisual formats were also made available for consultation by users. The AV counter was manned by a Library Technician. Users who wanted to view a video or feature film would submit an application form with details and was then assigned a carrel station. The requested audiovisual material, whether a video cassette or compact disc, was handed along with a pair of headphones for private viewing or listening. The ARC also operated a centralised service for listening to music stored in long playing records. The opening hours of the service were the same as the opening hours of the Reference Library except that it closed half an hour earlier before closing time.

Audiovisual Materials Committee
In April 1983 an Audiovisual Materials Committee, consisting of eight professional staff from the various service and technical division points was formed. The Committee had the responsibility of overseeing standards of provision, selection, acquisition, care and maintenance, and inter-branch library loans of audiovisual materials. It also undertakes user surveys of the service. Another task of the Committee was to consider the feasibility of having in-house production of audio-visual materials. As the AV Service was appreciated by the public, the National Library decided that all future Branch Libraries would provide this service.

Upgrading of Services
In 1992 funds were solicited from the Singapore Totalisator Board and the government to upgrade the audiovisual services. A five year project from 1993-1997, was initiated to buy software and hardware for an improved audiovisual service in the branch libraries and in the Art Resource Centre. It was decided to start a lending service for video cassettes in branch libraries and in February 1997 Queenstown Community Library provided this Service. The Reference AV Service at the Community Libraries was discontinued.

The lending service for video cassettes was a subscription service. The lending service for video cassettes was extended to three more Community Libraries, namely Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Merah, and Jurong East Community Libraries from 6 April 1998. The reference AV services in Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Merah Community Libraries ceased operations after they started the Lending Service. However, Jurong East Community Library continued Reference Audiovisual Service because of its regional status. Marine Parade Community Library started a Lending Service for video cassettes on 25 May 1998. Bukit Merah Community Library started the service on 1 October 1998 and it also lent out CD-ROMs. When Toa Payoh Community Library reopened to the public on 11 May 1999 after renovations, it provided a Lending Service for video cassettes and CD-ROMs. There was no Reference Audiovisual Service.

Multimedia Services
When the National Library became a Statutory Board on 1 September 1995 it established new Community Libraries in shopping malls. Audiovisual Service was integrated into the Multimedia Services at these libraries. Within the Library premises, multimedia stations are provided for users to access Internet, NL Line, Singapore ONE, and online databases. Besides these online services, users can request for CD-ROMs, LDs, VCDs, DVDs and video tapes for viewing. The multimedia stations at National Reference Library, 91 Stamford Road, and the Bukit Batok Community Library also provide printing facilities. Users can print content from Internet and CD-ROMs for a small fee. For access to Internet, CD-ROMs and online databases users pay a fee of S$2.00 per hour. For viewing of audiovisual materials the charge is S$2.00 per item. The multimedia stations will be the standard norm in the provision of media library services to the public in future as well. 

Wong Heng & Thulaja Naidu

Ng, G. L. (1982). Planning for the development of audiovisual services at the National Library of Singapore. Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RCLOS 025.177 NG)

Tan, L. W. (1985). Audiovisual services at the National Library of Singapore: Current situations and recommendations for future developments. Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RCLOS 025.177 TAN)

National Library. (1980-1995). Annual Report. Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RSING 027.55957 RLSAR)

National Library Board. (1997). Annual Report. Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RSING 027.05957 SNLB)

The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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