It has been a fulfilling year for NLB. We continue to enjoy the goodwill and trust of our customers and partners.
Our latest customer satisfaction survey conducted in September 2014 saw an increase in satisfaction level from 4.38 to 4.39, out of a maximum score of 4.50. Ninety percent of respondents said that they are satisfied and happy with NLB’s services. We are glad with this encouraging result in 2014, which is a testament to our commitment to service excellence at all levels, and spurs us on in our drive to better serve the public.
Our public libraries took a leap forward with the opening of our first two Next Generation public libraries with their modern designs, innovative digital services and customised learning areas. This is part of NLB’s “Libraries for Life”, a 10-year strategic development plan to develop Readers for Life, Learning Communities, and a Knowledgeable Nation.
The National Library continued growing its collection with the acquisition of World War II diaries and pre-war newspapers. Southeast Asian maps were added to its collection and proudly showcased through a publication titled Visualising Space, and an exhibition named “Geo|Graphic: Celebrating Maps and Their Stories”. The Singapore Memory Project successfully funded 72 projects through its irememberSG fund, which captured personalised memories through various mediums and platforms.
The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) reached out to members of the public through its Citizen Archivist Project, engaging them to transcribe old handwritten records and caption archival photos online. NAS now has a total of over 1.11 million items in its Archives Online and Oral History portals.
These efforts were underpinned by the introduction of a powerful search engine which enables users to search across all our physical and digital resources. Our libraries and archives are custodians of rich information and content, and we are continually innovating ways to connect our users with our resources.
Spaces of Discovery
Last year, we launched several new spaces to encourage people of all walks of life to continue learning and discovering. The much-anticipated library@orchard was re-opened after seven years. Built around the theme, Design is for Everyone, it carries the largest public library collection on design and applied arts. We worked with students and lecturers from Singapore Polytechnic on design prototypes, and sought public feedback on its design, collection and services—a first for a public library.
We re-opened Sembawang Public Library with a new look based on a nautical theme, paying homage to Sembawang’s maritime history. It is the second public library in Singapore, after Jurong Regional Library, to feature a designated early literacy collection.
Young ones benefited from the expansion of our mobile library services. Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple generously donated two vehicles to our fleet. Each year, these ‘mini-MOLLYs’ bring books and library programmes to 48,000 children from 160 preschools.
Spaces catering to working adults were created. In partnership with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), we launched the LLiBrary which carries Continuing Education and Training (CET) materials and resources that focus on career development and the upgrading of skills.
We worked with the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) to introduce Smart Work Centres at Jurong Regional Library, Geylang East Public Library and Toa Payoh Public Library. Individuals using the Centres can enjoy easy access to the libraries’ collection of books, information resources, audio-visual materials and programmes, including those organised by the Centres, to enhance their working and learning experience.
The community had a hand in setting up spaces for learning, too. Through the Read@Community scheme, community groups tapped on our expertise to set up 150 reading corners, close to the people they serve.
Discovering through Technology
Our users’ needs and habits are evolving. The growing popularity of mobile technology around the world has changed the way people live, work and play. We take these needs and trends into account when developing new services, and ways of delivering our content to users.
We introduced the NLB Mobile app, which allows users to borrow books by scanning bar codes with their smartphones. The app can also be used to search the library catalogue, find activities at the nearest library, borrow items for one’s family members, and reserve and renew items.
For the convenience of users who are unable to be at our libraries during opening hours, we have also introduced self-service reservation lockers at library@orchard and Sembawang Public Library, where users can pick up their reserved titles beyond operating hours. We will be rolling out this service to other libraries.
With the introduction of e-reading stations for browsing newspapers and accessing other digital resources, and our new Quick Reads service where users can easily browse our ebook catalogues, get recommendations and borrow ebooks just by scanning a QR code with their smartphones, library patrons can enjoy library services in many more ways.
The new OneSearch is a unified search engine for the National Library, Public Libraries and NAS’ collections. It includes books, magazines and audio-visual materials from our library catalogue, as well as e-resources such as digitised newspapers, local music, literary works, manuscripts, speeches and biographies.
Our reading programmes continue to bring people together. Two of our most popular programmes have achieved milestones, with both READ! Singapore and kidsREAD celebrating their 10th anniversaries. Since its inception, kidsREAD has reached out to more than 29,000 children. From this year onwards, we have extended kidsREAD to children from families with a gross household income of up to S$6,000 a month, up from the previous S$3,500, allowing more children to take part.
We have also reached out to the very young through our Early Literacy Library, and to seniors through the “Time of Your Life – Learning Journeys for the 50plus” festival organised with the Council for Third Age. A Mother Tongue Language Festival has also been organised for library patrons of different ethnic backgrounds to celebrate reading together.
We introduced the Reading Innovation Award for preschools that have specially developed creative reading programmes to inspire and foster a passion for reading among young children. The awards are based on the preschool centres’ creativity and innovativeness; engagement with parents and the community; and their programmes’ effectiveness and impact.
On the information literacy front, the S.U.R.E. (Source, Understand, Research and Evaluate) campaign entered its second year. We worked with the Ministry of Education to integrate information literacy content into the secondary school syllabuses. Since January 2013, over 9,000 teachers have been trained in information literacy concepts and skills.
Schools also benefited from the expansion of our Read@School initiative to promote reading among primary and secondary school students. We now have over 300 schools participating in the programme.
NAS’ Archives Online database continued to grow, with over 120,000 photographs, over 1,100 oral history interviews and over 14,000 audio-visual records uploaded in 2014.
Rediscovering our History and Heritage
The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) started as a nation-wide initiative by NLB and is gradually evolving into a community-driven one. Its irememberSG Fund supported 72 projects by organisations and individuals to collect, interpret, and showcase Singapore memories. These projects are in the form of exhibitions, books, films and other products, and will be showcased over the course of Singapore’s golden jubilee.
We are grateful to the British Library, National Archives of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands’ Leiden University and the Utrecht University Library for loaning some of the maps.
Through the Citizen Archivist Project, members of the public are now able enhance the description of archival records and make them more searchable, by transcribing handwritten records and captioning photos.
NAS co-published a reprint of The Battle For Merger, which comprises transcripts of a series of radio talks by Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1961, on the political struggle over merger with the Federation of Malaya.
We grieved with the nation when Mr Lee passed away, and joined in the nationwide effort to commemorate his legacy. NAS provided over 2,000 audio-visual clips and over 1,600 photos to support exhibitions, television programmes, videos and other tribute materials created during the week of national mourning, some of which were screened at the 18 community tribute sites. We set up memory collection booths at all our public libraries. We also curated an exhibition on Mr Lee’s public life and his inspiring and thought-provoking quotes at the National Library Building, as well as showcased a gallery of books by and about Mr Lee at our libraries. We are now in the process of digitally archiving the tributes that were collected from our public libraries and the various community sites.
Towards Future Discoveries
We will continue to transform our users’ experience and interaction with our libraries. Pasir Ris Public Library will re-open with new features by the end of 2015. The new Tampines Regional Library and Bedok Public Library will be our first libraries in integrated hubs. We will also be revamping other public libraries over the next five years, and look forward to the forthcoming Punggol Regional library.
As we continue to redesign our libraries, we will introduce new technologies which will create immersive reading experiences inside physical library spaces. Books and event recommendations will be made more personalised for our users through smart displays and mobile devices. We will also extend our presence in spaces outside the libraries through digital displays at bus stops and MRT stations.
Citizens will be treated to inspirational content from NAS’ rich holdings through a new constitutional gallery, which will display iconic records of Singapore’s nation-building. There are plans to refurbish NAS and Memories at Old Ford Factory in the coming years.
We could not have achieved all of these in FY2014 without the passionate support of our partners, donors, volunteers and international friends. We would also like to thank our board members and staff for their contributions. We will continue serving our customers better and ensure our libraries and archives remain well-loved spaces of learning and discovery.