It was also a significant year for the National Library Board (NLB) as we celebrated our 20th Anniversary as a statutory board dedicated to the promotion of reading, learning and history through our network of 26 Public Libraries, the National Library and the National Archives of Singapore.
We have accomplished much over the years, and we continue to engage the community to provide more and better programmes and services to promote reading and learning, and to further develop innovative library spaces.
ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY
NLB's vision is to create "Readers for Life, Learning Communities, and a Knowledgeable Nation". This is an aspirational vision that can only come about through constantly engaging the community to create learning opportunities and inspiring spaces, as well as providing avenues for the community to co-create with us.
To do this, we work with people and volunteers who have a passion for co-creating social spaces. The redesigned Pasir Ris Public Library is a result of a co-creation exercise with teens and parents who shared their ideas for inspiring spaces. Through this collaboration, we were able to create the Teens' mezzanine space – which is home to the Inspiring Readers Society – our first group of teen volunteers who co-own a library space with us.
Our first volunteer-run library, library@chinatown, celebrated its third anniversary in March this year. We are heartened that the library has been able to attract 80 volunteers, double from 40 when we first started. Through their efforts, we have been able to bring library services and spread the joy of reading to the community.
A second aspect of community engagement is working with those who care passionately about promoting a reading culture and helping others to access library services. NLB worked closely with Northeast CDC (NECDC) to set up a community-run container library in Sengkang during the closure of Sengkang Public Library for renovations.
Our collaboration with the Senior Activity Centres managed by Thye Hwa Kwan, NTUC, Alexandra Health Centre and Asian Women's Welfare Association (AWWA), has seen more reading corners being set up. We aim to double our outreach efforts to Senior Activity Centres by 2020. Through reading, we hope our seniors will be able to keep their minds healthy and alert as they stay abreast of current affairs and learn new skills.
Beyond the community, we collaborated with media partners such as Lianhe Zaobao and Lianhe Wanbao to bring their programme, Accompanying You In Reading Newspapers to our libraries. We are also partnering with The Straits Times to present talks on various topics by well-known journalists in our libraries.
In making our history discoverable, we attracted 260 community volunteers through the Citizen Archivist Project, our crowdsourcing initiative that was launched in March 2015. To date, we have provided descriptions of over 1,700 unidentified photographs and transcribed more than 10,000 pages of historical materials such as handwritten Straits Settlements Records. We look forward to expanding the scope of the project to include oral history recordings.
Volunteers have always been invaluable members of the NLB family. Today, we have a total of 5,000 active volunteers who have contributed over 100,000 hours to our various programmes and initiatives. In the next five years, we aim to work closely with our community partners and grow the number of active volunteers to 7,000, who would contribute 150,000 volunteering hours in total.
We have continued to provide many successful reading programmes for the community. Read! Fest 2015, our annual signature programme focused on Singapore literature and paid tribute to the contributions of our young volunteers – the Junior and Teen Reading Ambassadors. We also promoted 82 poems in the four official languages by Singapore poets in an exhibition titled Poetry on Platforms at the City Hall MRT Station.
In line with our strategic priorities to promote reading in mother tongue languages, we have introduced 11 Mother Tongue Language Clubs to date. In 2015, our libraries also ran 12,000 programmes, which reached out to some 1.8 million participants.
MAKING HISTORY ACCESSIBLE
Our rich collections are critical to preserving the nation's history and heritage. We have been building our collections at the National Library (NL) and the National Archives of Singapore (NAS), and placing greater emphasis on a digital strategy in order to make our library and archival materials more accessible.
Over the last two years, we have made available over 530,000 materials on our online e-resources platforms, such as HistorySG, NewspaperSG, PublicationSG and BookSG. These materials were previously only accessible on-site at our libraries. Besides providing public access to a digitised catalogue of some 1 million published materials in Singapore from the early 1900s to the present through PublicationSG, we also successfully digitised more than 56,700 pages of Tamil literary works under the Tamil Digital Heritage Project in August 2015. This collection of 350 works produced by the Tamil literary community in Singapore over a period of 50 years is now available on BookSG.
In January 2016, we signed a five-year agreement with the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) to provide meaningful employment for the autistic community in Singapore as well as build our digitised collections. Special-needs individuals are being trained to provide scanning and data entry services to digitise library materials.
We have also made remarkable progress in opening up access to our historical content. Following the digitisation of over 84,000 records in 2015, NAS has to date uploaded some 1.2 million records online. These include oral histories, audio visual recordings, photographs, maps and government papers presented to Parliament. Recent additions include audio-visual clips of National Day Rally speeches and National Day Messages from 1966 to 2015 in English, Malay, Chinese, and even Hokkien, as well as the Berita Singapura collection – a series of news magazine films documenting Singapore's history in the 1960s. All of these have seen a significant increase in the number of visitors to NAS' Archives Online, from 20,000 hits per month in 2012 to over 400,000 per month in 2016.
These digital efforts have also contributed to an increase in the digital visitorship of our library materials, from 26.7 million in 2008 to 68.8 million in 2015. We are now in the midst of re-launching our enhanced NLB mobile app to provide greater access to our resources.
One major initiative will be the re-opening of Memories at Old Ford Factory (MOFF) in February 2017. The exhibition will showcase archival records that incorporate creative multi-sensory elements to enhance the visitor's experience of Singapore's World War II history and provide a better understanding of life during the Japanese Occupation.
Another initiative is the exhibition titled Law of the Land: Highlights of Singapore's Constitutional Documents, scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2016. NLB has partnered the National Gallery Singapore to present a multi-sensory exhibition of archival records at the former Chief Justice's Chamber in the Gallery's building.
NOTE OF APPRECIATION
As we continue to make these goals a priority, we are also thankful to have scaled new heights by achieving a Customer Satisfaction Index of 4.46 in 2015, from 4.39 in 2014. Our achievement in service co-creation also won us the prestigious Service Medallion Award 2015 (Organisation Commendation Award). Another accolade was the prestigious President's Design Award conferred on library@orchard for its outstanding interior design. library@orchard also received the American Library Association's (ALA) Presidential Citation Award.
We have been successful only because of the hard work and contributions of our NLB family – our board members, staff, donors, volunteers, partners, our patrons and international friends.
We would like to thank our former Chairman, Ms Yeoh Chee Yan and past board members, Ms Goh Ann Nee, Mr Dhirendra Shantilal, Mr Timothy Teo, Mr Kwa Chong Guan, Mrs Chua-Lim Yen Ching and Ms Rahayu Bte Mahzam for their invaluable guidance and contributions to NLB during their term of office.
As we engage everyone to "Read More, Read Widely and Read Together" and build a nation of readers through the National Reading Movement, a five-year initiative launched in June 2016, we look forward to co-creating projects and initiatives with the community and expanding our network of partners.
We are counting on your continued support as we roll out our ambitious plans in the months ahead.
MR CHAN HENG KEE
MRS ELAINE NG
Chief Executive Officer