Libraries are not just information hubs, but also places for the community to bond through various programmes (Libraries becoming critical common spaces: Iswaran, Jan 13).
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran noted that while many public libraries overseas have closed down or shrunk, those in Singapore have seen their use and popularity continue to grow, and he attributed this to the close engagement and partnership between Singapore's libraries and the community.
Moving forward, I think more can be done to maintain this continuing growth. Libraries could be made more inclusive in five areas:
- Architecture - Include accessible routes and use tactile flooring from outside the library entrance to the interior until the farthest corners of the library. Have wider gates or dedicated pathways for wheelchair users.
- Services - Cater learning and information tools and activities to everyone, particularly for those with disabilities, whether physical, intellectual or sensory.
- Activities should be interpreted in sign language; have book clubs for people with intellectual disabilities, as well as audio and Braille information leaflets.
- Library collections should be adapted for different reading needs - such as into sign language, Braille, audio books and films with audio descriptions.
- Staff should be given adequate training to provide proper service, collections and programmes for all.
Library users also have a part to play. They should be responsible and have good reading and borrowing habits. They need to take good care of books, take along their own bag to carry books home and return books on time.
This way, our libraries will truly be a second home for all.
Kok Mei Hui