Keep libraries open 24/7 and on public holidays

In the light of the National Library Board (NLB) wanting to make libraries more accessible, I suggest it consider keeping the libraries open 24 hours and on public holidays as well (New VivoCity library will draw 1.5m visitors: NLB; Nov 2).

Our public libraries open till 9pm daily and are closed on public holidays. It will be a good idea to extend the operating time to encourage reading among Singaporeans. Parents who lack the time to take their children to the library at weekends can do so on public holidays.

As many Singaporeans enjoy bonding with friends late at night over supper and drinks, why not provide an alternative, and beneficial, night activity - reading?

Most working adults work till late in the evening and extending the opening hours to 24 hours will give them a longer window to visit the library. This may also find favour with readers who enjoy a quiet late night read before bedtime.

I understand there will be manpower constraints. Here are some suggestions to tackle that.

NLB can start off with selected libraries first - especially those with greater footfall, before extending this to all libraries.

Alternatively, libraries can be kept open 24 hours at weekends, when more people have time to visit them, similar to how businesses operate longer hours at weekends.

With regard to manpower, NLB can deploy fewer librarians at night. Alternatively, it can also rely more on automation or artificial intelligence for late-night operations, in line with the country's Smart Nation initiative.

NLB can limit library services at night to the bare basics - merely borrowing and manning the reading area - and keep other less-in-demand services, such as consultations, research and advisories, to the current hours.

NLB can also consider having community volunteers for the late night shift. Perhaps NLB can kick off a six-month trial to determine if such a move will be welcome.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2018, with the headline 'Keep libraries open 24/7 and on public holidays'. Print Edition | Subscribe