SINGAPORE - Demand for library books and materials has surged as a result of stringent circuit breaker measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The National Library Board (NLB) saw a total of 487,694 loans of physical library materials during the weekend of April 4 and 5, before the temporary closure of its facilities from April 7 in line with the measures. This was 225 per cent more than the previous weekend of March 28 and 29.
It also recorded an 82 per cent jump in e-book loans in the second week of April compared with the same period last year.
In response to the increased demand, NLB has enhanced its digital offerings such as e-books as well as online courses and programmes.
It now offers 8,000 newly curated e-books with unlimited checkouts and more than 1,000 popular e-books for adults can now be borrowed without waiting time.
Popular e-books include Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling, Lee Kuan Yew: The Man And His Ideas and Becoming by Michelle Obama.
Ms Catherine Lau, assistant chief executive of public library services at NLB, said patrons had turned to digital solutions to enrich their lives during the circuit break period.
"We continue to support reading and lifelong learning from home, whether by keeping children engaged through storytelling or inspiring patrons to pick up new knowledge through online talks and learning packages. There is something for everyone," she said.
NLB noted a 15.7 per cent hike in loans of children's fiction for the first three months of this year compared with the last three months of last year and added more than 600 new children's books to its online collections last month.
NLB has diversified its digital offerings to include programmes and activities such as From The Stacks, which features the National Library's rare materials collection, as well as talks by librarians on topics such as food and the arts.
These are available on its Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts.
NLB has also introduced new vernacular books and online programmes for seniors.
Seniors seeking Chinese-language resources can use the HyRead mobile app, which offers more than 1,330 e-books, comics and magazines. Patrons can log on to the app with their my LibraryID to access the materials for free.
Tamil and Malay book recommendations and reading club activities are also available on the Tamil Library Services and Malay Library Services pages on Facebook.
By the end of the month, NLB will be introducing a QR login for patrons wishing to access resources such as JSTOR and ProQuest Central databases, which offer academic journals and research materials.
Globally, institutions providing reading and research materials are offering free materials to those staying at home as well.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press made select books freely available on its open-source platform, while Time magazine's school-based publication Time For Kids has offered a free digital library with all published editions of the magazine this year uploaded onto the platform.