Yishun Public Library reopens with new digital zone

Siblings Tan Xing Ming (right, in green), 9, and Tan Xing Wei (left, in yellow), 11, and their friend Joseph Tan (centre, in blue), 11, using the touchscreen computers at the new Digital Learning Zone.

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SINGAPORE - Silence in the library? Not at Yishun Public Library, which reopened on Saturday (Feb 3) with a new digital learning zone in which visitors can listen to audio lectures or go on a tour of a virtual museum.

From its pixel-themed furniture to its virtual bookshelves, the revamped 2,530 sq m space at Northpoint City mall is going digital.

Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, who was the opening's guest-of-honour, said: "A library has gone beyond just a place to store books, it has become a place of learning.

"We want people to understand what Smart Nation is all about, we want them to be digitally ready and competent, and feel comfortable using digital education."

At the heart of the library, circled by the print book sections, is the digital learning zone.

Mounted on its walls are 12 screens, including virtual bookshelves, from which users can borrow books simply by scanning QR codes, and a long animated display across which the covers of business and self-improvement books spiral to ambient music.

On one of the screens, visitors can also go on virtual tours of past exhibitions from the National Library. They include From The Stacks, a 2016 exhibition on documents, publications and photographs from Singapore's early days.

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The zone has seven learning pods, each equipped with an interactive screen through which users can access resources such as courses from e-learning platform LyndaLibrary and videos from Ted talks.

Those for whom library silence remains golden need not fret, however. There is also a quiet reading lounge with 26 private nooks, amid decor inspired by Yishun's plantation past.

The library, which closed for renovations in January last year, is the latest in a slew of public libraries being revamped and relocated, for some, to malls and town hubs.

The library's fiction book section. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

It follows the Tampines Regional Library, which reopened in August last year at Our Tampines Hub, and the Bedok Public Library, which moved in October to lifestyle hub Heartbeat@Bedok.

National Reading Movement programme director Ian Yap said that the new library is targeted at the higher proportion of young adults in Yishun, who are likely to be technologically savvy and inclined towards lifelong learning.

Of the library's multimedia offerings, he said: "Everyone's plugged into videos on social media these days. Videos are bite-sized teasers, but if you want to go deeper, then we have curated books for you."

Northland Secondary student Ong Jing Kai, 15, who was experimenting with the learning pods, said: "It's a good improvement that NLB is expanding its capacity to enable people to learn and discover new things."

He added: "This modern design is much nicer than in libraries like Sembawang."

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