Sweeping sea views are not generally something anyone would expect from a library. But library @ harbourfront, which officially opened yesterday, boasts not just attractive vistas but also a collection of augmented reality books for children and learning pods where adults can access digital content. Singaporeans are now accustomed to such lush libraries - a reflection of how well the National Library Board (NLB) has evolved to suit the changing needs of the community over the years. Locating libraries in malls is not the first way the library sought to reach out.
In 1960, Hedwig Anuar, the first Singaporean director of the library, introduced a mobile library service, using old army vans to reach children in rural districts. In the mid-1990s, after the Library 2000 report, the NLB underwent a startling technological transformation. Powered by a $1 billion war chest, it introduced a slew of technical improvements such as self-checkout machines and added lifestyle elements such as cafes to draw younger patrons. Nowadays, readers can read e-books, check out books with their NLB mobile app and hang out at snazzy outlets like the Harbourfront library. The NLB has continued to keep pace with technology, thanks to its understanding that the library is all about managing information, whether in book or binary form.