Access books on your morning walk, or over kopi, as NLB heads to parks and eateries

An NLB node at Jewel Changi Airport. PHOTO: THE NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD
NLB will present a node in the form of a phygital newsstand, which will project a rack of magazines of different genres in English and Chinese. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - If Singaporeans cannot go to the library, perhaps the library can come to them. Offices, parks and food and beverage outlets will be some more places where people can scan QR codes to read digital magazines, e-books or other resources.

So far, 18 such "nodes" have appeared in shopping malls and Jewel Changi Airport, and range from experimental spaces to e-book QR codes in elevators. These efforts, aimed at reaching out to people beyond physical libraries, are part of the National Library Board’s (NLB) five-year road map.

"As extensions of physical libraries, these nodes will showcase NLB's digital collections, to interest Singaporeans to read and learn wherever they can," said Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Information Rahayu Mahzam on Friday (March 4).

Ms Rahayu was speaking in Parliament during the debate on her ministry's budget.

She added that the road map, known in full as the Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025 (LAB25), would also promote lifelong learning.

"In the face of digitalisation, our libraries must keep up with the times, to continue bringing citizens a wide array of learning opportunities."

NLB is also launching ExperienceIT, in collaboration with groups such as Amazon Web Services, to encourage people to learn about emerging technologies.

The board will also partner the community to bring more Singapore stories to NLB's libraries. The Central Public Library will, after its revamp, have a "Singapore Alcove" featuring Singapore stories, literature and regular events with local authors.

The new library slated to open at Punggol Town Hub in the second half of this year is another step towards "equalising digital access", Ms Rahayu added.

"Building on NLB's ongoing efforts to ensure accessibility of its physical spaces, NLB will do more through a comprehensive suite of accessibility services for persons with disabilities, starting at Punggol Regional Library."

Doing more would include offering accessible collections - sensory and braille books, sign language with text, and assistive technologies such as immersive readers for people who need to have content translated to other languages.

A LAB25 showcase at Parliament House, open to the media on Wednesday, offered a glimpse of future possibilities. These range from a newsstand where people could scan QR codes to access NLB's digital publications, to technology that translates visual images to audio for people who are visually impaired.

There was also a prototype of web-based app Curiocity 2.0, exploring Singapore through maps and photos via partnership with Amazon Web Services.

In her speech on Friday, Ms Rahayu added that NLB's mother tongue language collections for children have increased by 11 per cent over the past three years.

"NLB continues to source for, select and identify new avenues to grow their mother tongue language content."

The board has also begun offering award-winning English children's books translated into vernacular languages, she said. It also encourages local publishers to publish their mother tongue language titles in print and electronic formats to widen access.

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