SINGAPORE - The revamped Choa Chu Kang Public Library, which reopens to the public tomorrow (Oct 28), is one example of how libraries in the future will look like.
The library, with the theme (Re)connect With Nature, is the first in Singapore to be built around the concept of sustainability.
Visitors will be treated to an indoor garden, a hydroponics room, and new digital learning tools such as live streams of nature and updates from the World Wildlife Fund Singapore. These features aim to increase awareness in sustainable living and environmental issues.
Located on the fourth and fifth storeys of Lot 1 shopping mall at Choa Chu Kang, the library underwent a two-year overhaul to become the seventh "next-generation library" in the National Library Board's (NLB) Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025 (LAB25). This is the NLB's masterplan to streamline its library and archive services.
The revamped library boasts an augmented-reality (AR) learning trail, where visitors can experience immersive content by scanning QR codes around the library with their mobile phones.
Speaking to guests at the library's reopening ceremony on Wednesday (Oct 27), Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said that libraries play a vital role in society by allowing the public to access knowledge and learn about different cultures.
She said: "With our fast-changing society, our libraries have also evolved and transformed to meet the changing needs and interests of Singaporeans."
Since 2017, NLB has revamped and reopened six libraries - Library @ HarbourFront, Sengkang Public Library, Bukit Panjang Public Library, Bedok Public Library, Tampines Regional Library and Yishun Public Library.
Mrs Teo said that the challenge for NLB is to find new ways to capture the spirit of the times and the aspirations of the people.
Referencing Choa Chu Kang's farming heritage and nature parks, she said that in the past, visitors could only look at pictures to learn about the endangered sambar deer or rubber-tapping in the 19th century.
"Now with the AR learning trail, visitors can get up close and learn in ways they may not have experienced before," said Mrs Teo.
Choa Chu Kang Public Library manager Jollene Shu said that she hopes the revamped space can change the public's mindset of a library.
She said: "The library is a place of learning. We want visitors to learn within the space as well as through features like the community wall that shows Choa Chu Kang's agricultural history."
NLB's assistant chief executive of Archives & Libraries Group, Ms Catherine Lau, said the NLB is adopting a more experimental approach with its LAB25 masterplan.
She said: "What we're trying to do this time is call out to like-minded partners so they can come on board with NLB to create and try out new ideas with us.
"One of the key components of LAB25 is to build a learning marketplace where we use technology to help enhance the learning experience for visitors."
She also shared that the upcoming regional library in Punggol, slated to open in 2022, will be the first to feature integrated services catering to the disabled, built around the theme of inclusivity.
"For each of our new libraries, we are trying to have a focus that is unique to the community," said Ms Lau.
Ms Shu said that she and her team will reach out to the public and listen to the community on how libraries can be improved.
Ms Lau added: "There's no such thing as a perfect library because things change after a few years and you have to meet the needs of society."