NLB's new 5-year road map promises digital libraries on your doorstep

Beyond physical libraries like this one at Harbourfront, the NLB plans to bring digital libraries to users' doorsteps.
Beyond physical libraries like this one at Harbourfront, the NLB plans to bring digital libraries to users' doorsteps.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Walk into a lift at Plaza Singapura, IMM and PLQ Mall from Thursday (Oct 21) and you could find yourself in a digital library.  Decals with QR codes will point you to e-book recommendations by the National Library Board (NLB).

The initiative is part of the Board's efforts to reach out to patrons beyond its physical libraries as part of its new five-year road map, Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025 (LAB25).

NLB chief executive Ng Cher Pong said during a press conference at the National Library on Wednesday that the Board's traditional "hub and spokes" model of physical libraries needs updating.

The current model positions the National Library at the top, with regional libraries in various areas supported by smaller branch libraries.

"Increasingly, it is about a network of hubs and nodes. Each one is equally important. They attract different groups, they bring more people together and people flow between the hub and the node, not in a way that we can predict or we can plan for," he explained.

Hence, the NLB is going to spaces where potential users are, from shopping malls to hospitals and even parks, he added.

LAB25 lays out plans for the NLB to become a centre to support lifelong learning; to help build an informed citizenry through its National Reading Movement and information literacy programme Sure (source, understand, research, evaluate); to inspire home-grown storytellers; and to ensure equal access for all.

To achieve all this, the Board is reaching out to partners in the community. For example, over the next two years, library visitors can try out more than 40 free taster programmes ranging from health to sustainability created by Nanyang Polytechnic. Those who find these bite-size samplers to their taste can enrol in more in-depth courses at the polytechnic.

To encourage readers to be more discerning, the NLB's new Read to be Sure programme will put together multimedia packages comprising videos, articles and social media content as well as other events. The programme will kick off next month at library  @  orchard with a panel of industry experts discussing the theme, Is Fast Fashion Bad?

The NLB is also teaming up with the Singapore Book Publishers' Association to "grow the reading pie" and develop a system for a person to not only borrow books but also buy books, said NLB assistant chief executive Gene Tan.

Mr Ng said the library also wants to help to bridge divides by building accessible spaces for the physically challenged as well as havens where people can experience and learn about new technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

He added: "Looking ahead, there's increasing competition for time. The NLB needs to carve a niche for itself so that we can continue to stay relevant."