SINGAPORE - Besides being places where people read or borrow books, public libraries can also be places where people gather to learn and share.
This is an example of how libraries can stay relevant to the changing needs of Singaporeans, cited by Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran on Saturday (Jan 12) at the official opening of the library@ harbourfront at VivoCity.
He said over the next year, library@ harbourfront, for instance, is expected to have more than 500 programmes. These programmes will help participants learn new skills, including skills for the digital economy.
The National Library Board (NLB) is also broadening its channels to reach out to people, through the use of features such as e-books or an NLB mobile app.
Efforts have also been made to bring the libraries closer to the people, whether in a shopping mall or integrated with community facilities or community centres.
"The idea is to bring our libraries closer to our people, so it is easier to spread the joy of reading, and enjoy learning together," said Mr Iswaran.
Such efforts have led to increased visitorship, for instance, at Tampines Regional Library, which has seen a growth of almost 400,000 visitors after the library's revamp and relocation to Our Tampines Hub.
This trend is also seen in the libraries in Sengkang, Bedok and Yishun, which are in malls, or community spaces alongside community clubs, sports facilities, and polyclinics.
The new library@ harbourfront, the 26th public library here, offers sweeping views of Sentosa. Spanning 3,000 sq m, it is the biggest of 13 libraries located in malls here.
It has a strong focus on digital technologies - its kids section has a space for young readers to tinker and play with technology and there are six learning pods for adults to access digital content and resources to upgrade their skills.
Mr Iswaran said at the end of the day, libraries are about the people who use them.
"It is not about having a space with just books or lounges and so on," he said.
"It is about students, children, parents, grandparents, coming together to enjoy the facilities, and having a shared experience in reading and learning."