Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Communications and Information

Revamping libraries to be vibrant places of learning

An artist's impression of the seniors' space at Bedok Public Library, which will reopen later this year. The area will specialise in collections and services geared towards older adults, such as large-print books that are easier to read.
An artist's impression of the seniors' space at Bedok Public Library, which will reopen later this year. The area will specialise in collections and services geared towards older adults, such as large-print books that are easier to read. PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
The children's area at Bukit Panjang Public Library, which is due to reopen in the third quarter of this year at Bukit Panjang Plaza, will include a storytelling room that brings together sound effects, lights and interactive visual projections to create
The children's area at Bukit Panjang Public Library, which is due to reopen in the third quarter of this year at Bukit Panjang Plaza, will include a storytelling room that brings together sound effects, lights and interactive visual projections to create immersive storytelling experiences. PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
 The Sengkang Public Library, scheduled to reopen on March 18, includes a space dedicated to children between the ages of 10 and 14. The library will offer targeted programmes for tweens, such as activities related to cosplay, programming, electronics and
The Sengkang Public Library, scheduled to reopen on March 18, includes a space dedicated to children between the ages of 10 and 14. The library will offer targeted programmes for tweens, such as activities related to cosplay, programming, electronics and photography. PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
The Tampines Regional Library will have "a space for makers" with 3D printers as well as collaborative work spaces where budding entrepreneurs can learn from one another.
The Tampines Regional Library will have "a space for makers" with 3D printers as well as collaborative work spaces where budding entrepreneurs can learn from one another.PHOTOS: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

Four newly renovated libraries will reopen this year in Sengkang, Bukit Panjang, Tampines and Bedok, with facilities such as a workspace with 3D printers and a storytelling room for children.

Adults will also be encouraged to read more as well as more widely, following a national survey that found only one in five adults reads books more than once a week.

Yesterday, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim fleshed out these two broad thrusts of his ministry's plans this year to promote reading and sustain a vibrant reading culture.

He said during the debate on the Ministry of Communications and Information's budget: "Our libraries are places for learning no matter what stage we are in life.

"But libraries are also community places for our people to learn from each other, to come together and share their knowledge and experiences."

He said libraries will be redesigned to bring people together and help them learn from one another.

The Sengkang Public Library, located in the Compass One mall, will open on March 18. It will have an area with flexible seating that caters to those between the ages of 10 and 14.

There will also be interactive digital displays for people to browse recommended digital books and download them via the National Library Board's mobile app.

Bukit Panjang Public Library in Bukit Panjang Plaza will reopen in the third quarter of this year with double the floor space it had before. It will have a storytelling room, with sound effects and lights to bring stories alive for children.

The Tampines Regional Library will have "a space for makers" with 3D printers and collaborative work spaces.

As for the Bedok Public Library, it will have a dedicated area for seniors that includes large-print books that are easier to read.

Dr Yaacob also gave details of the first National Reading Habits Study conducted from May to September last year, in which 3,515 adults were interviewed at home.

It found that 69 per cent of people read at least one book a year, and libraries remain one of the top sources for books, with 56 per cent of those who read books borrowing them from libraries.

About 80 per cent read more than once a week, but they read more news articles than books. Also, about 68 per cent of adults read news more than once a week, compared with 19 per cent who read books more than once a week.

People said that what stops them from reading more is their tendency to spend more time on other activities. They also prefer watching TV or online videos.

Most do not find reading as stimulating as audio-visual content, said Dr Yaacob, adding: "The study shows that we can do more."

For example, the National Library Board will work with a group of small business owners called the Bosses Network, to run a business acumen series in Chinese.

The series will have established business owners sharing their knowledge and favourite reads.

The move to form partnerships and get adults to read more builds on the National Reading Movement launched last year. The five-year campaign encourages adults to read, and also urges more people to read in their mother tongues.

More than 380 companies encourage their staff to read by running activities such as mass reading sessions, book swops and book review competitions, said Dr Yaacob.

He said: "I hope... more Singaporeans will remember never to stop reading and learning. Our libraries will continue to play key roles in helping us do that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2017, with the headline 'Revamping libraries to be vibrant places of learning'. Print Edition | Subscribe