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NLB Technology and Resource Group brings Data Analytics, Robots, Mobile Apps to the Library of the Future

Right before the opening of the Pasir Ris Public Library, OpenGov sat down with the National Library Board’s Mr. Lee Kee Siang, CIO and Director of Resource Discovery & Management, Mr. Siow Shong Seng, Director of Technology & Service Innovation, and Mr. Ramachandran Narayanan, Director of Systems Applications & Operations.

These three are leaders of the Technology and Resource Group at National Library Board (NLB). Each have contributed a great deal to the development of digitisation within the library sphere.

We sat down to discuss how they are contributing to the Singapore Smart Nation vision, what the IDA@NLB Labs programme hopes to achieve, and what technology they are looking at integrating into the libraries of the near future.

NLB is the Content Provider in the Smart Nation vision

NLB has utilized several mobile app platforms to personalise the experience of library patrons. These platforms have evolved over time and they include the NLB Mobile App, Digital Concierge, Library in Your Pocket app, MobileRead app, and OneSearch.

These apps enable patrons to peruse through the library without needing to wander aimlessly through the shelves.

“Most of the initiatives we are looking at relate to the personalization of the patron experience,” said Mr. Kee Siang, “Although we have worked with a lot of business intelligence tools to refine our content and services, in the next stage we are looking at how to use technology for personalisation and to push out information that is relevant to the individual.”

From this push, advanced technology such as data analytics will be required. This will make the information-fed through applications, book suggestions and new library items- more useful and discoverable to the user.

With this drive for a more personalized experience, we can argue that NLB is going above and beyond.

“Part of the Smart Nation vision is to provide a higher quality of life to citizens. But we add a second layer, as a Content Provider to this vision,” exclaimed Mr. Shong Seng, “We are targeting people who use our services within or outside of the library, and those who have not been accessing library service in a while. We try to make our resources available to them, reaching out to the channels they are accessing information from.”

Through engaging a range of individuals in a more personalized manner, NLB is driving further engagement with technology through their services.

 “We are working in such a way to make sure we are in line with the Smart Nation initiative,” said Mr. Kee Siang.

Library Services working in tandem with Technology

NLB has been working, not only to improve their service to library patrons, but also the library employees. They find that improving their facilities requires the integration of mobile applications, new technical equipment and robotics, and data analytics.

“Bringing the library through multiple channels, this is why we are looking at a mobile first environment,” stated Mr. Shong Seng, “We are also looking at how we can enhance our service from an operational perspective, using data analytics.”

Supporting staff and workload performance essentially enhances everyone’s experience, this is why it is one of NLB’s main foci.

With new technologies, such as the Shelf-Reading Robot and the AutoSorter, staff save an ample amount of time performing tedious tasks. This is especially helpful for older staff, and it allows them more time to interact with patrons and providing them great services.

IDA@NLB Labs

It was announced last month that the Jurong Regional Library is hosting the first IDA@NLB Lab. This lab brings the IDA Labs environment straight to the community, Mr. Shong Seng stated.

This collaboration is also the first dedicated space sited in a public library in Singapore that encourages hands-on experimentation and creation as a new way of learning.

Through IDA Labs@NLB, the library community can gain exposure to and borrow maker kits such as Arduino to tinker and create, as well as network and exchange skills with like-minded individuals.

The library is the first to be trialing this initiative and will be running programs related to digital innovation.

Anyone can sign up for a program at http://www.nlb.gov.sg/golibrary/ , including programs like Equipment Briefing on the 3D Printer living at the lab.

More revamped libraries, more tech, and more fun!

In the next few years, NLB will be working to revamp several other libraries, following the lead of the Pasir Ris Public Library renovation.

Over the next 5 years, they will be focusing on the implementation of digital services and interactive terminals in the library. With this, they aim to drive new and old patrons back to the libraries.

“The Library of the Future project focuses not just on the physical infrastructure, but also what are the changes in lifestyles of our visitors. This is why we are driving a digital strategy given this demand for mobility,” said Mr. Ramachandran Narayanan, “To complement the physical infrastructure of the library is where technology comes into play.”

The Technology and Resource Group is also looking to use business intelligence tools to improve library content and services to fit users’ needs and preferences. 

With new initiatives, NLB always trials the technology in one location before rolling it out to subsequent libraries. This allows them to see the impact on the citizens and garner feedback that will help them improve this new solution.

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