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Singapore’s National Library Board plans to transform libraries into digital learning hubs

The Ministry of Communications and Information has made building an inclusive digital society one of their main priorities for 2021. Their aim is to ensure that ‘all Singaporeans can reap the benefits of digitalisation.’

In order to reach this goal, the National Library Board (NLB) is transforming libraries into hubs for digital learning.

The Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025 (LAB25) looks at how NLB’s roles and priorities will evolve from 2021 to 2025, in response to social, economic and technological changes.

‘A key component of LAB25 is working with communities, individuals and industries to innovate and explore new solutions to address the needs of citizens.’

Since January 2020, NLB has carried out various types of public consultations to understand what Singaporeans would like to see in their libraries and archives.

The National Library Board has identified five areas to focus on:

Champion lifelong learning
NLB will prepare its patrons for a fast-changing world through programmes such as on career and personal development. These include the Future of Work series and the My Digital Life series, which promote public awareness of how technology affects our life.

NLB has also revamped its library makerspaces in 2020, with a rebrand from PIXEL Labs@NLB to MakeIT at Libraries, to reflect the need to shift Singapore’s DIY and innovation culture into the next gear. There are three makerspaces which comprise activities such as hands-on workshops in 3D printing and robotics, jointly organised by NLB and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Bridge the digital divide
NLB will continue to partner IMDA and other government agencies to help communities, especially our seniors, to be comfortable and confident when using digital services and technology. For example, Library Learning Journeys will be conducted monthly at 25 public libraries from late February 2021, with capacity of four participants for each session. Led by digital ambassadors, these sessions teach seniors how to use the NLB mobile app and other digital services in libraries, such as connecting to Wireless@SGx, accessing eNewspapers and scanning QR codes.

Document and tell Singapore stories
NLB will continue to involve the community in its efforts to build the nation’s contemporary collection and collect its history. An ongoing “Documenting COVID-19” collection drive organised by NLB and the National Museum of Singapore has so far received over 740 submissions of more than 3,600 photos, personal stories, videos, ephemera, webpages, blog, diaries and creative responses.

NLB has also recorded 61 in-depth audio interviews as part of the oral history component of Documenting COVID-19. NLB aims to record at least 120 interviews from now until 2022. The public will be able to access them on the Archives Online website.

Strengthen citizen engagement
The NLB will continue to step up efforts to ensure that libraries are safe and inclusive spaces for the community to interact with one another. Communities are encouraged to pursue their passion in learning through setting up their own interest groups and reading clubs at the various libraries, where they can interact with like-minded people from all walks of life.

Promote information literacy
NLB has been actively promoting information literacy through the Source. Understand. Research. Evaluate. (S.U.R.E.) campaign, which promotes the importance of information evaluation and discernment. Over 25,000 participants have benefited from S.U.R.E. programmes in the last three years, with increased interest during COVID 19.

In the coming years, NLB will step up its efforts on S.U.R.E. and will weave the campaign into programmes across interest areas, such as combining a love of reading with being wise consumers of information at NLB’s Read Fest 2021.

Revamping libraries – part of Libraries of the Future Masterplan

In line with the Libraries of the Future Masterplan, NLB will continue to develop public libraries with seamless access, both physically and digitally. Since 2015, six revamped public libraries have been launched. The revamped Choa Chu Kang Public Library will reopen in the second half of 2021.

Choa Chu Kang Public Library will be the first Libraries of the Future library to be redesigned with sustainability as its main theme, and will feature digital services which aim to encourage the appreciation of natural landscapes and biodiversity.

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