(20 Oct 2021) The National Library Board (NLB) today announced LAB25 (Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025), a five-year journey in its next phase of transformation.
Learning, discovery and, particularly, reading – long seen as the mainstays of NLB – have been transformed by the forces of social media and digitalisation, seismic societal shifts and the enduring effects of the ongoing pandemic. Throughout these, NLB has continued to capitalise on emerging opportunities, to innovate and keep its place in the hearts and minds of people in Singapore – reaching around 7 in 10 residents annually.
At its heart, LAB25 is an invitation for partners and the community to continue collaborating with NLB in this journey of innovation and experimentation to reimagine libraries and archives. Our goal is to evolve to be even stronger companions to our patrons as we navigate a changing social, cultural and economic context.
Over the last 18 months, we have engaged our patrons, volunteers and staff to help map out LAB25. The online and in-person engagements reached a diverse range of people from young adults, seniors, persons with disabilities to businesses.
We have identified four roles that can help those we serve to meet this moment in time: building a Learning Marketplace, nurturing an Informed Citizenry, inspiring Singapore Storytellers, and being an Equaliser. Behind each of these roles is a question and aspiration that will guide us and our partners as we work with the community in iterative cycles of co-creation to ensure our next generation of libraries and archives continue to be an indispensable part of Singaporean lives and communities.
“The pandemic has shown us that there is not much that can be predicted with absolute certainty. In this changed world and the world that we will transit into, we have to be prepared to adapt and ride on possibilities that present themselves,” said NLB’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ng Cher Pong. “LAB25 is NLB’s response in this spirit and sets out how we will be with you as together, we refocus libraries and archives to empower you to learn and discover continuously to be ready for the future.”
1. Learning Marketplace
Question: Do we just continue to grow NLB’s user and usage base or can LAB25 leverage that base and open it up for an even greater public and national good?
NLB has a formidable base of users and usage with more than 4 million members who account for 80 million digital accesses, and 20 million visitors coming through our doors each year.
The aspiration behind “Learning Marketplace” is to multiply and expand this base into a major national platform by opening its doors to partners interested in advancing lifelong learning and discovery. These partners can benefit from this expanded platform and play their part in expanding it further in a virtuous cycle of agglomeration by bringing in their content and audiences. Patrons will be able to enjoy a far greater and more diverse outlay of content and services in their lifelong learning journey.
To realise the “Learning Marketplace”, NLB will focus on three areas. First, transforming our platforms. NLB currently operates a network of 27 public libraries, the National Library and the National Archives of Singapore, as well as offers digital services through its website and the NLB Mobile app. Over the next 5 years, NLB will fully integrate its physical and digital offerings into a network of immersive hubs and nodes. The present NLB Mobile app could be further expanded into a digital “Learning Superstore” to provide seamless omni-channel user experiences. It will connect users to all of NLB’s and our partners’ content and services, offering enhanced access to online resources, and provide a “learning GPS” to guide their journey. NLB will transform physical libraries to provide experiential learning, and nodes to reach out to new patrons. Second, providing multiple learning pathways such as personalised recommendations for each patron with the use of data and machine learning to string resources to help lifelong learners continually build on their learning. Lastly, supporting learning communities led by volunteers (known as LearnX Communities), by connecting patrons with similar learning interests and leveraging the timeless power of libraries as effective social spaces for people to come together.
2. Informed Citizenry
Question: In this age of distraction and polarisation, can LAB25 seed the habit of T-shaped discovery – so that one may read and learn deeply and widely to appreciate a range of perspectives?
The aspiration of informed citizenry is to nurture thoughtful people who reflect deeply on what they come across every day. Powered by twof NLB’s movements – the National Reading Movement and S.U.R.E. – and their extensive networks of partners, NLB will be a key platform through which the public can access thought leaders and content creators, a wide range of resources and perspectives, as well as the skills to be discerning. Through this platform, everyone will be encouraged to learn deeply and widely, and steer clear of rabbit holes and echo chambers.
3. Singapore Storytellers
Question: Can LAB25 unleash the proliferation of diverse Singapore stories that will document and pass on the Singapore experience?
Through “Singapore Storytellers”, LAB25 hopes to nurture a stronger appreciation and understanding of the Singapore experience in four parts – gathering content about Singapore as a collector, leading digital preservation of this content as a keeper, enabling discovery and use of this by others as a connector, and inspiring generations of storytellers. With these, NLB will make Singapore content accessible and relevant, and weave it into other areas of learning.
We envision this role to be a shared partnership with the community, eliciting wonder and shaping understanding of Singapore’s heritage and identity in the process.
4. The Equaliser
Question: Going beyond promoting reading, can LAB25 be a powerful force for good to equalize and elevate as gaps open up and those with less are in danger of staying on the wrong side of emerging divides?
NLB is working with and seeking partners to be an Equaliser by bridging gaps, including more and empowering all in this digital age.
Equalising and Including More. We will expand our work in reaching out to children from lower income segments to bring the joy of reading and learning to them, as well as equipping seniors with skills to prepare them for life in a digital society. NLB will also work with a network of partners on digital inclusion, readiness and wellness across different segments, through showcasing emerging technologies, expanding partnerships, programmes and resources, and equalising access. Punggol Regional Library, which will open in 2022, will be the first fully-inclusive library, pioneering integrated services for persons with disabilities which will be progressively rolled out in libraries in other regions.
Empowering and Elevating All. With the help of industry players, NLB will be a platform for everyone to experience and understand technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud tech and virtual reality. Even those who are comfortable with technology will be able to elevate their appreciation and knowledge, and find new opportunities for learning and advancement.