New chapter for library

New chapter for library
Readers such as (from left) Lim Jin, 17, Frederic Tan, 17, Kim Cainday, 19, and Sek Mun Pin, 17, are increasingly getting their information online.

SINGAPORE - As fewer people here visit libraries, the National Library Board is coming up with more high-tech features to stay relevant and efficient.

From next year, you will be able to check out books just by scanning them with your smartphone and look up rare documents from the National Archives when you use the library catalogue online.

These are just some of the changes NLB has planned, says its chief executive officer Elaine Ng in an exclusive interview with Life!.

It is also gearing up for the much anticipated library@Orchard at the upcoming Orchard Gateway Mall, although no opening date has been set.

A new month-long reading festival in the middle of next year, as part of the annual reading initiative Read Singapore, is in the works too.

At a time when fewer people are visiting local libraries as more turn to the Internet to access library materials, promoting reading and interest in heritage resources is key.

Physical visits to the libraries dropped 22 per cent, from 36 million between April 2011 and March last year to 28 million in the last financial year.

But Ms Ng, 48, is unfazed, saying the numbers reflect only visits to established libraries and do not include people who make use of mobile library services or borrowing stations set up in community centres and schools.

"We've given many more ways for people to borrow books. It's not like the past, where people actually have to enter a library to read," she says.

The Library Board is so confident of its outreach programmes that it is working on new services such as the smartphone app to scan books and check them out without having to wait for a borrowing station.

The app will make life easier for regular library visitors such as Nanyang Polytechnic student Kim Cainday, 19, who visits a library up to four times a week to borrow books.

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