NLB marks 20th year with historical display

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim viewing a collection at the display to mark the NLB's 20th anniversary at the National Library Building yesterday, with (from left) NLB chairman Chan Heng Kee, assistant director for content and services Alicia Yeo, and chief executive Elaine Ng.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A 1932 Singapore Cinema Review featuring American film star Shirley Temple, a copy of Her World magazine in 1960 and a booklet on how to grow rambutans published by the Ministry of National Development in 1966.

These are just some of the items on display at the National Library Building in Victoria Street to mark the National Library Board's (NLB) 20th anniversary.

The collection is part of PublicationSG, a new catalogue with more than one million items published in Singapore since the 1900s, and deposited with NLB. Of these, 97 are being shown as a "sneak preview" at the National Library Building until Nov 1.

PublicationSG will be launched next month, with details of how the public can access the materials.

Ms Alicia Yeo, NLB's assistant director for content and services, said: "The 97 titles we chose cover themes ranging from fashion to pop culture to school days, which hopefully will resonate with Singaporeans."

The NLB was established as a statutory board in 1995 and it manages the National Library, 26 public libraries and the National Archives.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, the guest of honour at the event yesterday, said: "It's a wonderful collection and an important effort by the library to basically bring out our collection to the wider community.

"In that way, not only can people learn about Singapore's history but those who are interested in doing research and have a deeper understanding of our past can also use those materials."

He said this collection cannot be found in bookshops, and NLB could consider republishing some of the old books as there may be interest.

He noted, too, that readership and visitor numbers to the libraries are healthy. According to NLB, there are over 2.25 million members as of last year. In 2013, it was 2.21 million and 2.11 million the year before.

Last year, there were over 34 million loans, and e-book loans are on the rise, it added. The most popular non-fiction books are business, cookery and travel books, while romance novels and thrillers are favourites in the fiction category.

In September last year, NLB also rolled out a smartphone app to make it easier to borrow books. Users can scan the barcode on library items and obtain information on books, among other things. There have been 77,000 downloads so far.

Mrs Elaine Ng, chief executive of NLB, said: "For the past 20 years, NLB has focused on making information accessible to all... We look forward to working together with the community in promoting reading and developing our services."

Other initiatives to mark NLB's anniversary include an increased loan quota from yesterday to the end of January next year and a commemorative membership card given to new members below the age of six.

Project officer Edward Tan, 36, visits the library twice a month and borrows books for his three children. He said: "Reading opens up their world and it's a good habit. It's especially important these days because a lot of children are addicted to electronic devices."

This article was first published on Oct 4, 2015.
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