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Modernising the library

Nurdianah Md Nur | May 20, 2016
Singapore’s NLB – the 2016 CIO Asia Awards Innovation winner – shares its digital transformation initiatives to enable customer self-service and improve productivity.

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NLB's Lee Kee Siang
Lee Kee Siang, NLB's Chief Information Officer.

The role of brick and mortar is increasingly forced to evolve as we move into the digital age. Be it in the retail, finance or the public sectors, physical offices or stores today need to function as a customer experience centre to meet the customers' changing demands and habits.

It is with this foresight that the National Library Board (NLB) of Singapore - the winner of the 2016 CIO Asia Award's Innovation category -- decided to transform itself to remain relevant to its users while addressing the manpower crunch.

In 2002, NLB rolled out the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags across its library network - consisting of the National Library, 26 public libraries and the National Archives - to enable library users to borrow and return items without queueing at the customer service counters. It also implemented self-service e-kiosks for account-related transactions - such as checking of account and payment of fines - throughout the public library network in Singapore.   

Motivated by the success of those projects, NLB embarked on Transformation 2.0 in 2013, which seeks to integrate physical and digital library spaces, said Lee Kee Siang, NLB's Chief Information Officer.

"NLB envisions physical library spaces to form a part of a network that is information-rich, accessible and community supported, which promotes reading, learning and knowledge creation in Singapore. We will therefore empower the library users to self-help when using various services in the library instead of depending on staff to directly or indirectly support the service through Transformation 2.0. This also reduces the need for manpower for repetitive tasks so that employees can be redeployed to other value-added works," he explained.

Going mobile 
As Singaporeans - especially the younger generation - are increasingly consuming services and content online and via their mobile phones, NLB digitised local contents, e-content subscription and newspapers, as part of Transformation 2.0. This allows users to instantly access those resources through NLB's website and their mobile devices regardless of time and location. Resources include more than 4 million eBooks, over 70 eDatabases that contain eNewspapers, journals, magazines, music, images and articles, digitised books, oral history interviews, and audio-visual recordings, said Lee.

NLB also launched the NLB Mobile app with the aim of "redefining the user experience" to provide "personalised and contextualised experience for patrons", said Lee. Previously, users had check out library items at a borrowing station. However, with the app, library members can now borrow items by scanning the NLB barcode on library items using the camera on their smartphones. The mobile app also provides the due date and availability of titles, as well as proactively recommends reading materials based on the user's loan history. In addition, NLB Mobile highlights events based on patrons' physical location.

 

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