Engaging Library Users In Novel Ways

The Singapore National Library Board is engaging readers and library users from all walks of life, with digitalisation and tapping community connections.
Spreading the love of reading

For more than 10 years, a group of National Library Board (NLB) volunteers have been delivering library books to the homes of readers who are physically challenged and unable to visit the libraries.

In January 2009, NLB launched “Project Deliver Me”, an initiative to deliver library resources to ill or disabled homebound people. This is part of the NLB’s aim to meet the learning needs of all Singaporeans and ensure that everyone has access to library materials.

The volunteers comprise both NLB staff and volunteers who are Friends of the Library, one of whom is cabby Mr Sim Soon Teck. A taxi driver for some 20 years, he is also a citizen ambassador for reading.

He was part of NLB’s Taxi Sifu Reading Club, a book club comprising cabbies from various transport service providers. They meet on Saturdays at Ang Mo Kio Public Library to discuss Chinese fiction books and share the love of reading.

Mr Sim Soon Teck. A taxi driver for some 20 years, he is also a citizen ambassador for reading.
Mr Sim Soon Teck (centre) with other volunteers for Project Deliver Me.

For “Project Deliver Me”, Mr Sim volunteered himself as the team leader and galvanised 25 taxi drivers to join the cause. He plans the delivery routes and assigns roles among the team. He also ensures that there are at least two taxis on standby for deliveries in case of any emergencies or breakdowns.

The taxi drivers chaperon the volunteers so that they can deliver the library materials to the beneficiaries’ doorsteps. A total of 128 beneficiaries, including patrons from the Singapore Cheshire Home, Society of the Physically Disabled and Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore), have enjoyed the service.

Though Mr Sim’s volunteer activities means a little less time driving on the road earning fares, he is motivated by the shared love of reading. He says: “The beneficiaries’ determination to read more despite their day-to-day challenges has inspired me to reach out to more communities in need.”

Digitalising rewards

Another initiative by the NLB to encourage reading is the Book Bugs programme. It began in 2016 to encourage children aged 10 to 14 to read more books and read widely. Readers earn points as they borrow library materials, and these points can be exchanged for collectable Book Bugs cards.

Though popular with library users, the first version of Book Bugs was a manpower-intensive and manual process for staff. The card redemptions were only available on weekends, and patrons had to show staff and volunteers their paper or digital loan receipts to redeem cards.

In brainstorming for Book Bugs II, NLB’s Director of Content & Services Ms Raneetha Rajaratnam and her team came up with a self-service redemption process. The new version introduced a gamification element and card dispenser machines to improve the user experience of redeeming Book Bugs cards.

The beneficiaries’ determination to read more despite their day-to-day challenges has inspired me to reach out to more communities in need.

How it works: Four library loans equals 1 Bug point. These points can be exchanged for Book Bug cards from card dispenser machines at libraries, using QR codes or a PIN.

The automated dispensing not only reduces manpower needs in the NLB, but also makes it more convenient for patrons, who can now redeem cards any time during the libraries’ opening hours.

Loan receipts were also no longer needed. Most importantly, the reading promotion was extended to include eBook loans, so patrons who cannot visit the libraries regularly to borrow physical books can take part by borrowing eBooks and earn points from there.

Since its launch in June 2018, Book Bugs II has generated more than 11 million loans during its 10-month run, compared to 4.5 million loans for the first version of Book Bugs. There was also an 80% increase in the use of the NLB mobile app for both physical book and eBook checkouts.

4 steps redeeming the Book Bug II cards


Build a Resilient and United Society of the Future

In order to stay open and relevant to the world, we must ensure that we stand united as a society and guard against divisive forces that could tear our social fabric apart.

How will we strengthen the sense of shared ownership among Singaporeans for our future, and build a more caring and resilient society, and encourage more stories like Mr Sim’s?

We will:

  • Take a holistic approach to managing new and old divides
  • Work in partnership with Singaporeans to build Our Future Singapore through Singapore Together
Singapore Agenda #5
Jean Choo, MCI:
“An expanded common space with a different social compact – I think of a community that doesn’t just cohabit, but lives, works and builds their shared spaces together, (quite literally) supporting each other’s social mobility and wellbeing across age, race and nationality.”
    Mar 17, 2020
    Courtesy of the NLB
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