Parliament Sitting on 2 October 2017


*34. Ms Cheng Li Hui: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) over the last five years, what is the number of books purchased by NLB; (b) what is the total cost incurred; (b) what is the number of books condemned by NLB over the same period; (c) what is the total number of books currently in NLB's collection; and (d) if he can provide an update on the National Reading Movement that was launched a year ago.

MP Ms Cheng Li Hui has asked about the status of the National Library Board’s (NLB) collection and the National Reading Movement.

2 Let me first give an update on the National Reading Movement. The Movement was launched last year to get Singaporeans to read more, read widely and read together. It aims to reach out to adults and seniors, promote reading in mother tongue languages and galvanise the community to build a vibrant reading culture in Singapore. I am happy to report that the Movement is doing well. This year, more than 120,000 participants took part in reading-related activities in the lead-up to the National Reading Day on 29 July, which is a third more than NLB’s target of 88,000 participants. 

3 The Movement includes the Read@Work programme, to promote reading in the workplace. More than 30 organisations have come on board NLB’s Read@Work programme so far, and actively contribute to the Movement by publicising the National Reading Day activities and sponsoring reading events like Read for Books. NLB remains on track to reach out to their target of 50 organizations by March 2018.

4 To encourage reading among seniors, reading corners have been set up at 17 Senior Activity Centres which serve around 4,700 members in total. Examples of Senior Activity Centres are the Thye Hua Kwan Senior Services at Taman Jurong and the Tembusu Senior Activity Corner. NLB also provides a toolkit for volunteers who conduct regular reading activities with the seniors in SACs and even rental flats. In addition, NLB is also doing more for young children. NLB has provided bulk loans to about 248 pre-schools, including many which serve children from lower income families, as identified by PCF and NTUC First Campus HQ and under ECDA’s KidSTART Enhanced Support to Preschool programme.

5 NLB has also expanded its programme offerings in Mother Tongue Languages.  As a strategy to increase readership, NLB has embarked on an approach to help readers and participants of NLB’s programmes establish meaningful connections via one’s cultural background. This includes a lecture series by experts on Malay arts and culture that was started for adults. As an example, local music legend, Ramli Sarip was invited as a guest lecturer for the series. Five such sessions had been organised since the start of NRM, with at least 30 participants per session.  In addition, 28 mother tongue reading clubs have been set up - 17 for children and 11 for adults. These are encouraging signs that show more are interested in, and are reading in the mother tongue languages.  

6 Besides the National Reading Movement, NLB has improved its collections, services and programmes to drive a reading culture in Singapore. Currently, NLB spends about $14 million each year to maintain a collection of over 6.6 million books.  Over 800,000 new books are purchased annually for the lending and reference collections.  At the same time, a similar number of books which are damaged or outdated are taken off the shelves.  Many of these books which are still useable are donated to charities and community organisations for their own community libraries. Mobile reading is also on the rise since the NLB App was launched last October, which gives users access to 600,000 eBooks anytime, anywhere. 

7 NLB will continue to ensure that Singaporeans enjoy affordable access to information through our Next Generation Libraries. The two newly reopened libraries – Sengkang and Bukit Panjang Public Libraries – have seen at least a doubling of loans and visitorship compared to the similar period last year. The Tampines Regional Library, which just re-opened on 5 August 2017, saw more than 220,000 visitors in August – almost three times the number of visitors in the same month last year. NLB’s digital visitorship has also risen 11% since 2016. NLB also works closely with the community, co-creating programmes with patrons and engaging volunteers to run its library programmes, for example, the Volunteers Corner in the Tampines Regional Library is run entirely by volunteers. We are very thankful for the continued support of our partners and volunteers, which is essential to NLB’s success.

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