Managing the National Library, 26 Public Libraries, and National Archives, the NLB provides an integral service to society by functioning as an easily accessible information service and promoting reading and learning among the public.
We speak to NLB Scholars Laura Kho and Nathaniel Chew and take a behind-the-scenes look at what you can expect from a career at NLB.
Tell us about your current role and its responsibilities.
Laura Kho: As an Associate Librarian at the Central Public Library, I am actively involved in day-to-day branch operations. These include working on the frontline serving the public directly, conducting reading advisory services, planning programmes, and promoting our collection of resources.
Besides that, I actively engage the community through outreaches and collaborations with schools and businesses in our immediate vicinity. In addition, NLB librarians work in cross-functional project teams to review policies, design new services as well as organise nation-wide campaigns such as the National Reading Movement.
Nathaniel Chew: Thanks to my scholarship, I am currently pursuing a major in English and Linguistics at Carleton College. I also have an on-campus job at Carleton’s Writing Centre, which supports students with their writing – be it for academic papers or professional applications. In my work, I get to interact with many students I would not have met otherwise, reading their thoughts on everything from ecological conservation to website design and Irish poetry. Engaging with such a diversity of people and ideas has been an education in its own right.
NLB Overseas Undergraduate Scholar
Central Public Library (CTPL)
National Library Board
What sparked your interest in pursuing a scholarship and career with NLB?
Laura: I wanted to begin my career in an organisation whose work I found exciting and had a tangible form of social impact. It was also important to me that the scholarship offered strong developmental opportunities that would stretch me and help me to learn and grow exponentially.
Those were the principles guiding me, but interestingly my decision to try for the NLB Scholarship was initiated by a sudden moment of inspiration while I was browsing the shelves at my local public library. I realised that one of the places I enjoyed spending my time in most was the library. Upon further research and probing I discovered that NLB’s mission and ethos struck deep chords within me.
Nathaniel: I only found out about the NLB Undergraduate Scholarship late into my search, but when I did, it changed my perspective on scholarships. With other scholarships, there was not necessarily a direct link between what I had enjoyed studying and my future career. As the National Library is a curator of information on a range of disciplines, pursuing a scholarship with NLB allows me to study in a school and programme of my choice. I also love books and sharing my passion for reading – something I happen to share with your typical librarian!
NLB Overseas Undergraduate Scholar
Bachelor of Arts in English and Linguistics Carleton College
How does NLB support your professional development?
Laura: NLB practises what it preaches. It invests time and resources in our learning and is consistently sourcing for useful courses for employees to attend. Within the span of two years I completed my WSQ Service Excellence Level 3 Certification as well as attended an NIE-run lecture series on Children’s Literature. With NLB’s support, I have also attended the last two renditions of the Singapore Writers’ Festival as part of my effort to keep up to date with local and regional literary trends.
As a scholar, you are granted project management and secretariat roles early on to exercise skills in people management, event organisation, budget planning, and communications. Regular job rotations are a key feature of the NLB scholarship that expose us to a wider range of issues and portfolios.
Nathaniel: I interned at the National Library’s Content & Services division the summer before I left for college. There, I worked with teams across the division - writing articles for the online reference HistorySG to creating resource guides on specific research topics and designing curated book displays. I also had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with library management on future resource development.
This was a fulfilling experience in large part because of the supportive work environment and degree of personal responsibility I had as an intern. In my eight weeks there, I got a sense of taking charge of independent projects I was working on and of collaborating on team efforts.
What advice would you have for those considering an NLB Scholarship?
Laura: Be upfront about your love for learning and whatever you are passionate about. Do also give some thought to the ever-evolving role of libraries in society and the world. It would also be useful to demonstrate an awareness of what goes on behind the running of libraries as well as what we are doing in and for communities in Singapore today.
Nathaniel: Visit a library! They are slightly ubiquitous in Singapore which funnily enough makes them easy to overlook sometimes, but they are fantastic resources and work spaces.
If you have not been to a library in a while, ask yourself “Why not?” What would you change about libraries to make them more compelling and relevant? What more could a library be? The world is changing rapidly, as are reading, publishing, research, education, and the arts and NLB is always looking for ideas on how libraries should change with them.