Left: Tan Li Lin, an NLB
Scholar, is currently
pursuing a Bachelor of
Social Sciences at the
National University of
Right: Alex Foo, an NLB Scholar, is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Art History at Columbia University.
Everyone in Singapore has visited the library at least once (and perhaps come away with a book or two). But the National Library Board (NLB) is so much more than its libraries, as it promotes reading and learning in Singapore, and has a wide and rich collection of books and other library materials and programmes for everyone.
By forging strategic partnerships to cultivate knowledge sharing, the libraries also encourage appreciation and awareness of Singapore’s history through their wide range of programmes and collections on Singapore and regional content.
Amongst the many patrons that visit Singapore’s libraries, Tan Li Lin, 21 years old, and Alex Foo, 23 years old, have taken their passion further than the days of book clubs in primary school. As participants in NLB’s scholarship programme, they have been exposed to the many different jobs and projects.
A Broad Education
“I was certain that I wanted a future career where I could play a part in building a close-knit and supportive community within Singapore,” Li Lin asserts. “I am also passionate about developing Singaporeans’ sense of national identity and belonging. I chose to take up the NLB scholarship because NLB offers me the opportunity to pursue both of my passions.”
Her internship at NLB gave her many opportunities, all centred towards those passions. Working as a librarian allowed her to play an active role in fostering learning communities, developing programmes and platforms to promote the passion for lifelong learning. Separately, at the National Archives of Singapore, she helped document and research Singapore’s history, thus promoting awareness and appreciation of Singapore’s rich culture.
Alex has a similar story to tell. “My primary consideration was that the organisation’s work needed to be meaningful to me. As someone who has spent practically half his life in libraries, I instinctively felt that I would enjoy a working environment that prioritised the love of learning,” he tells us.
Following his instincts, he has exposed himself to many different working environments and projects to broaden his love of learning and to spread it to others. He worked collaboratively on projects like Read! Fest, a significant event where the diverse programming offers something for everyone. “It involves a heroic effort to organise,” Alex admits, “but it is the time of the year when book lovers and new initiates gather around to talk about hot topics and books, and it certainly has the fanfare and thrill of a festival.”
Through his internship, Alex learnt how NLB targets different age demographics with specific content and services, with the goal of developing readers from one age group to the next. He, in turn, hopes his studies in Art History and English will help boost NLB’s visual and literary arts collection and offerings, be it in the form of art lectures or creative workshops.
A Digital Future
As NLB embraces and reinvents its role in the digital age, both Alex and Li Lin are full of ideas and plans.
“The digital age presents excellent opportunities for NLB to assume an even more relevant role in people’s lives,” Li Lin enthuses. She sees two great opportunities for growth. Firstly, no longer constrained by the physical boundaries of library spaces, NLB can leverage on the vast digital technologies available to enhance the accessibility of its resources and services. Secondly, NLB can expand and diversify its offerings to appeal to a wider range of audiences. Information and knowledge can now take on new forms such as e-books, audiobooks and podcasts to cater to different needs and preferences.
Alex agrees. He sees social media as a chance for NLB to market their programmes and resources directly to teenagers and young adults who may simply be unaware of NLB’s offerings. “Given the surfeit of information available online, NLB will have to boost its intermediary role as a filter of that information to direct patrons to the most pertinent and verified references and books,” he concludes, highlighting the important role NLB plays as an information node for Singaporeans.
The Scholarship and Beyond
For Li Lin, it was the opportunity to be part of developing Singapore’s sense of national identity and belonging that motivated her to pursue an internship with NLB. For Alex, he found the work meaningful as it prioritised the love of learning.
That is the heart of the NLB scholarship. It enables the pursuit of a meaningful career to enrich the lives of others and offers the opportunity to work in a vibrant and energetic environment with colleagues who take pride in their work. Moreover, innovation is at an all-time high in the digital age, where NLB is evolving rapidly to adapt to changing needs and preferences.
Finally, working at NLB presents valuable opportunities for self-discovery and growth. The National Library and Public Libraries actively involve people in nurturing knowledgeable citizens, building a passion for lifelong learning, and promoting information literacy. At the National Archives of Singapore, people can play a role in inculcating an appreciation of our shared history to strengthen Singaporeans’ national identity and sense of belonging. Each area has different challenges, and the work is rarely repetitive or mundane.
The scholarship also offers a supportive work environment and the chance to build interpersonal skills, especially when part of a front-facing organisation that caters to such a diverse public.
“The library has shaped me to become an open-minded person,” Li Lin reminisces. “NLB’s vast collection has offered me diverse reading experiences, enabling me to see the world through many different lenses.” The NLB internship is clearly not merely a path to a goal, but the first step in a journey to many worlds that may end with a singular success.