National Library Board
Feature | NLB

A New Kind of Library, A New Kind of Career

National Library Board Undergraduate Scholar Tan Li Lin tackles the changing times through recasting the notion of a library itself. She and her compatriots have transformed the NLB experience into knowledge and wonder available anywhere, to anyone.

Tan Li Lin - NLB Undergraduate Scholar, liaises with partners, plans deployment arrangements, and participates in content curation with librarians and vendors while collecting data to plan further updates as an Assistant Manager (Design & Development) in the Planning & Development Division of NLB. She has a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons) in Sociology and was part of the University Scholars Programme in NUS.

When the pandemic hit and safe distancing measures were implemented, the National Library Board (NLB) found itself re-examining its perception of a "library" as a physical place.

Amidst the turbulence of the times, it went back to basics and refocused on its primary goal: bringing knowledge to Singaporeans. This coalesced in a new vision, (LAB25), Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025, which includes a focus on creating an omni-channel network of library and archive services.

The new vision provides Singaporeans from all strata of society easy and affordable access to learning, reading, and wonder.

Part of the team bringing the library to the people outside the four walls is Tan Li Lin, NLB Undergraduate Scholar. Her work on the LAB25 Nodes project reaches out to new audiences by providing novel and engaging experiences drawn from NLB's content in accessible locations like malls and atriums.

To make these surprises possible, she liaises with partners, plans deployment arrangements, and participates in content curation with librarians and vendors while collecting data to plan further updates.

The 23-year-old Assistant Manager was eloquent on LAB25 and the opportunities it has breathed into the library. These translate into careers in curation, research, outreach activities and customer service, all within this single organisation and its far-reaching transformation.

Opening the First Page

But as every author knows, it is best to begin at the beginning. For Li Lin, her story started when her teacher recommended the scholarship to her.

"I was highly involved in school activities that promote interest in history and current affairs among fellow students. Hence, my teacher recommended the NLB Undergraduate scholarship to me since NLB promotes learning and Singaporeans' connection to our history," she recalled.

Interest sharpened into purpose when she attended the scholarship interviews. NLB's strong entrepreneurial spirit left a deep impression on her, as senior management constantly pushed candidates to discuss ways to innovate to better serve the public and remain relevant in the digital age.

"The times we live in are constantly changing, hence I deeply appreciate how NLB chooses to be nimble, open to experimentation, and constantly strives to do better."

Tan Li Lin

Tan Li Lin

Sociological Studies

In turn, NLB saw Li Lin's raw potential as an agent of change and was happy to support her in both her academic and extracurricular pursuits.

Alongside her Bachelor in Sociology, the organisation actively encouraged her to go out of her comfort zone and engage in diverse activities such as joining the entrepreneurship society, planning freshmen orientation and conducting research with non-profit organisations.

"I explored many different areas, some of which may not appear intuitively linked to my future roles and responsibilities at NLB. Yet, NLB's management was highly supportive in giving me the freedom to try out new experiences and learn new things," said Li Lin.

"To me, it reflects NLB's belief in grooming people of diverse experiences and perspectives to advance the organisation's goals. I am strongly supportive and grateful for such a culture that promotes diversity among its staff."

"I deeply appreciate how NLB chooses to be nimble, open to experimentation, and constantly strives to do better." Tan Li Lin

A Node of Knowledge

The organisation's passion for diversity in learning does not end with its scholars. LAB25 is all about delivering information and knowledge to the public, and so Li Lin hit the ground running the moment she finished her studies as an ambassador of the LAB25 Nodes Project.

True to their name, these nodes extend the library experience beyond its physical walls. The first roll-out included interactive Digital Doors and Experience Labs, as well as eResources presented through QR codes on immersive wallpapers and lift decals at shopping malls like SingPost Centre mall and Plaza Singapura. By engaging visitors through play, the nodes bring the wonder and excitement of a library visit to Singaporeans wherever they may be.

Li Lin finds great meaning in her work, which enhances the accessibility of learning and discovery. "The nodes are highly adaptable and can be integrated into various spaces, such as malls, and outdoor spaces."

"Singaporeans can thus access curated resources that are relevant to the activities they do in different settings, and develop the habit of lifelong learning amidst carrying out their everyday routines and activities."

Beginning a New Chapter in NLB

"While working on the nodes project, I have keenly felt NLB's appetite for innovation, and it makes me proud to be part of an organisation that constantly tries new ways to better serve the public," said Li Lin.

She hopes this thirst for innovation will attract others with a similar bold spirit to be part of the LAB25 transformation. After all, the library is moving outside its four walls, and needs talent to match.

"We have a buffet of experiences for you!" smiled Li Lin.

"Life at NLB is an adventure to try out many fun and exciting initiatives."