National Library Board
Feature | NLB

Where Passion Meets Purpose

The National Library Board’s National Reading Movement aims to promote the joy of reading and learning in Singapore and strives to nurture a vibrant reading culture. Alex Foo is seeking to drive this positive change through new programmes and initiatives in his role as an Associate Librarian.

Alex Foo is an Associate Librarian in the Programmes & Services Division (National Reading Movement and Literary Arts) at NLB. He is a recipient of the NLB Undergraduate Scholarship and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History and English from Columbia University, New York.

As a child, Alex was always thrilled to stroll into libraries with his parents. It was a place for imaginative discovery where he would browse through the shelves and stumble upon different books that would help shape his perspective and world views.

His passion for reading led him to pursue a National Library Board (NLB) Undergraduate Scholarship. He eventually started his career as an Associate Librarian in the Programmes & Services Division (National Reading Movement and Literary Arts) with his sponsoring organisation after graduating from Columbia University in New York with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and English.

He shares more with us about his role and why he enjoys working at NLB.

Please tell us more about your passion for literature.

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of language to shape thought. I enjoy thinking about how writers experiment with form and content, the relationship between word and image, and how literature intersects with history, religion, politics, and art.

Alex Foo

Alex Foo

How did you discover the NLB Undergraduate Scholarship and what made you choose it?

I actually learned about the NLB Undergraduate Scholarship through this very magazine! Given my personal interests, I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) Sector. I chose NLB because what it stands for resonates deeply with me: access to knowledge for everyone, an inspiring and inclusive space for learning, and a custodian of Singapore’s rich historical records.

“I chose NLB because what it stands for resonates deeply with me: access to knowledge for everyone, an inspiring and inclusive space for learning, and a custodian of Singapore’s rich historical records.” Alex Foo

How has the NLB Undergraduate Scholarship enhanced your education and career experiences?

As a scholar, I constantly look at how I can challenge myself and also seek out opportunities to try new things. NLB does have quite varied work streams that staff can always try to plug into! Thus far, I’ve had the chance to be involved in cross-divisional projects and the management of key meetings that gives me a bird’s eye view of the organisation’s key objectives and strategies. One example would be my involvement in the Nodes project, which provides accessible entry points to NLB’s content outside the library at popular locations across the island, such as parks and shopping malls. This both enhances the discovery of lesser-known NLB’s eResources and attracts new users. This meaningful project falls under the “Learning Marketplace” role of LAB25, or the Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025, which seeks to integrate NLB’s physical and digital offerings into a network of immersive hubs and nodes. Through this experience, I’ve picked up project management skills in areas such as stakeholder engagement, vendor management, and communications, all of which will come in handy as I take on other projects and roles in NLB.

The scholarship supported and enhanced my education and career experiences by allowing me to fully immerse in the learning with no need to worry about the expenses that comes with this journey. It covered return airfare, full tuition, and a stipend for accommodation and living expenses. NLB also supported my summer school in Venice, where I learned about the art and history of this maritime republic and visited many private and public libraries and archives.

Alex Foo

Alex Foo

Could you tell us more about your role at NLB?

I curate literary programmes, which involves content research, working with speakers, collateral design, and marketing. Internally, I work with the Mother Tongue Language teams on big initiatives to promote cross-cultural appreciation of local stories and to develop new programmes for the upcoming Singapore Alcove at the Central Public Library. Externally, I forge partnerships with writers, publishers, arts organisations and other government agencies to champion Singapore literature, through events such as NLB’s very own Read! Fest.

What are the career opportunities at NLB?

NLB is a far larger organisation than most realise; there are projects and rotational opportunities both in the frontline and backend to expose yourself to the other core functions of NLB, be it researching lesser-known facets of Singapore and Southeast Asia’s history, improving user-experience in the libraries and archives through data and digital technologies, to enhancing access to physical and digital content and services. Given my interests in historical research, visual material, and public engagement, I also sought out curatorial opportunities in the National Library’s Exhibitions team and had the good fortune to be involved in the curation of a forthcoming exhibition which will be showcased this year. This stimulating project not only provided me with a better picture of the work that archivists and reference librarians do, but also enriched my understanding of user experience and design.

Has working at NLB been a fulfilling and enjoyable experience for you?

Yes, because my current role is emphatically not deskbound, and I get to read as part of my job! I find the work to be quite dynamic as we’re constantly thinking of new ways to improve existing programme series and how to better work with industry players to promote reading. As a programmer, it’s also very heartening to get immediate and positive feedback from members of the public after they’ve enjoyed a certain programme, and you do develop rapport with your regulars!