Libraries move towards self-service model
NLB undergoing change so patrons can navigate with minimal assistance
Walk into some public libraries and you will not see a librarian at a customer service counter. At five libraries here, patrons can navigate their way to a book by using a Bookmap function, available in both an app and in the catalogue in libraries that shows where the book is.
These are among the changes the National Library Board (NLB) has made in recent years to make public libraries more self-service oriented, said its chief information officer Lee Kee Siang.
"The aim is to transform our services and change the way we serve our patrons so as to navigate our services seamlessly with minimal assistance from us."
The NLB mobile app allows patrons to search for books, register for library programmes, pay fines and even check out books using the mobile phone camera.
It has seen 206,000 downloads and close to 550,000 book checkouts between its launch in October last year and November this year.
Patrons who reserve books can now pick them up from reservation lockers at 18 libraries. The lockers were inspired by Singapore Post's POPStation lockers, said Mr Lee. They plan to set up reservation lockers at all the libraries here by early next year, except for library@Chinatown.
Ten libraries, including library@orchard, have done away with counter service. Roving librarians look out for patrons who need help. New libraries will be counter-less as well, said Mr Lee.
He acknowledged that patrons need time to adjust.
The reservation lockers and kiosks have a function to request a librarian who will connect to the patron remotely by phone and a monitor with a co-browsing function. As patrons help themselves, the job scope of the librarian has evolved. They are more focused on coming up with ideas for programming.
For example, librarians worked with Sengkang Secondary School students to put up artwork at the Sengkang Public Library.
"There is less dependency for staff for support, and our staff can gear towards higher value added services and come up with programming for our patrons and target those who really do need more assistance," Mr Lee said.
More plans are in the pipeline, including a collaboration with Microsoft to roll out a chatbot.
He said: "There is always a need for us to innovate, and it is driven by the need for us to improve our services to our customer."