Adoption of Technology by Libraries

LEE Kee Siang, Chief Information Officer /Director Technology & Innovation , National Library Board

Formed in September 1st 1995, the National Library Board is a statutory board of the Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore. Tasked to manage the public libraries and to lead them into the Information Age where non-print resources are making their mark, the NLB is aimed towards the creation of "borderless libraries," an initiative aimed at bringing the libraries closer to Singaporeans, and to connect Singaporeans with the outside world.

Libraries serve diverse groups of users from different age groups, background and learning life styles. While challenged to meet the rising expectations, the advancement of infocomm technologies provides exciting opportunities for Libraries to transform and innovate their services to meet these diverse needs.

The RFID technology has been widely used in various libraries in the world to track the circulation and location of library items. In conjunction with this, other technological solutions such as e-kiosks, catalogue search, online services, email, SMS and mobile apps are used to provide a total customer experience.
To keep up with the growing trend of digital lifestyle and reach out to the diverse needs of the users, libraries need to engage users by enhancing their experiences when using the services offered by the libraries. 

Access to Information Services
The library is no longer the first or the only source of information. There is widespread use of Internet information resources with search engines as the first point of call. It has to ride on the innovative use of technology to offer a rich array of information services and resources that are convenient, accessible and relevant to the users.

Transforming the access and discovery of the digital library resources involves making the digital content easily accessible through a massive digitisation programme, opening up the library collection for web discovery and developing innovative services to engage digital users across mobile and social media spaces. Using Internet to reach out to the users via their preferred digital spaces is the key in reaching out to the Internet savvy users. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques should be used to improve the discovery of contents to reach out to the users and bring them back to the Library digital spaces. Contents should also be delivered and rendered viewable on different devices through responsive web design to ensure that the user experience on any device is optimal. 

Mobile and Interactive Services
Mobile technologies have opened up tremendous opportunities to reach out to the library users with connected lifestyle, demanding accesses to information via different devices anytime, anywhere. They can enable users to perform library transactions such as reading e-books, perform book reservation, payment, event registration and checkout of books via their mobile devices.

Libraries can be inspiring learning spaces differentiated for different demographic groups. The physical library remains a key touch point to engage library users. There is a need to converge the physical and digital space to create an immersive reading experience in the library. An integrated collection of physical and digital content powered through the use of smart technology can enable the users to have seamless access to the rich physical and digital contents. Mobile and Internet of Things technologies (sensors, wireless technology etc) together with data analytics can be used to profile patrons learning needs and offer personalised services to the users.

Data Driven Approach to turn data into insights and innovation
There is a need for more use of data analytics to understand usage behaviour and to anticipate the information needs of the users. The widespread adoption of mobile devices and smart sensors enables more user data to be collected for analysis. This provides insights on user behaviour and helps in the transformation of services to provide better reading experience for users by providing relevant collections and personalised recommendations.

Using data driven approach, actionable insights at the strategic, tactical and operational levels can be achieved:

• Better foresights for future libraries planning

• Productivity gain through better decision making 

• Customer satisfaction improvements through better service offerings 

• Better usage of Library services and resources 

Libraries are undergoing tremendous challenges and competition from other information resources made easily available through the internet and social media platforms. With the explosion of digital content over the world-wide-web, coupled with its availability and ease of use, the library can become irrelevant if it does not keep pace with changing user lifestyles and expectations. Instead of seeing this rise of the digital natives and spaces as obstacles, libraries need to leverage on the opportunities provided with the advancement of technologies and growing digital learning lifestyle to break new grounds to offer innovative services that can enhance the user experience and search for information needs.