“We would like to inform him that we provide over a million e-books, 160 e-databases, 2,000 e-magazines, 2,000 e-comics, 1,400 e-newspapers in 39 languages, 25,000 audio books and more than 550,000 music tracks at NLB’s eResources website – http://eresources. nlb.gov.sg/” (NLB Offers Users Wide Variety Of E-Resources, Mr. Chan Ping Wah).
I refer to the letter “Can NLB Offer E-Books” (October 8, 2010) by Mr. Nelson Quah, and the subsequent reply by the National Library Board (NLB), “NLB Offers Users Wide Variety Of E-Resources” (October 15, 2010). I have been an avid user of NLB’s eResources because of their diversity and great accessibility, yet the organisation cannot fault Mr. Quah his ignorance over the availability of the assortment of on-line resources offered free-of-charge to the public. Instead, greater effort should be taken to review the existing advocacy and awareness campaign, which seems to be falling short in its purpose to encourage more Singaporeans to make active use of the services.
The NLB has done quite a fair bit in terms of distributing flyers and putting up posters in the respective public libraries to promote the resources; however, it remains to be seen whether such passive efforts have yielded the desired results. What puzzles me is the reluctance on the part of the administrative team to actively go into schools and institutions to let more students know about alternative channels available to them, rather than relying pedantically on generic search engines per se; after all, they are the individuals who would require such platforms for research, presentations, writing papers et cetera. Staff members can also approach various community interest groups – such as book clubs or reading circles – and convince them to use the virtual hubs as well.
Present case studies in which the eResources have proven to be far more beneficial than the traditional reliance on blind usage of the Internet. Through these experiences, individuals can also be taught on the concepts of plagiarism and creative control, and thereby educate them to be more responsible and judicial users of knowledge and information.
More can also be done to improve the aesthetics and functionality of the search engines. Quite evidently, the sheer quantity of search engines presented can be extremely daunting for the first-time user; hence, consider production of simple tutorials – in poster or video forms – to guide users patiently through. Classify the materials more dynamically, and put together various samples to allow for greater comprehension and manoeuvrability.
So much money and resources have been sunk into the endeavour; and given its potential and multi-faceted utility, NLB should strive to enhance its services and reach out to as many people as possible. Do not let everything go to waste.
A version of this article was published in My Paper.