A few of us were fortunate to have an opportunity to attend the 72nd International Federation of Library Association’s (IFLA) World Library and Information Congress in Seoul in August.
At the conference, we had a chance to meet with our counterparts from a number of great libraries, for example the National Libraries of the 10 ASEAN countries, Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Netherlands, UK and USA. From the discussions, we understand that heritage content is being digitised extensively for preservation and greater access. Research and development work on the digital preservation and the web archiving of heritage materials are also making good progress in the world library scene. International standards on the most effective ways to catalogue, index and organise electronic content and facilitate access to shared electronic content are some of the important collaborative projects carried out by the libraries in different parts of the world.
There is also greater attention given to understanding the needs of target groups of the different types of libraries, in particular to the clientele of the national libraries. In the past, serious researchers are the primary users of many national libraries. A number of the national libraries shared with the Congress their recent efforts to re-define their purpose and functions, and to open their libraries to a much larger audience. These include the business community, practitioners, general public, younger people and even children. They see the younger generation as future users of the national library. Some of these libraries even took deiberate steps to re-design the libraries for specific target groups, such as the business community that would require more conducive spaces for networking, with coffee and music thrown in, and a welcoming visitor centre to give the general public a glimpse of the collections and services of the national library.
We took away with us the assurance that national libraries of the world are making themselves more relevant to users in more ways than one. The digital environment that library users all over the world work and live in has also influenced the way libraries transform themselves to serve them better. This is especially so, when large segments of societies are using both the physical spaces in libraries as well as the digital spaces offered by the same libraries, in very different ways.
As the National Library in Singapore continues develop our collections and services, we are pleased that there is a large community out there whom we can leverage on, librarians and other information professionals who are willing to share their learning and insights to help us along. We are certainly not alone in our journey to innovate and to find new ways to serve our users more effectively.
A special write up on the proceedings of the Congress is included in this issue of BliblioAsia. This issue also comprises articles on the Haj pilgrimage, the art of poetry as well as the Tamil cinema in Singapore. A special highlight of this quarter is the launch of the “Evolution of Malay Scripts” Exhibition on 16 December 2006. Showcasing the development of the Malay scripts, the exhibition will reveal the phases and periods of external influences on the Malay people.
We look forward to seeing you at the Librrary and happy reading!
Ms Ngian Lek Choh