In the beloved Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland, the protagonist follows a white bunny and falls into a rabbit hole that takes her into a fascinating, albeit sometimes terrifying, parallel world. There, Alice encounters people and creatures, situations and shenanigans that she never thought could exist. She breaks rules, eats cake, drinks strange potions, grows big, then becomes small. So, too, are libraries – places where new worlds are created, boundaries pushed and parallel universes forged. A whole new world lies before us, and we must be brave enough to break the rules, think out of the box, explore new territories, morph into new entities, and even upsize or downsize when the situation warrants it.
In this special issue of BiblioAsia marking Singapore’s hosting of the World Library and Information Congress, we have invited leaders of the library and information ﬁeld to share their views on how libraries have braved new worlds and continue to be institutions through which people become stronger as a result – both as individual seekers of knowledge and as citizens of communities. As Dr James Billington of the Library of Congress expressed in his article, civilisation was built on the backs of great books and ideas, and through books and their ideas, individuals may in turn inﬂuence society.
On the surface, advancements in technology seem to have heralded the demise of the library as we know it. But many libraries around the world, along with the professionals who work within them, have responded swiftly to the digital age and the changing needs of modern library users. In her article, “Libraries: A Force to Transform Societies”, Dr Ingrid Parent, president of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, highlights how libraries have been riding the digital wave, bringing information and knowledge to the masses. She sees libraries as agents of change, empowering individuals who in turn engender positive change in society. Director of the Library of Alexandria, Dr Ismail Serageldin, also gives us an idea of how to navigate the digital age and what the information revolution means for libraries.
Technology has enabled library services to become even more eﬃcient. The National Library of China shares with us the implementation of their digital library project and plans for a seamless integration of networks and resources. The Malaysian National Library’s Ubiquitous Library Pilot Project aims to enhance the user experience and also enable library resources to be accessed from a single system. The Jogja Library in Yogyakarta has been working to implement Jogja for All, a library network that seeks to link up libraries in the province, consolidate records and provide access to digital resources.
The National Library of Australia has developed a successful online discovery service called Trove. Trove’s users have access to its extensive digital newspaper database, enabling them to correct inaccuracies caused by print-to-digital scanning. This has spawned forums and communities, all working to make Trove’s resources even better.
Singapore’s libraries run a gamut of activities to encourage lifelong learning such as nationwide reading programmes, storytelling sessions and exhibitions. Eﬀorts are also made to reach the underserved members of the community through our fully equipped mobile-library-in-a-bus, Molly. Our libraries also engage the public via national initiatives like the Singapore Memory Project and the National Information Literacy Programme.
An integral part of the library system is the library professional. The Library Society of China shares their programmes and eﬀorts to improve the quality and eﬃciency of library services and library professionals across China.
The diverse initiatives described in this issue echo the same sentiment: as we step into a new (and brave) world, we can be sure that libraries are the key to a fresh and exciting future, filled with infinite possibilities that we cannot even begin to imagine.
Director, National Library