Tag Archives: Singapore

Keeping Older Adults in Singapore Digitally Engaged Amidst Covid-19

Undeniably, COVID-19 has profoundly changed life as we know it. The global pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on the way we live, work, and play, and everyone, including libraries, has had to adjust to a “new normal” at an alarming pace. In Singapore, the Circuit Breaker was implemented in April to contain the spread of the coronavirus and residents, especially the elderly were advised to stay at home. This meant that all non-essential workplaces including our public libraries were closed for almost two months. This unexpected situation meant that we had to promptly rethink our operations and current model of programme delivery for older adults and devise new ways to keep them meaningfully engaged at home. Before, our programming was mostly focused on onsite activities – many of which were designed with the aim of bridging the digital divide among older adults in mind.

Some examples include our partnerships with other organisations to introduce programmes that promote basic digital literacy through one-on-one assistance from volunteers, classroom training, and learning communities. For older adults who were ready to take their digital skills to the next level, we also rolled out hands-on workshops that tackled more complex topics, such as coding, app development and movie making. This helped to fuel their creativity and sustain their interest in the digital sphere.

While these digital readiness initiatives were already in place, the COVID-19 situation established the need to scale them up and deliver them in new ways. Bearing in mind that everyone has varying interests and familiarity with technology – it was crucial to curate programmes that could cater to most, if not all. Another key consideration was that certain types of programmes would not translate well onto an online platform: this included workshops with a heavy emphasis on hands-on activities, or those that required one-to-one guidance from the instructor. Programme duration was another factor: information had to be delivered in bite-sized chunks due to the possibility of “Zoom fatigue”.

Engaging Older Adults Through Online Programming

From the onset, we knew that we wanted to curate a suite of fun, exciting, and engaging programmes for older adults, involving programme concepts we had never done before. Some environmental scans and brainstorming sessions later, we birthed the #StayHome series, our very first online series for older adults. The #StayHome programme series comprise Read, Learn, and Play editions, and featured book recommendations, creative workshops, and games that covered a wide range of topics suitable for those aged 50 and above. These programmes were conducted by librarians or volunteer facilitators. On top of content creation, we supplemented all our virtual programmes with a curated list of eBooks and electronic resources that participants would find useful for continuing their learning in that particular domain. Here is more about the different editions:

 #StayHomeAndRead: Spotlights eBooks and encourages the love of reading. Sessions featuring non-fiction titles were complemented with hands-on activities (derived from the eBooks) to make reading and learning fun and interactive.

Past topics: Exploring the Fantasy Genre, PressReader App, Forest Bathing, K-pop

 #StayHomeAndLearn: Covers a wide range of topics so older adults can learn and stay relevant and connected to trends.

Past topics: Digital Housekeeping, Social Media, Coding, App Development

#StayHomeAndPlay: Engages older adults through cognitive games to improve their mental well-being.

Past topics: Print-to-Screen Trivia, Bingo, Word Scrambles

Despite having no prior experience with online programming, our enthusiastic volunteer programme facilitators were raring to explore the possibility of converting their learning communities to online meetups. Their willingness to step up to the challenge and their efforts spent tweaking their respective programme concepts successfully brought four of our volunteer-run learning communities to the virtual platform. The virtual approach was adopted for our major events too, namely the Time of Your Life Celebration in October, which is an annual celebration of older adults in conjunction with the International Day of Older Persons. This year’s event was held in collaboration with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), and went fully online with a holistic spread of enriching programmes. This involved local and overseas industry experts deliberating on pertinent issues in the field of gerontology, which sought to inspire older adults to share about what sparked joy and created meaning in their lives.

Getting Older Adults Digitally Ready

Although the social distancing measures have affected all of us, it is safe to assume an uneven impact on the age groups when it comes to digital-readiness. While the younger generation would find it easier to cope with the situation because of their tech-savviness, for the older generation, who are less familiar with technology and often rely on face-to-face communication and in-store purchases, this meant a dramatic change in their lifestyle. Hence, there was an urgent need to get them digitally ready and equipped with the skills required for the new normal, such as video conferencing with their loved ones, ordering food and grocery deliveries, using electronic payment, and discerning fake news.

This was where the Virtual Digital Clinic (VDC), a collaboration with Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), came in. Seniors could join a VDC from the comfort of their own home and get their tech-related enquiries answered by a friendly volunteer during 20-minute consultation session. VDCs are held weekly and are available in our four official languages – English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, to make it accessible to all.

Promoting the Joy of Reading eBooks

For book lovers who were unable to get their regular printed reading materials from our libraries, we curated a monthly list of recommended eReads on a range of topics, such as Coming of (Old) Age Fiction, Mental Wellness, and Indoor Exercises. These lists were sent out in the form of Electronic Direct Mailers (EDMs) to our mailing list subscribers, members of our various book clubs and learning communities, as well as strategic partners who could share these EDMs with other older adults beyond our usual reach. This monthly mailer also served as a good opportunity to encourage older adults to browse our digital collections in the safety and comfort of their own home. Along the same vein, our quarterly publication, the Time of Your Life: Good Reads for the 50+ magazine is also available for download from our corporate website1. Written by librarians, this lifestyle magazine features articles on topics ranging from technology to positive ageing, serving as a resource to help older adults keep up with trends.


1 Time of Your Life: Good Reads for the 50+ (digital copy):


Though making the digital leap might seem like a huge hurdle, we encouraged older adults to take the first step with our suite of digital readiness initiatives such as the VDCs. The more tech-savvy were kept meaningfully engaged with our #StayHome programme series and curated eReads EDMs. Furthermore, we held Zoom tutorials for the public, where we supported our volunteer programme facilitators by guiding them on how to use Zoom prior to their sessions to build their confidence in conducting programmes on the virtual platform.

The world has hit the big reset button and we took this opportunity to review our offerings for older adults at the libraries. Libraries around the world face the same challenge of staying relevant, and evidently, this pandemic has only underscored the important role that libraries play – beyond just physical spaces where people borrow books and attend programmes, libraries play a vital role as learning concierges that enable and empower people with (digital) tools and skills to help them navigate the sea of information and the world beyond.


Raneetha Rajaratnam,  Director, Public Libraries Singapore


Meet the candidates: Raneetha Rajaratnam

Raneetha Rajaratnam
Deputy Director
National Library of Singapore

With 21 years of extensive experience in public library operations and services, I am confident of contributing fresh ideas, and leading projects as a standing committee member in the Public Libraries Section.

Recognised for my innovative ideas, ability to motivate teams and enthusiasm for the field of librarianship, I have been the Assistant Manager in 2 regional libraries, setup a department to run an extensive national school reading programme, introduced awards to recognise best reading practices in educational institutions, and created an online reading portal to encourage a three-pronged approach to reading in the 21st century – (i) engagement; (ii) co-creation; (iii) cultivating the reading habit. Currently, as the Deputy Director for Content and Services, I lead the team that is responsible for public library services to children and teens, and this includes nationwide initiatives for underserved communities. One my most significant achievement in the past year was formulating and rolling out a forward-looking 5-year services masterplan for all public libraries in Singapore.

I believe in seeking opportunities to influence change. In my early days as a Senior Librarian, passionate about the professional development of staff, I created a series of literature courses and conducted training for all public librarians. When asked if I could get all public library staff energised and excited about reading, I designed a game show like literature competition for staff to showcase their literary knowledge. My keenness to look into staff professional development led to a recommendation for me to develop a skills enhancement framework for public librarians and para-professional library officers. This pilot initiative is currently being implemented in stages for all staff.

For more information about voting for members of the Public Libraries Standing Committee take the time to read our post

Reopening of Pasir Ris Public Library, the first Mall Library with a dedicated Teen Space in Singapore

Photograph - Public Libraries Standing Committee-Jane Wee

Pasir Ris Public Library reopens its doors to the public on 28 November 2015 after nine months of renovations. The library features versatile and distinct spaces to meet different user preferences and needs, enhancing the reading and learning experiences for all patrons.


It is now the first mall library with dedicated spaces for teenagers that have been created by their peers from the Inspiring Readers Society (a name which the pioneer team of 39 members, aged between 13 and 19 collectively decided). The aim of the society is to encourage engagement in content discovery, reading and discussions with their peers while also creating a sense of ownership of the library spaces among the teens.


These teenagers will be co-creating video trailers that recommend books that they like, made available for viewing by other teens visitors at the Book Tree in the library.


They will be organising regular Hangout Sessions in the Mezzanine, where the members will share with other teenagers about any topic relating to a recommended book.


Teens and adults alike can interact with a Doodle Wall, where they can draw using their fingertips with the help of an interactive projector to facilitate live discussions through the use of visualisation. There are three such Doodle Walls in the library, the other two being located at the Programmig Area and the Early Literacy Section.


Teens’ Mezzanine, conceptualised through feedback from teens and the public, was specially designed with movable furniture to enable teens the flexibility to create an environment conducive for in group activities such as group discussions and brainstorm sessions.



Spaces to engage the wider community

Reading Terrace, with windows overlooking the Pasir Ris Park, features staggered platforms for casual reading and the use of natural light.


Intense readers can indulge in solitude and a good book at the Quiet Reading Lounge with individual nooks.


Nestled with comfortable casual seating, the Children’s Deck enables parents to emotionally bond with their children while engaging them in the world of knowledge and building the love for reading.


Pasir Ris Public Library, located at the White Sands Mall is one of the 26 public libraries in Singapore. It was first opened to public on 6 October 2000 and currently served a population size of about 137,500.


Celebrating Singapore’s ‘growing up’ years of endeavours at work and play through a showcase of Legal Deposit Publications

Photograph - Public Libraries Standing Committee-Jane Wee

Singapore celebrates our 50 years of independence this year in 2015. We are indeed a very young country.

The celebrations had been ongoing in Singapore for the whole year. And like any other organizations in Singapore, the National Library Board of Singapore (NLB) had a series of exhibitions, reading festivals and film festivals, book launches and web archive launches since January 2015 to commemorate the nation’s jubilee year.

And on 20 November 2015, we launched PublicationSG, an online catalogue of over one million materials published in Singapore and deposited with NLB’s Legal Deposit. Contents would be available to the public upon their request. This collection includes printed and audio-visual publications such as books, annual reports, music scores, magazines, journals, posters, brochures, yearbooks, audiobooks, music sound and recordings. They cover a wide range of topics from fashion to food, festivities of bygone years, school and kampong days of our forefathers to trends in the entertainment world, popular hobbies and sporting pursuits, and many more.

From 20 November 2015 to 8 January 2016, we are showcasing a display featuring these treasured Singapore publications from our Legal Deposit Collection at the National Library Building. This display covers a wide range of titles from fashion to food, festivities of bygone years, school and kampong days of our forefathers to trends in the entertainment world, popular hobbies and sporting pursuits, a reminisce about Singapore’s ‘growing up’ years of endeavors at work and play.


Empowering kidsREAD Volunteers

Photograph - Public Libraries Standing Committee-Jane Wee





The Public Library Services of National Library Board Singapore (NLB) held a 2nd kidsREAD Symposium on 31 October 2015, attended by close to a hundred kidsREAD volunteers. The symposium is part of the kidsREAD training framework which aims to facilitate the development of our volunteers, providing them with a platform and opportunity to be exposed to a variety of perspectives, and engage experts on issues in relation to their role as kidsREAD volunteers. Topics covered in this Symposium included:
• Choosing the Right Picture Books for Children;
• Visual Literacy as a Learning Tool in Reading Picture Books;
• Reading Wordless Picture Books; and
• Exploring the Humour Genre in Children’s Literature.


The National kidsREAD programme is a nationwide reading programme in Singapore officially launched on 23 April 2004 by then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. kidsREAD is a collaborative effort by NLB together with the People’s Association (PA) and five self-help groups to promote the love of reading and cultivate good reading habits among young Singaporeans, specifically children from low-income families. The target audience of kidsREAD is children between the ages of 4 and 8, regardless of race or religion.  Volunteers are the lifeline of kidsREAD. They read aloud stories to children to inculcate good reading habits from young and help them discover the joy of reading. The main aim for volunteers is to get the children interested in books and to make reading a fun and enjoyable experience.


Volunteers can choose to volunteer at any of the reading clubs that have been set up island wide. The schedule is dependent on the reading club the volunteer chooses to be attached to. Some reading clubs run on weekdays and some on weekends. As at 2014, there were 254 active clubs with more than 1,500 volunteers.

To equip these volunteers for their roles, NLB constantly holds training and workshops in storytelling and reading sessions for them. Volunteer Resource Guide provides suggestions on how each session can be carried out, and best practices are being shared across the clubs and also among volunteers. As with all projects involving volunteers, sustaining volunteer involvement is one key challenge as their motivation can be easily influenced by phase of life developments, lifestyle changes and other competing interest. NLB strives on to sustain this meaning programme run by volunteers through organising annual appreciation events to appreciate our committed volunteers and learning activities such as workshops and symposiums specially organised for them.

More information on kidsREAD can be found on their website.