Georgia Ho  |  Singapore
Published 2014-09-29 15:00:21

If the queues at the borrowing kiosks look shorter these days, it’s because the National Library Board (NLB) of Singapore just launched an app amongst other online services as part of their myLibrary online service. Called NLB Mobile, not to be confused with MobileRead — which lets you “borrow” e-books indefinitely, it is an app that allows you to scan the books you want to borrow when you’re browsing on the go. You can even renew books when you’re overseas, view which items you have that are due soon, and check the availability of the books you want to borrow before you head down to the library.

Image Credit: NLB
Image Credit: NLB Singapore

It’s a nifty little app, and pretty useful too: no more going on to NLB’s old website to search for a book on your phone and squinting at the words when you can find what you want with just a few taps.

Of course, to really tap into the app, you’ll need to create a myLibrary account by February 2, 2015. It then gives you suggestions on books you might want to read under Discover’s “Books for You”, gives you information on new arrivals, and of course, lets you scan your books to borrow or renew them. It even sends you notifications before your book is due.

Our libraries are certainly not going fully digital, like how there are now public hookless libraries — after all, there will always be a place for paper books in our hearts, but the inclusion of apps that are easily accessible on our smartphones show how NLB is changing with the times. This new initiative brings us back to how technology is slowly being incorporated in several aspects of our lives, like the Singapore Army using wearable technology and apps to help NSmen train for their IPPT.

While all these developments are certainly exciting, one can’t help but notice that the NLB, at least, is moving to a new system where all members have to go through myLibrary in order to check library accounts or make reservations online.

Image Credit: NLB Singapore
Image Credit: NLB Singapore

It’s a clunky process, one that involves waiting for your one time pin (OTP) to come through the mail for at least 3 to 5 days or involves you going down to one of the library branches between 20th of September to 18th of October 2014 in order to get myLibrary immediately. Without the myLibrary account, the member will not be able to reserve books or items or check library accounts, and would also miss out on the use of the new apps or online services that are pushed out after February 2 of 2015.

The move to new apps, be it those that allow you to read e-books on the go or those that facilitate easy borrowing of the books, doesn’t mean that printed books are dead. People tend to liken the shift to digital to that of the death of paper books, but that isn’t the full story. The truth is, e-books and printed books are being used differently: and printed books help you retain more of what you read anyway.

Image Credit: NLB Singapore
Image Credit: NLB Singapore

As a avid reader myself, I’ve read on my phone, on my computer, and I’d read on a tablet if I owned one. But nothing beats real books: the smell of the freshly printed ink on paper, or the musty scent of a room filled with books to discover. The process of going to the library is cut short by the NLB Mobile App because, I presume, the time spent in between shelves are now cut short because you can just grab a book you want and go. The excitement that builds up while waiting in line to check your books out are cut short too. I don’t know what that means for the reader.

All I know is that while I welcome the convenience, I fear that something — maybe the magic and the wonder of the library — would be lost in the process. I hope not. I can only know for sure when my OTP comes in the mail.

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