Singapore’s Central Public Library has emerged from an extensive 18-month renovation with a fresh, engaging look, offering visitors a unique blend of marine biodiversity and cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) storytelling. The revamped library, located on Victoria Street, has been designed to cater to the evolving needs of its patrons in the digital age.
A major highlight of the newly reopened Central Public Library is the introduction of a marine biodiversity-themed learning space designed for children. In collaboration with the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa, this innovative space is the first of its kind in a public library in Singapore.
Exploring the marine world
The Children’s Biodiversity Library takes young visitors on an immersive journey into the fascinating world of marine life. Divided into three distinct zones – the Intertidal Zone, Open Ocean Zone, and Submarine Room – it offers a rich and interactive learning experience.
At the Intertidal Zone, visitors can explore infographics showcasing hardy sea life, including corals, sea stars, and crabs that inhabit sandy shores. Moving to the Open Ocean Zone, a stunning floor-to-ceiling coral installation and specimens from the S.E.A. Aquarium’s collection, such as shark egg cases and coral skeletons, captivate the audience. A video projection of a jellyfish habitat housed in the S.E.A. Aquarium adds to the enchantment. In the Submarine Room, trained volunteers and members of the public conduct workshops and storytelling sessions related to marine biology and conservation. Visitors even have the opportunity to meet real-life divers and aquarists, providing an unparalleled educational experience.
The Central Public Library has also embraced the digital age by integrating AI and augmented reality technologies. One notable addition is the Immersive Room, where library users can create interactive stories using StoryGen, an AI application developed by NLB in collaboration with Amazon Web Services. This feature empowers users to choose characters, genres, and story locations from six well-loved tales, including Sang Nila Utama, Little Red Riding Hood, and Wizard of Oz. These stories are displayed on six visual panels of a curved wall and can be easily downloaded onto users’ devices via a QR code.
The Singapore collection of heritage books now finds its home in the Singapore Alcove within the library. This section not only houses physical artifacts but also boasts interactive digital kiosks. These kiosks serve multiple purposes, from offering book recommendations to allowing users to take personality quizzes, enhancing the reading and learning experience.
Preserving heritage and history
While embracing the future, the revamped Central Public Library also pays homage to its rich history. The library has retained the iconic red bricks from the old Stamford Road building in its outdoor space known as Memories Corner. Visitors can immerse themselves in award-winning artist Brian Gothong Tan’s multimedia showcase, “The Library of Memory.” Users can access immersive content through Instagram filters and AR markers, bridging the past and present.
In a heartening development, library usage, as indicated by loans, has rebounded, approaching pre-pandemic levels with nearly 37 million loans in 2023. Additionally, international partners have contributed to the Central Public Library’s international book collection by donating 2,000 titles, enriching the library’s global literary offerings.
The reopening of the Central Public Library was initially postponed by six months due to the unforeseen challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This extended hiatus allowed library authorities to conceptualize new ways to engage and serve library patrons effectively.
A vision for the future
The transformation of the Central Public Library is part of the National Library Board’s Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025 roadmap. This blueprint aims to meet the evolving needs of library users in an increasingly digital world. As libraries evolve, the Central Public Library remains steadfast in its mission to empower people to learn, connect, and explore the vast realm of knowledge.
The newly reopened Central Public Library in Singapore stands as a testament to the adaptability and relevance of libraries in the digital age. With its marine biodiversity-themed learning space, AI storytelling, and interactive experiences, it continues to be a vital hub for knowledge, education, and community engagement.