Going Digital: Bringing the Library to Teens in the New Normal
By Ms Siti Aisyah Binte Abdul Nasir, Deputy Head (Children & Teens) | Programmes and Exhibitions, Archives and Libraries Group, National Library Board, Singapore
In Singapore, the National Library Board (NLB) runs 27 public libraries, with teens making up about 10% of our patrons. When the COVID-19 pandemic came to our shores, Singapore entered the Circuit Breaker period from 7 April to 1 Jun 2020. With the temporary closure of public libraries to stem the spread of the virus, and the shift to people working and staying at home, NLB had to think out of the box to continue serving our patrons through digital means.
This article highlights several of NLB’s new digital initiatives targeted at teens to support their home-based learning.
Teen Things are librarian-curated bite-sized learning packages with a lot of fun content
Teens may find navigating the web daunting, especially with many attention-grabbing advertisements and articles. Here’s where Teen•Things comes in – these are librarian-curated bite-sized learning packages on one online space, introducing trending topics such as virtual tours, online escape rooms, and environment sustainability. We hope that this information will serve as inspiration for teens to be creative, challenge themselves and share with friends. A total 12 Teen•Things packages have been produced, with over 3,000 page views. Check them out here
Virtual tours: Can’t travel? No problem! Teens were introduced to virtual travel and digital tours around the globe which they can explore in the comfort of their own homes. See more here.
Boba Book Recommendations: Riding on the popular boba drink trend in Singapore, we created a fun quiz where teens were given reading recommendations based on the boba drink of their choice. Check out the quiz here
NLB librarians curate the teen digital collection on NLB Overdrive, with buzz-worthy themes refreshed throughout the year to spark teens’ curiosity in books they may otherwise not be aware of. Themes include “Among Us” (as per the popular game, the characters in these mystery books seem pretty sus to us) and “Asian #OwnVoices” (diverse reads featuring Asian authors, characters and plotlines).
Virtual hangout spaces: Teen Reading Ambassadors
NLB’s Teen Reading Ambassadors (TRAs) are reading advocates aged 13 to 19. It is a two-year programme where the TRAs are trained by NLB librarians to conduct storytelling sessions, emcee at key NLB events and facilitate literary programmes to share the love and benefits of reading with the community.
Prior to the pandemic, TRA engagements were physical sessions. The evolving situation encouraged librarians to think outside the box and engage TRAs virtually.
Seeking TRAs’ inputs for evolving needs: TRAs contributed programming ideas and plans during Virtual HangOuts on Zoom and as teen panellists where they provided feedback on ongoing services for teens. These feedback were helpful in providing relevant content for librarians to push out.
TRAs as reading advocates: TRAs lent their talents to create engaging storytelling videos. These were uploaded on NLB’s Facebook page.
Hosting online events: TRAs participated as panellists, emcees and interviewers for virtual conferences, and hosted workshops for teens, lending their own v
oices to these programmes.
Teens Takeover workshops
Curated under six identified learning focus areas (digital, sustainability, health, reading, science and career), the Teens Takeover workshops aim to engage teen
s through their interests while equipping them with skills to navigate life ahead. The sessions are often facilitated by TRAs. Topics include conversational Korean languages as a segue to popular K-pop culture and how to create engaging YouTube videos.
During the pandemic, workshops were conducted live over Zoom as the interaction was more engaging for teens as compared to pre-recorded sessions. Participants could also learn together with other teens – the social aspect being even more important now given the social distancing measures.
To date, 20 Teens Takeover workshops have been conducted over Zoom, with an average of 15 participants per session. We have received encouraging feedback from our teen participants, such as the below:
- “It was fun and I learnt new things on how to create videos for YouTube and Instagram.” (For YouTube Video Secrets)
- “The duration of the program was just nice and the person who came to teach us was very patient with our questions. I really learnt a lot.” (For Conversational Japanese)
Moving forward, depending on the Covid-19 situation, we will consider conducting more programmes online instead of physically.
We came up with social media engagement activities to engage teens and pique their interest in reading. For example, NLB had a collaboration with publisher Scholastic where readers got a chance to win the long-awaited prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Leveraging online platforms has increased our reach to teens. Due to the evolving trends, we are still learning and finetuning what would attract teens to read more. In addition, we aim to get teens more involved in developing content that would appeal to them. We are hopeful that relevant and quality programme offerings will draw more teens to see the public libraries as ideal physical and virtual spaces for learning beyond school in the new normal.