The LAB25 (Libraries & Archives Blueprint 2025) has been guiding the National Library Board’s (NLB) strategic journey of innovation and experimentation since its launch in 2021. One of the four key LAB25 pillars is “Singapore Storytellers”. In line with this pillar, NLB has been working with public and private partners since April 2023 to explore innovative ways of leveraging technologies to engage our patrons in Singapore stories and connect them to our rich history. One such approach is the use of Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI) for new ways that our users can engage with Singapore content and foster stronger connections to our history. These endeavours also contribute to Singapore’s approach of using “AI for the Public Good”, where technologies, including AI, can be used as a transformational force for good.

Since December 2023, NLB has introduced three prototypes: ChatBook, StoryGen, and Glue: Curiocity. In developing these products, NLB has adopted a rapid prototyping approach, in collaboration with private and public sector partners. This agile method allows NLB to gauge both the user demand and desirability of the products.

In December 2023, NLB launched ChatBook. ChatBook is a Gen AI powered chat service that invites users to engage in conversations with a book, or books. It generates responses based on a wide array of content, including published books and NLB’s extensive online resources. The prototype featured the book Seven Hundred Years: A History of Singapore by Kwa Chong Guan, Derek Heng, Peter Borschberg, and Tan Tai Yong, and was supplemented by selected NLB’s online resources. This was done with the support of both the writers and publishers of the book, even though NLB owned the book’s copyright. The first iteration of ChatBook includes two versions: a web version tailored for academics and researchers, and a WhatsApp version designed for the general public. The web version cites and provides previews of the sources, empowering users to delve deeper into their explorations.

ChatBook has attracted a diverse group of testers, including academics, students, Ministry of Education teachers, librarians, youth, and members of the public. This testing phase aims to gather valuable insights and feedback from users, shaping the future development of ChatBook. As of 24 April 2024, over 1,090 testers from various age groups and professions have expressed interest to participate, with more than 600 actively engaging with the platform. This enthusiastic response underscores the potential impact and appeal of ChatBook across different segments of the community.

Web-based version of ChatBook
WhatsApp version of ChatBook

StoryGen allows users to add a unique twist to well-known stories and visualise them through a multimedia experience. Using six base stories, including classics like The Wizard of Oz, and stories from the Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu) such as “The Legend of Badang”, StoryGen enables users to reimagine these tales and present them in different genres and endings. Visitors can also learn about Gen AI and the technology behind StoryGen through showcase panels, as well as access a Gen AI learning package, curated by NLB’s librarians. Additionally, users can download a PDF copy of their stories and share them on social media if they wish. Initially launched at the Central Public Library’s Immersive Room from 13 January 2024 to 31 March 2024, it has now moved to the Punggol Regional Library until end-June 2024.

Informational Panels on Generative AI for StoryGen

Glue: Curiocity
Discover the hidden gems of Singapore with Glue: Curiocity, a dynamic prototype developed in collaboration with another government agency of Singapore, Open Government Products (OGP), GovTech. This innovative platform offers an interactive experience, allowing patrons to explore historical and contemporary content from the National Library of Singapore, National Archives of Singapore, and other sources.

Recently showcased at the Jurong Regional Library and library@harbourfront from 29 January 2024 to 28 March 2024, Glue: Curiocity features a dynamic map of the area and gamification elements to encourage exploration and self-discovery of local hidden gems. A second version of the prototype is currently in development, incorporating insights and feedback from the initial showcase.

Glue:Curiocity Installation where user can build a personalised trail to explore location-specific content from the National Library, National Archives of Singapore, and other sources.

Glue:Curiocity Installation at Jurong Regional Library
Glue:Curiocity Installation at Jurong Regional Library

Safeguards in the use of Gen AI
While Gen AI has the potential to transform current creative processes and generate new content, it also poses risks such as the generation of inaccurate information, as well as ethical concerns regarding content ownership and misuse. To this end, NLB has implemented proactive measures to address these risks and potential concerns related to hallucinations. In the case of preventing hallucinations, NLB uses controlled datasets to ensure the credibility and accuracy of the ingested datasets. Furthermore, extensive testing has been conducted to refine the model’s responses and identify and mitigate any potential hallucinatory outputs.

In addition, with regards to copyright, NLB only uses materials for which NLB owns the copyright to (e.g. book used for the ChatBook prototype) or holds the appropriate licenses for (e.g. materials used for Glue:Curiocity), as well as books that are no longer covered under Singapore’s prevailing copyright laws (e.g. base stories used in StoryGen).

 Moving Forward
The positive responses to these new prototypes are encouraging thus far and NLB will continue to innovate our products and services to reimagine what libraries and archives could be.

Contributed by Joti Upadhya, Senior Manager, Innovation Office, Strategy Division, National Library Board, Singapore.