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NLB manager finds innovative ways to blend physical library with online space

Photo Caption: Ms Dawn Seow grew up visiting libraries, so applying for the NLB Undergraduate Scholarship was a natural choice for her.

By Rachel Ng

When Singapore’s public libraries shut last April due to the circuit breaker, work took a different turn for National Library Board (NLB) manager Dawn Seow. 

Under normal circumstances, the 26-year-old, who works in the experience design team in the Library Planning and Development division, is involved in designing and enhancing the service delivery and experience at public libraries.

However, during the circuit breaker, the regulations meant that she and her team could not organise physical activities such as learning journeys and role-playing.

Instead, Ms Seow had to quickly learn how to use online platforms to facilitate virtual engagement sessions with her colleagues. 

Embracing new experiences

It was challenging initially as she had to try out new virtual tools – such as polls, virtual whiteboards and a spinning wheel to encourage participation – and ensure that sessions were engaging and productive. 

Working from home to implement new changes quickly was not easy as she had to coordinate with multiple stakeholders such as colleagues from other divisions. 

Nevertheless, she sees it as a learning experience. 

When the libraries reopened in early July with reduced services, Ms Seow and her team had to brainstorm for solutions to allow patrons to access the libraries’ digital services through the NLB mobile app.

“The pandemic led me to rethink how our physical spaces and digital offerings can better complement each other,” she says. 

It pushed Ms Seow and her colleagues to seek out even more innovative solutions and explore “omni-channel delivery of services and programmes that cut across mediums”. 

A love for the library

Having grown up visiting libraries, Ms Seow has always felt that libraries are “uniquely inclusive places”. In particular, she likes how accessible they are to everyone – young and old. 

Upon graduation from junior college, it was her love for the library and its work that motivated her to apply for the NLB Undergraduate Scholarship to pursue her university studies. 

“The prospect of a career in NLB was aligned with my interests as NLB sits at the intersection of education and community development,” she says. 

After graduating with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours), Double Major in Psychology and Social Work, from the National University of Singapore, Ms Seow joined NLB in July 2017.

Her first role was as an associate librarian at the Central Public Library, where she was involved in planning and implementing programmes for children and teens. 

Growing through mentorship

Ms Seow is also part of a mentorship programme under which she is assigned a mentor from a different background.

Conversations with different mentors over the years have pushed her to challenge her views of the library and how it offers its plethora of services. 

“I’ve also been able to be more open towards how I conceptualise library spaces and the role libraries play in society,” she says. 

Now, in the new normal, she believes that being adaptable is key to keeping up with the evolving demands of work.

She says: “My sense of purpose and belief in the importance of my work keeps me motivated even as work gets more challenging and evolves in response to the changing needs of society and users.”

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