Modernising the library

Singapore’s NLB – the 2016 CIO Asia Awards Innovation winner – shares its digital transformation initiatives to enable customer self-service and improve productivity.

By Nurdianah Md Nur
May 20, 2016

According to Lee, the self check-out capability has also provided NLB the foundation to review the possibility of optimising the number of borrowing stations and kiosks required in the libraries for better library space utilisation and cost reduction. For example, the space used by the kiosks can be made available for the creation of more collaborative spaces that encourages collaboration and co-creation to support Singapore's Smart Nation vision.

Self-service for better customer experience
In a bid to improve customer experience while addressing manpower crunch, NLB rolled out three self-service initiatives to its physical libraries.  Firstly, NLB progressively added new services into the existing eKiosks at libraries to allow users to perform transaction on their own. For instance, users can now use such kiosks to change their contact details, report loss of library items, and appeal for waiver of fees.

 Secondly, NLB introduced Reservation Lockers to enable users to collect their reserved items without visiting the customer service counter. The system will send email/SMS notifications to the user to alert him/her to collect the allocated items once it is available. Users will then need to scan their identification card or library card, and select the books they want to collect on the touchscreen LCD panel before the respective locker unit lights up and unlocks. Once the item is collected, the Reservation Locker will communicate to the back-end system to register the loan.

The third initiative is the Digital Concierge, which is a self-service kiosk that presents information to library users in an intuitive and easy-to-understand manner. For instance, the kiosk provides interactive maps of the library and Frequently Asked Questions, as well as allows users to make a voice or video call with a library staff in the back-room for further assistance.

Having the right support
While it is important to improve front-end systems, those systems may not be able to deliver the benefits without a supporting back-end. "For Transformation 2.0 to be successful, it is critical that the back-end and infrastructure components are improved simultaneously. We ensured that a robust and agile IT architecture and infrastructure were put in place. At the same time, we introduced back-end improvements such as AutoSorters to enable higher productivity. These come together to support our customer-facing initiatives," said Lee.

The AutoSorter - which is currently being used in Chinatown, Sembawang and Pasir Ris public libraries -- automatically sorts returned items into bins that are meant for specific categories. Currently, the library staff has to manually identify certain categories of items as popular items while sorting returned items at the Book-Drop. According to NLB, it takes about one to two hours to sort, move and stack the items at the shelves in the library.

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