Since young, IT professional Cathy Ooi, 41, has loved taking things apart, dismantling gadgets such as radios, laser printers and DVD players.
So when she saw a poster about the “tinkering lab” at the Jurong Regional Library while browsing books there in January, she registered to be a user immediately.
She says: “I was overjoyed to find that the lab comes equipped with three 3D printers. I have read a lot about 3D printing, but did not have a chance to put theory into practice as I did not have access to a printer.”
Once a week, she visits the lab, which is about half an hour by public transport from where she lives in Queensway, and has used the printer to make several plastic models including a pendant and an organiser for her earphone cords.
She even fashioned a battery holder for a special necklace she designed.
She has also tried the various “tinkering” kits for other electronic prototyping platforms such as Arduino Uno and Raspberry Pi at the lab.
This allows me to test the various platforms before deciding which one to buy.
IT PROFESSIONAL CATHY OOI, on the electronic prototyping platforms at the Jurong Regional Library
“This allows me to test the various platforms before deciding which one to buy,” she says.
At Pixel Labs at Jurong Regional Library, visitors use the facilities for free and are allowed to take home the 3D models they make.
Launched last year by National Library Board (NLB) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the lab is the first such dedicated venue in a library for exploring new technologies.
Besides letting users try out 3D printers and tinkering kits, it also runs weekly workshops on robotics, drones and coding.
Exploring new technologies is just one of the many things people can do at public libraries these days other than reading and borrowing books.
At the library@esplanade, visitors can watch movies at one of its three film screening rooms or have a music jamming session in its Silent Studio.
At the Central Library in Victoria Street, in the business section of the seventh-floor Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, there is a Bloomberg terminal that allows users access to real-time and historical financial market and economic data.
At Woodlands Regional Library and Bedok Library, seniors aged 50 and above can sign up for digital media courses run by librarians from the library board.
The courses teach basic computing skills, as well as how to access the board’s e-resources and e-books.
Seniors also learn the functions of mobile devices such as iPads and popular apps such as YouTube, Facebook and Spotify, an online music platform.
In 2014, smart work centres or flexible mobile workstations were launched at Jurong Regional Library, Toa Payoh Library and Geylang East Library.
Next year, another centre will come up at the revamped Tampines Regional Library.
These come with a whole suite of business functions and resources such as Wi-Fi, meeting rooms and high-definition video-conferencing services.
Ms Catherine Lau, assistant chief executive of public library services, says the library board has been moving away from a cookie-cutter approach to make sure each library caters to its community.
She says: “This requires careful curation by NLB to ensure our offerings of films, workspaces, programmes and services are located in the right places for the right audience.
“To do so, we have been embracing technology, organising classes and even rethinking library spaces to help users learn easier, better and faster.”
Besides running educational courses, NLB has also started to cater to hot-desking workers.
For digital marketer Ted Chong, 27, the smart work centre at Jurong Regional Library has been his de facto office for the past year or so.
He signed up for a year-long membership to use the “thinkpod”, a semi-circular cubicle which comes with a power source in its business lounge.
The place also has a pantry where there is hot water and tea and coffee satchets.
Before he based himself in the work centre, Mr Chong used to work in the public area in the same library.
“But I did not feel very good about leaving my things behind when I needed to go to the washroom,” he says.
“With the smart work centre, I feel more secure. Also, everybody is here to work, so the atmosphere is conducive.”
If you want to be a member of the work centre, you need to register with workplace solutions provider Regus, which runs the smart offices. Membership for unlimited use of its business lounge is $99 a month.
With his membership, Mr Chong is also allowed to use other smart work centres run by Regus in other parts of town.
He says: “This is useful for me because in my job, I need to travel to meet people sometimes.”
While some people go to the library to work, most still go there to learn. Take early childhood educator Tavana Zulliani-Ramachandra, 60, who signed up for several digital media courses at the Woodlands Regional Library and Bedok Library. The course fee ranges from $4 to $10.
From an e-entertainment course, she learnt to book air tickets and overseas accommodation online.
A few weeks ago, she completed a three-hour course over two days on social media where she learnt to use the iPad, Facebook and NLB e-resources.
She says: “With age, I find that it is harder to learn things by reading a book and that it’s easier when there’s someone to show me how things work. It also helps that the course fees are very affordable.”
She adds: “And one of the good things about attending courses in libraries is that I can also borrow and return books at the same time.”
What is on at the library
PIXEL LABS@NLB, FORMERLY IDA LABS@NLB
Where: Jurong Regional Library, second floor
What: This 135 sq m lab allows library users to explore various technologies for free. It is equipped with three 3D printers and six types of tinkering kits including Arduino Uno, LilyPad Arduino, Spark Code, Makey Makey and Raspberry Pi. Events, such as tech-related talks or workshops, are also conducted at the labs.
Fee: Free Open: Noon to 8.30pm (Wednesdays to Sundays)
Info: To register, go to bit.ly/IDA-Labs. Children below the age of 13 need to be accompanied by a parent or an adult who is a registered lab user.
SMART WORK CENTRES
Where: Jurong Regional Library, Geylang East Library, Toa Payoh Library
What: These are business centres equipped with Wi-Fi, meeting rooms and high-definition video-conferencing services.
Fee: $20 a day for a desk space to $459 a month for a private cubicle
Open: 10am to 8.30pm daily except public holidays
Info: Go to www.regus.com.sg/express
DIGITAL MEDIA COURSES:
Where: Bedok Library and Woodlands Regional Library
What: For seniors aged above 50 to learn basic computing skills, NLB e-resources and e-books as well as the functions of mobile devices such as iPads and popular apps such as YouTube and Facebook
Fee: Depends on the course. Starts from $4 for a two-session course on iPads and social communications
Info: Refer to GoLibrary programme booklet and GoLibrary online portal
MOVIE SCREENING ROOMS, PIANO PRACTICE ROOM AND SILENT STUDIO
What: The library carries 24,628 movie videos, including more than 2,000 on Blu-ray. You can watch them at one of the library’s three film screening rooms, which come furnished with comfortable seats and audio-visual equipment. There are also rooms for piano practice and music jamming sessions.
Fee: Movie Screening Room: $5.50 an hour (up to three hours); Piano Practice Room: $6.10 an hour (up to two hours); and Silent Studio: $6.50 an hour (up to two hours)
Open: 11am to 9pm daily except public holidays
Info: E-mail email@example.com
Where: Level 7 Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, Central Library
What: Library patrons can access real-time and historical financial market data and economic data from this terminal.
Fee: Free for one hour a day on a first-come, first-served basis
Open: 10am to 9pm daily except public holidays
Info: To book, approach the information counter