28 Marzo 2019

CDNLAO held in Singapore on 21 February 2019

By Stephanie Pee, Assistant Manager, National Library, Singapore


CDNLAO held in Singapore on 21 February 2019

By Stephanie Pee, Assistant Manager, National Library, Singapore

The 27th Conference of Directors of National Libraries in Asia and Oceania (CDNLAO) was held in Singapore at the National Library Building on 21 February 2019. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of CDNLAO, the theme of the conference – “What is our future? National Libraries in 2040” – examined the challenges and future of libraries.


The conference was attended by director-generals, directors and observers from 21 national libraries, with presentations by the National Libraries of Australia, China, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand and Singapore. Their presentations focused on the future of national libraries, new initiatives and challenges.

Changing information landscape

In the face of a rapidly evolving information landscape, libraries must consider how to adapt, remain relevant and overcome challenges.

Many national libraries have developed digital initiatives and services to build comprehensive national collections as well as further their reach and engage more communities. For instance, the National Library of Australia will unveil the National e-Deposit and the first fully-text searchable Australia Web Archive this year; and the National Library of Indonesia has implemented the mobile app, iPusnas, which provides access to their digital collection, INLIS Lite 3.0, a free library information system for all local libraries and Indonesia One Search, a national repository portal of bibliographic records across local institutions. Going digital allows libraries to further their reach – both Australia and Indonesia have large land areas meaning that the majority of their populations do not live near a physical library, hence, digital services allow them to easily access materials and resources.

In this digital environment, the National Library of China has actively been embracing the latest technologies and trends, exploring how best to apply them to its operations and systems as well as how to preserve and manage large digital resources and big data. In the same vein, Japan’s National Diet Library is also looking at how to best use technology in the face of changing library users’ habits and a young generation disinterested in reading physical books. The National Diet Library believes that digital confidence is key and new technology such as AI should be utilised.

However, the National Library of Indonesia noted that libraries should be mindful not to leave less technologically advanced communities behind. The National Library of New Zealand shared a similar sentiment, calling for larger, more developed libraries to offer assistance and advice to smaller libraries in the region.

Engaging with communities

Most national libraries prioritise engagement and connecting with their local communities. The National Library of Australia is marking a concerted effort to reach its indigenous communities; the National Library of Myanmar has plans to organise permanent and special exhibitions as well as fairs and talks to bring awareness to their collections and encourage more visitors to their libraries.

With one of the highest rates of mobile penetration in the region, the National Library of Singapore has been engaging its communities via social media, through live streaming its programmes, increased posts, and audio-visual media featuring their collections.

The National Library of Iran and National Diet Library have also incorporated facilities, policies and collections – such as books for the visually impaired – to make their collections more accessible to disabled persons. The National Library of Myanmar is also exploring how to expand their services to cater to this group.

What is the future?

Even though national libraries in the region are at various stages of development and receive different levels of government and private support, they face similar challenges and it is valuable for libraries to collaborate, consult and share their difficulties and experiences.

As libraries grow and develop their collections and services, it is evident that collaborations with individuals, institutions and organisations would synergise efforts in collection, preservation, infrastructure and information sharing. Conferences and international meetings such as IFLA and CDNLAO, as shared by the National Library of Malaysia, not only provide platforms to exchange ideas but also raise the profile of both the national library and the library professional, enabling both to enjoy greater influence and status as well as the opportunity to offer guidance and expertise to other libraries.  

Legislation and government support is also essential for the development of the library. For instance, recent government legislative changes in Indonesia has meant that every province must set aside funding for the construction and operation of local libraries. The National Library of Indonesia also reports directly to the President’s Office, which offers it more autonomy and authority. The National Library of New Zealand also noted that when governed by the appropriate ministry, the autonomy of the national library as well as the role of the national librarian would be strengthened.

The formation of library acts to facilitate the setting up of libraries or legal deposits (both physical and digital) also benefits the collection and preservation of a country’s documentary heritage. The national libraries in China, Australia and Singapore have received mandates from their governments to collect and preserve digital content – for instance, the National Library, Singapore has recently begun to archive .sg websites. Hence, libraries must continue to advocate and be involved in policy-making.

The National Library of New Zealand also considered the role of the national libraries in terms of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (global goals set out by the UN), particularly to reduce inequalities (such as gender, poverty) and noted that libraries have the opportunity to be partners for development and change.

While there is no definite path forward, libraries should continue to be advocates, remain adaptable and open, unafraid to explore new technologies and challenge the status quo and, importantly, explore opportunities to work with other partners to bring their local communities and libraries into the next 20 years and beyond.



Collect, connect, collaborate – What capabilities will we need to fulfil our purpose as Australia’s National Library?

by Dr Marie Louise Ayres, Director-General, National Library of Australia

Inherit and Innovate: Long-term Development Plans of National Library of China
by Ms Mao Yajun, Director of Operation Management, National Library of China

What is Our Future? National Libraries in 2040
by Mrs Woro Titi Haryanti, Deputy of Library Resource Development, National Library of Indonesia on behalf of Mr Muhammad Syarif Bando, Director, National Library of Indonesia

Contribution to the Information Infrastructure of Society and Universal Access
by Mr Tadahiko Motoyoshi, Director-General, Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library, Japan

Raising Library and Information Professional Visibility
by Dato’ Nafisah binte Ahmad, Director-General, National Library of Malaysia

National Library Plan Development 2040
by Ms Mya Oo, Director, National Library of Myanmar

UN Sustainable Development Goals: A New Zealand Perspective
by Mr Bill MacNaught, Chief Librarian, National Library of New Zealand

Staying Relevant in the Digital Age: The National Library, Singapore
by Ms Tan Huism, Director (National Library), National Library Board, Singapore

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