Electronic Autographs at the National Library, Singapore
In 1960, the National Library at Stamford Road opened. Since then, it has served the research and information needs of the population for the past 40 years. It underwent renovations in 1997 - 1998, and became the first public library in Singapore to have a cafe within its premises. Its courtyard has also become synonymous with a wide range of programmes, such as poetry recitals, book launches, cultural events and educational talks.
As the National Library journeys into the 21st century, its vision to establish itself as a gateway to international information resources and a premier hub for Asian information, which hosts a wealth of knowledge to stimulate the imagination of its users, and open up for them a world of possibility. To support this vision, new and expanded services and collections will have to be put in place to support this vision. With the rapid growth in collections and services, there is a need for a building with more space to house the expanded resources. At the same time, the site of the present National Library building at Stamford Road had been earmarked for other national development purposes, requiring a new site to re-locate the building. A new site for the National Library has been identified, which is bordered by Victoria Street on the northwest, Middle Road on the northeast, North Bridge Road on the southeast and Bain Street on the southwest.
The E-autograph System
The idea of an e-autograph system surfaced when the National Library Board of Singapore (NLB) was exploring options for capturing autographs at the Groundbreaking Ceremony of National Library, beyond the conventional pen-and-paper method. Some of the main considerations included the ability to screen and preserve these messages. The alternatives considered included keyboard input and other pen-based input devices. The disadvantage with a keyboard input system is that it does not allow users to pen their autographs and messages using their own handwriting, resulting in all messages looking alike. On the other hand, most pen-based input devices required the user to write on a separate writing pad, which does not closely replicate the conventional pen-and-paper mode of writing.
Placed at the old, historic National Library building while the new one was being built, Wacom's interactive pen displays overcame these constraints by allowing users to directly write onto the screen, as they would for a normal autograph book. The underlying concept for the e-autograph system was the provision of a dynamic and user-friendly mechanism for capturing autographs and messages on and about the National Library building (the old and the new) in digital format, which will facilitate easy retrieval and browsing in future. The ultimate goal was to capture the sentiments of the public of the current National Library as well as their well wishes and hopes for the National Library, and showcase these sentiments to future generations of Singaporeans and library visitors.
The system was designed to be user-friendly and intuitive, to cater to both young and old. All that was required of the visitor is to pen a message using the stylus pen on the screen capture area, pretty much the same way he or she would using a normal pen. Erasing unwanted portions is also easy, using the opposite tip of the stylus, which is very similar to an eraser attached to a pencil. In addition, an instructional panel was erected at the e-autograph kiosk to provide guidance to users who are not familiar with the system.
The system captured 3,430 autographs from Nov 2001 - Jul 2002, and attracted between 300 - 400 messages and autographs each month, of which a selection of the most interesting messages were placed on the library's website for public viewing. There were even a number of messages which praise the system for being innovative and fun!