Significant increase in digital usage on NLB’s platforms in 2020

The 2020 NLB year-in-review shows notable change compared to 2019.

Sitoh Shanice

Dances in her free time and can also lick her elbow.

Published: 18 March 2021, 2:08 PM

With the circuit breaker in place, visits to libraries in Singapore were put on pause in 2020. 

They were closed from Apr 7 to Jun 3 and only reopened on Jul 1 with shorter opening hours, limited capacity and shorter visits of two hours for public libraries and up to three hours for regional libraries. Seating and studying areas were also closed.

These safe management measures put in place led to visitor numbers decreasing from 26.7 million in 2019 to 9.06 million in 2020.

NLB also organised fewer programmes, which contributed to the significant drop of attendees. The total number of participants who attended programmes and exhibitions by NLB decreased from 4.98 million in 2019 to 0.69 million in 2020.


To better provide to the residents staying at home during COVID-19, NLB introduced “The Little Book Box” book delivery subscription service in 2020.


On the other hand, the amount of digital users on NLB platforms increased by 121 per cent. This allowed NLB to expand their selection of digital resources, as well as host online events to accommodate the influx of digital users. 

The number of cumulative downloads on the NLB mobile app had also increased from 0.61 million in 2019 to 0.83 million in 2020.

The top five popular books also changed over the years, with travel books for Japan and Tokyo among the top five most borrowed physical books in 2019. However, the travel restrictions in 2020 led to them being replaced by Harry Potter books – which made up four of 2020’s top five most popular books.


One of the top five e-books was “This is What Inequality Looks Like”, written by Singaporean associate professor Teo You Yenn.


As Singapore continues with its safe reopening, we can only look forward to what this year’s numbers will look like. 

As the NLB Facebook page said: “2021 is filled with possibilities. We look forward to more reading, learning, and growing with you this year!”

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