My Tree House
National Library Board

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
As the world continues to advance technologically, there is an increasing concern about the rapid erosion of natural resources as well increased culture of disposal that is becoming common across society. Rapid industrialisation and mass production has seen rain forests being cleared to make way for buildings and other modern infrastructure. With this rise in industrialisation and urbanisation, there are rising concerns about the effects of global warming and environmental destruction. The modern world thus needs to start taking care of the way we use our resources and adopt a greener mindset amongst society, and overuse of our limited natural resources. The launch of My Tree House – World’s First Green Library for Kids at the National Library Board’s Central Lending Library, allows children to be educated in this area, with this green message and drive to conserve being imparted to them at an early age, it is envisioned that this special space in the library help them grow up to be green advocates. It is hoped that early exposure of the children to environment issues, will lead them to champion new ideas and chart the future of the country or world in this direction. The theme of the library is “Enchanted Forest in the City”. Forests, being the salient imagery related to the concept of Green and Eco-friendliness, are appropriate as the main pillar of the first Green Children’s Library. This, coupled with our region’s perennial battle with deforestation and forest fires, is more familiar to children, as compared to concepts of climate change, such as the La Nina effect that are more pronounced in regions with the four seasons. The library concept will stand as the first children’s library to focus on Environmental Literacy with physical green features and is a physical testament to the innovation of the National Library Board (NLB) and City Development Limited (CDL). In addition, “My Tree House” has also won the Building Construction Authority Green Mark Platinum Award, Singapore in May 2013.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The National Library Board (NLB) together with City Developments Limited (CDL) embarked on a synergistic collaboration, to build the world’s first green library for children at the Central Public Library (CTPL). Main objective and target audience This is a 3P (Public-Private-People) project between a public organisation (i.e. NLB) and a private company (i.e. CDL) to give to the people a special library for children to learn about environmental conservation. The envisioned objective of starting a children’s green library is as stated above, to inculcate from young a generation of green library users who will become Environmentally Literate adults. Strategy utilised to help raise environmental awareness 1) The strategy to develop “My Tree House” and inculcate the green concept in children to leverage on CTPL’s vision of being a lifestyle library situated in the Arts and Heritage District of Singapore. In line with this vision of CTPL, the development of “My Tree House” is aimed at creating awareness and subsequently nurture children with a love, understanding of and appreciation for the green lifestyle. In addition to the knowledge gained from the collection and programmes, the library now has the latest architectural green features and sustainability technologies, which is in accordance with the Arts and Design theme of CTPL. 2) The most important objective of building a green children’s library is the introduction of Environmental Literacy. Environmental Literacy refers to the knowledge of pro-environment practices and turning these into behaviour. Measurable gains from Environmental Literacy education will be Green practices such as recycling, energy conservation and nature preservation all of which are clearly represented in the exhibits and programmes of “ My Tree House”. In order to achieve this objective, a two-pronged approach is adopted – the infrastructure ‘hardware’ and Service ‘software’. • The ‘hardware’ refers to the infrastructure of the “CDL Green Children’s Library”. These are the physical things the children see and interact with using their five senses. The key design features of “My Tree House” enable the children to experience the environment through their different senses, while still being in the physical space of the library. This is to educate and thus stimulate curiosity leading to self-directed learning of environmental issues. Hence, the physical structure of “My Tree House” is planned meticulously with strong adherence to the objectives of this whole project. The library is built with the main aim of being the only possible place for children to enjoy such sensuous experiences as information is made accessible easily and remotely via cyber space. • The ‘software’ refers to the sustainable collection, services and programmes which “My Tree House” offers for the children. Efforts in developing the ‘software’ of the green children’s library include developing a collection that is in sync with and promote the objectives and aims of the green children’s library to the target audience, providing services and programmes curated to promote the green concept to children. Collaboration with schools and organisations that are keen on green efforts will also be discussed further in this article. In addition to developing the ‘hardware’ and ‘software’, the library environment such as air quality, lighting, humidity control and energy efficiency features, as well as using green construction materials are used to make the physical space a real “Green” space.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The tree house itself has four key design features: (1) The “enchanted forest entrance”, which upon entering evokes feelings of a magical forest. Furthermore, the symbol of the Enchanted Forest appears frequently in children’s fairytales and provides a cohesive lead from books to real life. The pervasiveness of magic forests in Children’s Literature also helps tie in related services (e.g. thematic storytelling). (2) The focal point which is the “tree house” itself, is strategically located at the centre of the library. (3) The Knowledge Tree: An interactive installation projected on a wall. The tree prompts questions on environmental awareness and energy conservation. When the questions are answered correctly, the forest will flourish; answer them incorrectly, the forest will wither. This installation aims to let children visualise what would happen if they do not help to save the earth. (4) The Weather Stump: A visual installation showing real-time weather markers- Temperature, Wind Speed and Rainfall. Children are able to see actual temperature, wind speed and direction as well as rainfall readings. The stump also doubles as a Storytelling prop for the librarian to tell stories to the children.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Feb 2012 – MOU signed between NLB & CDL Mar 2012 Conceptualisation – NLB did a conceptualization with research done on similar concepts done by other libraries and museums around the world (Taipei Library, Beitou branch; Green Corner Project in Egypt; Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh; Chicago Public Library). This was followed by getting the public feedback on the design as well as, collection of bottles for the Tree House as well as selection of library mascot done in pre-schools and primary schools. Mid Apr 2012 Design Review & Confirmation – The development led by ADDP Architects LLP as the design consultant headed by Mr Tang Kok Thye, who was also awarded Green Architect of the Year 2012 by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore, together with ADDP’s Principal Interior Designer, Elsie Chin. In addition, CDL brought in Interface, the world’s largest manufacturer of sustainable carpet tiles, to provide the carpeting for this library. May 2012 – Press Conference & Announcement Jun 2012 – Specifications Drafting Nov 2012 to Jan 2013 Collection of Bottles & Offsite Prep – The central tree house is constructed with recyclable materials and was built using over 3,000 recycled plastic bottles. Recycled timber was also used to make the existing shelves more attractive. As it is a green library, existing materials such as wallpaper, steel and fiber glass were recycled from the various CDL building projects to blend into the new design. Feb to Mar 2013 Mascot Voting at schools – A pre-launch Green Mascot Design Campaign was opened to all primary schools and preschools in Singapore inviting students to vote for their favourite mascot for the Children’s Library to be used for promotional and communicative purpose. A total of 5,406 votes were garnered from the school children. Feb to Apr 2013 – Construction Work and temporary housing of the children’s Section End Apr 2013 – Handover to NLB 31 May 2013 – Official Opening of “My Tree House”

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Key Partner • City Developments Limited (CDL) provided green expertise from its vast experience of developing eco-friendly properties and integrated comprehensive sustainable practices to create green prototype library for kids. Public sector partners • National Climate Change Secretariat, • National Environment Agency and • National Parks Board NLB worked with the above organisations to plan an interesting line-up of green themed programmed for children to take part. These programmes include storytelling sessions and workshops on creating games and craft-making. NLB also organised tailored library tours for schools for environmental education and outreach. Other Partners • Singapore Environmental Council was partnered to collect recycled bottles and activate their volunteers to conduct sessions at the library. • World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was consulted to provide a series of exhibitions and programmes to educate children the importance of protecting animals and planet. • Local Artists – NLB worked with local artist, Bartholomew Ting to create gigantic recycled cardboard exhibits to be placed within My Tree House. This excited and enticed the children to want to learn how to use recycled materials for their daily use. In addition, a series of recycled art workshops were conducted to further interest the children. Members of the public • NLB also sought feedback and suggestions from the public to customise the experience for child visitors. Members of the public can provide suggestions through email or forms at the library.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
CDL brought together like-minded corporations that leading green players in their own fields, to lend their expertise and support in this groundbreaking initiative. These partners include ADDP Architects LLP – the design consultant led by Mr Tang Kok Thye, Interface – the world's largest manufacturer of sustainable carpet tiles; and Royal Philips Electronics –the lighting consultant and supplier of energy-efficient lighting solutions and fittings for “My Tree House”. Other building materials and components included aluminium cans, plastic bottles and some fibreglass. Low VOC (Low Volatile Compound) paints and adhesives were used on the walls. The manufactured carpet tiles to be used will be greenhouse gas-free, and contain up to 70 percent recyclable materials with no glue used. LED lighting, which is more energy-efficient, has less overhead glare, requires less maintenance and a greener product to manufacture, is used throughout the library. All these components are proudly sponsored by the like-minded corporations so that they could do their part in contributing to environmental literacy. As for the recycled aluminium cans and plastic bottles, they were gathered from schools, libraries, food courts and shopping malls. A total of more than 5,000 of them were collected. 3,000 were used as the canopy of My Tree House while the rest are being used for the children’s activities. The library is now home to some 45,000 books. Existing bookshelves were re-used and revamped by adding some exciting forms and features using laminate boards and laminates to form tree branches, also with recyclable content. Books were specially selected by librarians focusing on green topics. In addition, CDL engaged multimedia designers to help design the green innovations and services such as The Knowledge Tree and Weather Stump to educate children on green facts and weather conditions of Singapore. NLB designed the eReading Kiosks so that more children can be exposed to reading eBooks and online activities. From the programming perspective, CDL is also supporting the library in organising environmental related programmes from 2013 to 2017.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
With the green library’s collection of 45,000 books, children have a wider variety of green themed books to borrow and read. 1) A significant 30% of these books focus on green topics such as animals, plants, nature, water resources, weather, environment, recycling and climate change. Fiction books including fairytales, fantasy and folklores which are related to the theme of the enchanted forest will make up the other 70% of the collection. 2) Young users can also read green themed eBooks and play educational games through interactive and child-friendly e-Reading kiosks. There are a total of 179 titles of these eBooks in these kiosks. 3) Special storytelling on environment and customised library tours are conducted monthly. This is to bring out the environmental theme of the library. As of December 2013, a total of 12 programmes and exhibitions had been held in My Tree House. More than 500 children had benefitted from these activities. 4) An Eco Camp was also conducted for 80 children who pledged to be Earth Heroes from young and helped to protect the environment. Children who attend pledged to : • Use less paper, switch off the lights when not in use and use fan instead of aircon --- Melia Tong, New Town Primary School, 9 years old • Save the Trees because it gives us oxygen. To save trees, please recycle. --- Tanvi, Ahmad Ibrahim Primary School, 8 years old • When I leave the house, I will switch off all the lights. --- Enrique Tsen, Elias Park Primary School, 9 years old. 5) Some additional feedback received are highlighted below: • I want more camps --- Liang Sze Ki, Geylang Methodist Primary School, 8 years old • I wish the camp is for 10 days. ---- Muhammad Aqil Khan, Monfort Junior School, 8 years old • The camp was very fun and meaningful! I learnt a lot. But I think it should be a bit longer. --- Ada Teng, Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School, 8 years old

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Annual Work Plan • As part of the Central Public Library, programes and activities are closely monitored by the library manager and Public Library management via the annual work plan. At the beginning of the year, plans for “My Tree House” will be drawn up and targets for the year ahead are set. These targets are then tracked and monitored monthly and updates are provided at the middle and the end of the year. • As funds are sponsored by CDL annually for environmental related programmes to be conducted in the libraries, NLB provids a proposal at the start of each year for CDL to endorse on the programmes and plans. • At the end of the Financial year, NLB will provide an update of the activities and programmes done to CDL so that they are aware of the progress of the project. This serves as a check and balances on the sustainability of the project and ensures the direction of the project is being met. In addition the team also updates the management every quarterly on the upcoming new projects and programmes for My Tree House.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Among the key challenges faced included getting real-time weather information for display on the tree stump; and how to reach out to programme partners. NLB and CDL sought help from the National Climate Change Secretariat and various agencies stepped forward to assist. The National Environment Agency linked the project team to the Meteorological Services Singapore to provide real-time weather information. The National Parks Board shared with NLB its programmes on plant and foliages to educate children and green volunteers were recruited via the Singapore Environment Council. The partnerships with the agencies were made possible due to the concerted effort across the Government agencies in promoting environmental literacy to the nation.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Steered by green principles in all facets from design, infrastructure and use of sustainable materials, to collection and programming, the library is uniquely placed to inculcate in the children the importance of sustainability and a sense of eco-consciousness. As the library is designed specifically with children in mind, NLB cultivated children’s interest in environmental conservation through reading, discovering and engagement in green activities At the top of these are sustainable programmes such as: • Earth Heroes programme - a loyalty programme developed to track the progress of the children’s involvement and participation. At the end of the year, they will then be awarded a certificate with their pledge on how they are going to save the environment. We target to recruit 500 children as green advocates over the next four years. • Regular Storytelling – such as Story telling under the tree, Let’s have a picnic etc • Holiday Specials – Themed programmes on climate, pollution, Green Christmas, Water • Publications – Earth Hero programme passport & activity sheets, loan promotion coupon. • Customised library tour – customised tour to all preschools, primary schools and community,1.5 hour long tour comprising of an introduction to facilities, storytelling, recycled craft session. • The team also met up with schools to get buy in. Art Exhibition In addition, an art exhibition utilising recycled materials was also held at the main entrance to the NLB building pointing visitors to visit “My Tree House”. Loans & Visitorship The first month of the opening of the My Tree House also saw healthy gains in loans & visitorship for Central public library, thus validating the interest that the public has in “My Tree House” Through these efforts, Singapore will have more Green Champions in the future, which will then have a significant economical impact on future Singapore. The library is also regarded as a wonderful achievement that is supported and encouraged by the Singapore government as a model that encourages as many buildings as possible to achieve energy-efficient targets. The Green Library has won the Green Platinum Award from the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore. This award is only given to buildings and office spaces that have achieved energy-efficient targets set by the authority of Singapore.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
This initiative is sustained through the constant running of programmes with the green theme. These include those mentioned above: Storytelling • Weekly storytelling sessions for children ages 4 to 10. Art & Craft • School holiday sessions on creating artworks using recycled materials will also be organised. • Different sessions will be conducted for younger children ages 4 to 8 and older children ages 9 to 12. Tours • Guided tours to gardens and nature parks will be organised to liven up the learning experience. Earth Hero Programme • Children who complete a series of workshops, storytelling sessions, projects or craft activities, as well as borrow books from the green library will be recognised as Earth Heroes. Partner facilitated Programmes • Exciting and interactive programmes and workshops conducted by various agencies and community partners from the environment sector. Special Spaces – where facilitated and self learning take place • Incubator Space – 2 e-reading kioks that allow children to read e-books • The knowledge Tree – Interactive walls that allows children to use shadow to answer environmental related questions

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
It is a very fulfilling and enriching journey for the entire project team to be able to contribute to a good cause in raising awareness in the global warming issues. By nurturing the future generation to appreciate the importance of sustaining the environment from young, they will grow into green advocates. As recycled materials were used in the development of the library, some of the end-products are not as good as new. Hence it is important to also ensure that they are easily maintained. Apart from having partners who are committed to sustain the project, we also need to educate our library users on proper care of the facilities and fixtures in the library. From the project, the team also realises that an attractive environment is key to help children generate interests in reading. Therefore it is definitely a worthwhile investment in time and resources to create such an environment for the children’s learning journey.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   National Library Board
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Jasna Dhansukhlal
Title:   Assistant Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +65 9111 3838
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   278 Marine Parade Road 01-02
Postal Code:   449282
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   Singapore

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