| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Concept for a Mobile Library Bus began in 2005.
In 2006, sponsorship request was made to SBS Transit (local transport company) who agreed to sponsor a 15-year old bus that was going to be decommissioned. An extension was applied and approved for the lifespan of the bus to be extended to 20 years. Other sponsors subsequently came on board to provide the Radio Frequency software and hardware.
In 2007, partial funding was obtained from The Enterprise Challenge (TEC) for the development of the Mobile Library Bus as a social experiment to reach out to the target audience identified.
Development of the bus began right after and MOLLY the Mobile Library was launched on 3 April 2008 at Pathlight School, a Special Education School.
With the knowledge that the first MOLLY which would have to be decommissioned on 12 January 2012, a review was conducted to continue this service to reach the underserved. The review paper called for MOLLY unit comprising of 1 big MOLLY and 2 smaller MOLLYs.
In its 4 years of community service, MOLLY has made a tremendous impact measured by key performance indicators such as the number of loans and visitors, and written testimonials from key partners for the value of the mobile library service. For the 4 years, MOLLY achieved an estimated 470,000 loans and 230,000 visitorship. It received about 245 compliments.
Due to the tremendous response to the first MOLLY, SBS Transit decided to continue its sponsorship with a 15-year old single-deck bus. This replacement bus, dubbed MOLLY 2, will continue to support library services till 2016 when it will have to be scrapped.
In Feb 2012, MOLLY 2 was born. The target audiences remained the same.
Active effort was continued to look for sponsors for 2 smaller MOLLYs. In 2013, sponsors came forward to fully fund the 2 smaller MOLLYs or as they are more fondly known mini-MOLLYs.
The 2 mini-MOLLYs were launched on 8 April 2014. At the same time, the same sponsor had also decided to fund a new vehicle to replace MOLLY2 which will have to be scrapped in Feb 2016.
To provide users with a holistic library experience, programmes onboard are conducted along with selected visits programming are conducted according to the following guidelines:
a. Priority is given to children from special education schools, homes and orphanages, childcare centres and kindergartens.
b. Programmes are selected and planned to initiate interactions, and stimulate imagination and interest in learning.
c. Programmes, where possible, tie-in with the overall themes at the Public Libraries
d. Programmes are conducted along with the mobile library visits and not independently on other days. This is to provide a holistic library experience.
e. External programme partners (e.g. puppeteers) are included and appropriateness accessed based on:
i. Age appropriateness
ii. Prior experience performing for/handling children with special needs
iii. Suitability of programme for a range of physical, intellectual and/or learning disabilities
iv. Ability of partner to engage and interact with children with special needs
f. Sufficient information e.g. programme synopsis, are given to educators and caregivers in advance to affirm the suitability of a programme.
Programmes are also conducted by librarians that include storytelling, stories & craft, book talks and library/reading workshops.
MOLLY 2 also provides wheelchair access with a built-in ramp stored onboard the bus. This allows physically challenged children to access the bus safely.
The mini-MOLLYs (the smaller buses) plug the service gaps that the big MOLLY is unable to fulfil because of space constraints at different sites where the big MOLLY is not able to access or move around. The advantage of the smaller mobile libraries is that a niche collection can be stocked more readily for targeted audiences which are the young children in childcare centres and kindergartens.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Singapore Government and National Library Board serves the people of Singapore in their reading and lifelong learning objectives, which identified “Libraries for Life” as one of the main thrust for Libraries to remain relevant at every stage of a Singaporean’s life – from young to old, and to serve the unserved by broadening programmes, making IT more accessible and improving access to knowledge.
Sponsors and partners that contributed to funding the initiative shared the objectives and the target audiences that the mobile library service was reaching out to.
Whilst the SBS Transit sponsored the use of the first and second bus, other sponsors such as:
• The Enterprise Challenge (TEC) helped to fund the outfitting of the bus.
• Private sector companies such as NEC helped to design and supply the RFiD equipment that is used by MOLLY.
• AIT sponsored the RFID hardware
• Wavex Technologies worked on the software for the RFID equipment
• Users of the Mobile Library services which include Special Education Schools, Homes and Orphanages, the childcare centres and kindergartens.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Sponsorship for MOLLY1 and MOLLY2 involved the provision of a used bus and RF software and hardware.
Eight (8) iPads were donated by the Singapore Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SVCA), and were introduced to facilitate and enhance both reading and learning experience at the Special Education Schools.
The 2 mini-MOLLYs were fully funded. This included the development cost of purchasing and fitting out the 2 vehicles, and subsequent operating cost for the next 5 years.
The next MOLLY that will replace the current one to be decommissioned in Feb 2016 is also fully funded.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
MOLLY is considered a success because it helped to fill the gap that traditional libraries found difficult to meet. It allowed the National Library Board of Singapore to reach out to the underserved and help them enhance their reading and learning needs. The benefits are summarised below:
• The demand for the mobile library buses exceeds the availability to meet the demand. The big Mobile Library Bus is currently operating 7 days a week, throughout the year with the exception of public holidays. The 2 mini-MOLLYs operate 5 days a week to meet the operating hours of the childcare centres and kindergartens being served. This shows that there is great demand for the molly to visit the underserved.
• The service has been receiving a number of compliments and positive feedback from the users. Receiving a total of about 245 compliments to date.
• Programmes are provided in consultation with the user groups as not all programmes are suitable across all user groups. Presently, user groups are satisfied with the programmes designed and delivered to MOLLY’s targeted customers. The challenge is to continue to source for the type and number of programmes that keep customers satisfied.
• A survey was conducted in 2008 and the results were both positive and encouraging. (A summary of the survey results can be found under item 8)
• The ability to provide online and real-time services in the Mobile Library outside of NLB premises and networks via wire connection using 3G mobile technology. This was achieved after several rounds of working together with the telco providers and testing.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
To monitor the response and progress of the mobile library service, a survey was conducted right after the launch of the first MOLLY.
A qualitative cum quantitative study was conducted to obtain insights into how effective the mobile library service was and how the service could be better fine-tuned to fit the needs of the users. The quantitative survey were administered to teachers/caregivers and students/residents/children in the Special Education Schools. The qualitative interviews were conducted with principals and teachers/caregivers.
The first field visit was conducted between 2 August and 30 August 08. The second field visit was conducted between 6 September 08 and 31 January 09. The respondents were from the Special Needs Schools, Homes/Orphanages, Primary Schools and the public at public events.
The key objectives were :
• To assess usage level of MOLLY since it was first launched
• To evaluate satisfaction towards the services and facilities
• To identify key drivers and motivation for usage
• To assess the needs met by MOLLY and its value to users
• To understand barriers towards usage
• To pinpoint areas of improvements so as to further enhance the service
Interest in MOLLY is evident as more than 50% express their satisfaction, likelihood to recommend and revisit MOLLY. Most also responded to say that they look forward to MOLLY and requested for an increase in the frequency of the visits.
From the qualitative interviews, respondents mentioned the impact of MOLLY visits on social responsibility and reading behaviour. The key benefits are outlined below.
• Respondents were developed a higher social awareness and responsibility
• Respondents were more inclined to read the books they personally borrowed
• Respondents felt that MOLLY opened up social interaction opportunities
• There was a reported increase in sense of confidence and pride when MOLLY users got to select their own books
• More reading was observed during Molly’s visits
• Molly fulfilled its primary function as a library for the special needs institutions. As one decision-maker from a Home said, “Molly is the children’s main source of library books now.”
Overall, MOLLY was well-received as can be seen in the positive comments below:
• All had a favourable experience with MOLLY which brings about accessibility to a library, and serves as inspiration/encouragement to read.
• MOLLY provided fun and enjoyment to Special Needs Schools where the students tend to love reading and say that they would want to visit the library more often.
• Children in Homes are able to appreciate MOLLY.
• MOLLY provides value add to the current school curriculum. It is seen as able to cultivate an interest in reading through its novel and new concept.
The findings of a survey of the service commissioned by NLB also showed that MOLLY had a positive impact on reading behaviour (70% favourable) and willingness to use the public libraries (63% favourable). Educators also shared that Molly contributed towards students developing higher social awareness, greater responsibility (e.g. taking care of books borrowed) and better behaviour management. They also shared that the children were more inclined to read what they had personally borrowed. The service also opened up social interaction opportunities allowing students to interact with librarians and allowed them to familiarize them with the library experience resulting in a greater sense of pride
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Some of the challenges experienced were
Wireless connectivity of MOLLY. This required many rounds and discussions held with the telco providers, and testing of signal strength was conducted at various sites. This was necessary to ensure online and real-time transactions are conducted successfully.
There was the real possibility of very low take-up rate. This was mitigated through cold calls and sourcing, NLB managed to successfully the mobile library service and offerings. And was heartened to and encouraged to find that there was such a demand from the target audiences identified.
There was the possibility of MOLLY being used to support other agendas. Thus the focus had to be constantly focused on reaching out to the disadvantaged and the underserved.
The size of MOLLY and the space required for the bus to manoeuvre meant that the bus was not able to visit some venues.