The British Library has joined hands with the National Library Board in Singapore with the aim of digitizing an extensive collection of materials related to the island state. This includes Malay manuscripts considered to be extremely rare, which includes a Malay letter written in golden ink in 1857 by the ruler of Johor, Temenggung Ibrahim, to Emperor Napoleon III of France. Among the other materials that will also be part of the digitization process include early maps of Singapore, as well as archival material of the British official Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles who is credited with establishing the city of Singapore.
“This collaboration allows the National Library to explore the wealth of information in the British Library’s Southeast Asian collection, especially materials which are of interest to Singapore. Our users will be able to easily access rarely seen documents relating to the rich history and culture of Singapore and the region. It has also been a most rewarding experience for our staff to have the opportunity to engage with the collection and work with colleagues at the British Library,” said Mr. Gene Tan, Director, National Library Singapore.
Funding the project will be William and Judith Bollinger, who have donated £125,000 towards the completion of the digitization work over the next five years. The first phase is already underway and is aimed at digitizing the more than one hundred rare Malay manuscripts and letters that date back to the 17th through 19th centuries. All of that will now be accessible in the form of over 16,000 high resolution images from the NLB’s BookSGsite as well as the British Library’s Digitized Manuscript website.
Speaking about the digitization effort now underway, Annabel Gallop, Lead Curator for Southeast Asian Studies at the British Library said, “Thanks to the generosity of the Bollinger family, we will be able to make the British Library’s collection of Malay manuscripts available to researchers across the world. It is fantastic to be able to work with colleagues at the National Library Board of Singapore to ensure that all those with an interest in Malay cultural heritage are able to view them. We look forward to working with the NLB as the project progresses.”
Meanwhile, the National Library Board in Singapore has announced it is now the host of over three million ebook titles. That is about an eight fold jump from the 400,000 titles it started with back in 2005. That figure should compare favorably with the around 4.9 million physical books, magazines, and other content that the NLB holds in its libraries, which are housed in twenty-six locations around the island. The loan rate of ebooks has also seen a marked rise in recent times, with 4.9 million ebook loans recorded between 2010 and 2011, an increase of 25 percent. Of course, the book count will continue to grow as efforts are already underway to add about 800,000 more titles by end of 2013.
A subscriber of the library can now log in to the library site, select a particular title, and click borrow. Users have the option to borrow up to six books for free. The ebooks get returned automatically once the due date is crossed. Patrons also have the option to reserve an ebook if it has already been borrowed by someone else.