Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the National Library Board (Amendment) Bill [Bill No. 19/2018]
Sir, I stand in support of this Bill. The library is a common ground where diverse groups of people come together.
Be it young children eagerly browsing picture books at the children’s corner, or students in reading rooms preparing for their exams, or the elderly engrossed in their daily newspapers, the library is an identifiable icon in our cities and in our hearts.
At the same time, as Singapore progresses to a Smart Nation, so must our libraries.
I commend the efforts by the National Library Board to upgrade our libraries to adopt the technologies of audio-visuals while preserving print books.
The proposed amendments to the NLB Act is a step forward to preserve and eternalise Singapore’s digital heritage, by collecting electronic publications through legal deposit, and by preserving Singapore domain websites through web archiving.
Sir, I stand in support of the Bill but I would also like to raise a few clarifications.
Protecting publisher interest
First, I would like to clarify what implications these amendments will have on publishers and their interests.
Part of the amendment mandates publishers to deposit one copy of any electronic publication within 4 weeks of publication, on top of existing requirements to deposit 2 physical copies.
Also under section 7(2)(f) of the Bill, it is stated that NLB is allowed “to make copies of any online material made available on a Singapore website, at the times and in the manner the Board considers appropriate.”
Unlike physical copies where there are limited number of books deposited in libraries, such an amendment will technically allow the board to make unlimited digital copies of the publisher’s work.
I also understand that within the Bill, amendments are made to the Copyright Act. Under Section 113 of the Copyright Act, cinematographic film and sound recordings are now included as online material that will be collected by NLB. These materials will also be made available within the premises of the library.
Can the Minister clarify how the interests of publishers will be guaranteed, to ensure that the sales of their hard work are not affected by the digital access provided by NLB? Is there a grace period after publication before content will be made available in libraries?
Access to web archives
Next, web archiving is a practice observed in other countries, such as the British library and the National Library of South Korea.
Both the British and Korean libraries also have their web archives made available for public access. In the same vein, will all our web archives, without exclusions or exemptions, be made available for public access on NLB’s Web Archive Singapore portal or on other platforms?
Web content that is available today may not be as easily located or may even be taken off decades later. With a proper database of Singapore-specific websites and content, it will be easier for academics, researchers and businesses to conduct research on Singapore.
Professor Ang Peng Hwa from the Wee Kim Wee School, also suggested to have indices and abstracts of archives made available online for citizens and researchers to have greater access. Will the Ministry consider this?
Sir, notwithstanding the above clarifications, I stand in support of this Bill.