Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Tour of Singapore's National Library Building

Everyone knows that the library is full of great educational content and useful resources. Singapore's National Library is no exception. The National Library is also the tallest library in Singapore with a wide range of reading materials especially reference materials. The National Library has different libraries in the building which includes the Central Lending Library and the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. An arts venue known as the Drama Centre is also present in the Library's building along with several exhibitions and galleries. Let us get a closer look of the National Library Building.

Finding the National Library is easy. Just take the MRT to Bugis, pass by Bugis Junction and you'll see a nice and beautiful-looking tower flanked with lovely glass windows and a bit of greenery if you have sharp eyes. When I first reached the place, I noticed a few metal signs talking about the history of the places that surround the library. It's known as the Bras Basah Bugis heritage gallery. Not so sure if it's permanent or not, but if you have the chance to check this metal board out, go ahead and check it out because it's full of interesting historical facts about the Bras Basah and Bugis area.

After checking out the Bras Brasah Bugis Heritage Gallery, finally I got some Air-con and checked out the free 'Stories Behind Singapore Streets' Exhibition. The exhibition talks about the background history of Singapore's street names and talks about the famous historical landmarks in Singapore and how they were named. Lots of old street signboards were on display at the exhibition. It's to show how street signs looked like before making way for the new green and white signboards which are found everywhere except for some areas.

Other than the stories and old signages, what would an exhibition be without pictures? There were plenty of pictures showing old Singapore streets and how the same streets looked like in 2011. It's pretty interesting to see the photos. The photos will show you what were the things that were present back then, things that were new in 2011 and things that still remained the same. Another part of the exhibition is how some of Singapore's roads and streets were named after famous personalities. The exhibition is still going on until the end of June so come and check it out before it ends.

Another exhibition that was taking place back in February was an exhibition showcasing the works of Mr Abdul Ghani Hamid. He is Singapore's pioneer for literacy and the exhibition gave a peek at what he was working on and the awards he won as a writer, poet and artist. The exhibition also shows artefacts such as hard copies of his works and the tools he used such as typewriters and notebooks.

There were also 2 huge multi-touch screens that were available for anyone to use and play with. The touchscreens can be used to view his works in digital forms and also videos that showed his life and his achievements. I used the touchscreens just to play with it. You could literally take two hands and pinch to zoom in or out, use your finger to flip the pages of a book and tap some content to view photos and videos. They were definitely fun to play with. Unfortunately, the exhibition's over but it's okay because more exciting exhibitions will be available.

After checking out free exhibitions at the upper levels of the National Library building, it was time for me to check out the public library otherwise known as the Central Lending Library at the basement. The Central Lending Library is just like any other public library in Singapore with a few exceptions. The library has some extra features such as an outdoor garden, a huge collection of past and present newspapers and more content than a regular public library. Also, if you have a library membership, you can borrow books using any of the borrowing machines here just like in other public libraries.

The outdoor garden was a great place to read a book. It's peaceful, tranquil and downright relaxing. Although, if you have really sharp ears, you can hear cars and buses that zoom past the National Library building. The outdoor garden also has statues of people and children reading. Another interesting thing about this outdoor garden is that some of the bricks that came from the old National Library building at Stamford Road are on display right over here as seen from the picture above. It's great that they kept some of the remaining parts of the former iconic building into the new and modern library. The younger generation will then get to know more about the history of the National Library. There's also a 24-Hour Bookdrop just right outside the entrance if you wish to return your books here instead.

Other than the Central Lending Library, there's also the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. Obviously, it's a reference library with over thousands of books and archives for the public to make use for research and homework purposes. No borrowing allowed though. You can find materials such as books, newsletters, microfilm newspapers, Singapore posters and so much more. Unlike the Central Lending Library which only has one floor, the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library has up to 7 floors. The Reference Library also has different collections of materials ranging from Social Sciences to Malay to Singapore to Tamil to Rare Materials. All of them are accessible to the public except for the Rare Materials Collection in which you have to seek permission.

The Reference Library has a wide range of reference materials. I found an old SBS newsletter at the Reference Library. SBS (Singapore Bus Services) was the predecessor to the current SBS Transit public transport operator. Back then, the corporate colours were red and white before the new corporate colours (orange and purple) kicked in. The newsletter, known as Busway, was a newsletter distributed to the staff of SBS. It was definitely nostalgic and memorable to get to see the buses in their old corporate colours. There's also the SMRT (rival of SBS Transit) newsletter known as Forward.

Access to the Reference Library is easy. Just take the lift to Level 11 or use the escalator from level 1 to level 11. However, you are not allowed to carry big bags inside.If you carry a backpack or some big bags, you can use the lockers which are available just right outside the entrance of the Reference Library and only bring in the things that you need. If you have a small bag, you're allowed to go in but there will be security checks. Just take note that the Rare Materials Collection is inaccessible to the public unless you have permission. By the way, if you're wondering who is Lee Kong Chian, he's a philanthropist who created the Lee Foundation which is a philanthropic organisation. You can check out more about Mr Lee Kong Chian at the National Library's website.

There's also a very nice and relaxing garden terrace at two levels of the National Library. The one at the fifth level is called the Courtyard and filled with lots of plants, trees and some comfortable benches. It also has a very nice view of the Bugis area. Another thing to note about the Courtyard is that it has several Audio Visual equipment available here because it can also be used as an Outdoor Reception Space.

Here are some of the views you can find at the Courtyard at the fifth level. You can see the InterContinental hotel, Iluma shopping mall, Rochor coloured flats and several other high-rise buildings.

The other garden terrace in the National Library is known as The Retreat.which is at the tenth level of the National Library building. There are actually some differences between the Courtyard and the Retreat. The Courtyard has audio visual equipment whereas the Retreat has a foot reflexology path as seen from the picture right above. Both have the same views of the Bugis area and they're relaxing places to read a book (not from the reference library of course).

At level 5 just right smack in the middle of the Drama Centre and the Courtyard is a heritage gallery about the National Library and Singapore's library scene. The gallery features lots of write ups about the old National Library which used to be located at Stamford Road before the construction of the Fort Canning Tunnel along with a historical video of the moving library and several artefacts including one of the bricks from the old building. It's a great gallery for history and library buffs.

Right beside the Courtyard is a Study Lounge for students who want to find a nice and relaxing place to study. If your neighbourhood's library's study corner is too crowded, you might want to consider coming to this lounge to study. Not a lot of people were present inside. Also, I recommend you to come here on a weekday because it can get packed on a weekend.

Well, that's it for the tour of the beautiful National Library building. It's time to head back to the first level of the building where you can also check out an exhibition at the entrance of the building. At the time, there was this exhibition to raise awareness aboud something and visitors can take a piece of paper and fold a piece of red flower to paste it on the board. Too bad all the papers were gone. There's also a Halal cafe outside the National Library called Hanis which serves quick casual fare along with delicious cakes and desserts.

Overall, the National Library building is a great place for bookworms, students and kids. Reading materials can be found at the Central Lending Library and the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. Several galleries will take place from time to time at some levels of the National Library. Relax and unwind at both garden terraces at level 5 and level 10 of the building. Study peacefully at the Study Lounge and have a nice dinner at Hanis Cafe. It's open everyday except for public holidays and the opening hours are somewhat the same as regular public libraries. So do drop by the building once in a while if you're free. 

Getting Here 

Bus services available: 2, 12, 33, 130, 133, 960, NR7 (Bus stop along Victoria Street outside Bras Basah Complex)

Nearest MRT Station: EW12 Bugis MRT Station (East West Line)


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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. Hello, thanks for writing this detailed blog on "Singapore's National Library Building" you really did a great job with pictures also. This will surely help students who love to visit places to read books and enhance knowledge.

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