The National Library (Malay: Perpustakaan Negara, Chinese: 国家图书馆, Tamil: தேசிய நூலகம்) in Singapore is located on an 11,304-square metre site between Bugis Junction and the Bras Basah Complex at 100, Victoria Street. The current building, a 16-storey, two-block development situated in the city's Civic District, replaces the old National Library at Stamford Road, which closed on 31 March 2004.
The library moved to its new home on 22 July 2005. It is the flagship building of the National Library Board, bringing together the core functions of the old library by incorporating a reference library, known as the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library (Chinese: 李光前参考图书馆), as well as a public library, the Central Public Library, under one roof.
The building designed by T.R. Hamzah & Ken Yeang consists of two 16-storey blocks, with three basements. The blocks are linked by skybridges on every floor. It houses two libraries, the Central Public Library in Basement 1 and the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library from Levels 7 to 13. It also houses the Drama Centre from Levels 2 to 5, which is managed by the National Arts Council. On the 16th floor, there is a closed viewing point called The Pod. It is only used for functions and events, and is not a viewing gallery. From the Pod, it has a panoramic view of the island of Singapore, outlying islands, and also neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. There are also many gardens in the building but only two are opened to the public. They offer a good view of the city, and one is the Courtyard on Level 5 and the Retreat on Level 10. The building has three public panoramic elevators with a city view. The National Library Board headquarters is on the 14th floor of the building. The building has escalators from Basement 3 to the 14th storey. It has a carpark with 246 lots. On the first floor are the main entrance and a café, with a big space the Plaza and is sometimes used for exhibition space. A number of old bricks from the old building are in this new building.
The National Library traces its history back to the establishment of the first public library as a result of suggestions by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore. This library, renamed the Hullett Memorial Library in 1923, was co-located with Singapore's first school, Raffles Institution, at a site now occupied by the Raffles City complex. It moved to a separate Library and Museum Building in 1887 under the name of Raffles Library as part of the Raffles Museum, before moving to the Stamford Road premises in 1960 under the name of the National Library of Singapore opened by Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore Inche Yusof Ishak.
As Singapore gained its independence in 1965, and as the country's population spread into the suburbs, the library, in collaboration with the city's urban planners, established a presence in the suburbs by building a library branch in most of the new towns built by the Housing and Development Board. These branch libraries were each considered a physical extension of the original library at Stamford Road, rather than distinct institutions in their own right, thus the term "National Library" could be said to apply to the original institution and all its affiliates.
Central Public Library
The only public lending library in the building and located in Basement One with an area of 6,407 square metres. It has a collection of over 200,000 books, and has the largest collection of fiction books on the island. Almost half its collection are fiction titles. It has a children's section and special rooms for events and functions in the library. It also has a collection of 726 magazines, 74 newspapers as well as audiobooks on CDs. Central Lending Library has the largest number of foreign newspaper titles in her collection of newspapers. It also has Chinese, Malay and Tamil books.
Two outdoor gardens in the library add to a sense of peace and greenery in the library. The distinctive red-brick façade of the old building is in one of the two gardens. Some 5,000 bricks from the old building have been saved and now line one wall of this garden.
Lee Kong Chian Reference Library
The Lee Kong Chian Reference Library is the new name of the National Reference Library. The name was changed after the Lee Foundation donated S$60,000,000. Therefore, the library is named after Dr Lee Kong Chian. With an area of 14,265 square metres, it has a collection of 530,000 print and non-print materials. The Library provides reference services onsite, or via email, sms, telephone and fax. It has a full range of facilities such as access to electronic databases, document delivery service, microfilm, reprography and audio-visual are available. Other facilities at the library include wireless access to the Internet, as well as the use of reading and meeting rooms. Books from this library cannot be borrowed, but may be consulted on-site.
These are the collections found at each level of the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.
- Level 7 – Business, Science and Technology Collections
- Level 8 – The Arts and Social Sciences Collections
- Level 9 – Chinese, Malay and Tamil Collection
- Level 10 – Donors' Collections, Asian Children's Collection
- Level 11 – Singapore and Southeast Asian Collection. Microfilms. Maps.
- Levels 12 and 13 – Rare Materials Collection (limited access, only with permission)
The Drama Centre is owned and managed by the National Arts Council. It is a mid-sized performing arts centre occupying the third, fourth and fifth storeys of the building. It has a theatre with a seating capacity of 615, a black box and three multi-purpose function rooms. The theatre is equipped with state-of-the-art lighting, rigging and sound systems. It also has an orchestra pit on a lift that can also form a front stage extension. With its plush seats and good acoustics, audiences are assured of a comfortable and enjoyable experience. The function area and its VIP lounge with exclusive facilities such as bar, pantry and toilets are excellent for seminars, meetings and private functions. A bar and box office located at the foyer are additional means by which the Drama Centre aims to assure patrons of the highest standards of service.
The National Library also supports the visual arts scene in Singapore: it has purchased several paintings by local artists, and these are hung on the walls of both libraries in the building. Artists represented include Goh Beng Kwan, Tay Bak Koi, Choo Keng Kwang and Chua Mia Tee.
The Drama Centre has staged many well-acclaimed dramas, one of which was Animal Farm.
- List of national and state libraries
- Pearson, Clifford A.: "T.R. Hamzah & Yeang applies its trademark bioclimatic design principles to the new National Library in Singapore" in Architectural Record, August 2006
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