National Library of Singapore Thrives in the eBook Age

The National Library of Singapore first opened its doors to the general public at the iconic old building at Stamford Road in 1960. After the hugely contested demolishment in 2004, it moved to the 16-storey modern establishment at Victoria Street in the following year. According to the National Library Marketing and Group Services, more than 3.5 million people have visited the library in 2010 and 2011. This figure suggests that the library institution has continued to thrive in this age of low-cost eBooks at the mere convenience of a smartphone or tablet download.

The library today has transformed beyond the disgruntled librarian stamping the loan return date on the book. The library is no longer just a building that houses a collection of books of different genres. It now has the mission to reach out to the communities and encourage people to read. The National Library’s success story lies in the multi-faceted approach to attract the general public.

The building has carefully enhanced various features to accommodate to the changing needs of the library user. Book loan and return are now fully automated with multiple self-service kiosks located in the building compound. There are fully computerised window blinds, which automatically unroll to shield the daylight glare from the afternoon sun. Reading tables have individual lamps and there are various study lounges for quiet reading.

The National Library also organises a wide range of activities to encourage the community to visit and read more. One such example is the weekly reading sessions during which volunteers read stories aloud to the children and conduct interactive activities that enhance their learning. The National Library has identified this as an important outreach tool since reading can be a good habit cultivated from the young.

The library has also developed to be a community venue for the general public. There are cafes for the public to just hang out at and various benches and lounges for the communal use. Empty spaces are also rented out for community events and there are in-house themed exhibitions on display at the various floors of the building.

The multiple facets of the National Library have given a strong case for the good visitorship numbers. Other than merely enhancing the library user’s reading experience as the basic function of the library, it has added value by organizing free activities for the public. Activities like the reading sessions encourage the young to read and develop the love for book reading.

The exhibition venues in the National Library also go beyond the regular library’s function to explore ideas and share Singapore’s heritage and history with the public. With the many faces of the National Library, it will hopefully continue to thrive in this modern age of eBooks.