Singapore’s first public library was the Hullett Memorial Library, built in 1923 within the grounds of Raffles Institution, the first school in Singapore. The library eventually moved to Stamford Road in 1960 where it was designated the National Library of Singapore. The familiar red brick building on Stamford Road was torn down several years ago, but a new National Library Building was built in between Bugis Junction and Bras Basah Complex on Victoria Street.
This 16-storey building houses a public lending library, reference library, and Drama Centre. Exhibitions on Singapore’s history and culture are often held in this building, and most are free. These exhibitions span disciplines including photography, family genealogies, cartography, and war history.
Located within the National Library, the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library spans multiple floors and contains a range of reference books and materials as well as microfilms, Southeast Asian and Singaporean books, maps and rare materials. Although the rare materials may only be accessed with permission, many are available in digital form on the National Library’s website. The website also includes digital collections of Singaporean newspapers and photographs.
Another library branch worth visiting when you’re in Singapore is the newly-opened Library@Orchard. This stylish space in Orchard Gateway focusses on the applied arts, technology, lifestyle and visual communication — with an impressive range of video resources on animation and design.
And for an audiovisual learning session enhanced by spectacular views of Marina Bay, visit Library@Esplanade. With a wide variety of books on the performing arts, classical music scores, and audio material with excellent recordings of classical music performances, this library branch is a music-lover's dream.
So if you’re wondering how to spend a hot afternoon or rainy day in Singapore, and need a quiet place in which you can explore another side of this country’s fascinating culture and history, duck into the National Library or any of the Public Library branches and lose yourself in a book or two!