No, no its not what you think, read on and see what I mean 😉
My first memories of the library were when my parent’s would bring me there as a reward for being a good boy… Oh, how I would beam as I proudly climbed the brick red steps, which were too high for me. I would zip around the library with an ever-growing pile of books covering my face. My mother would stop me and tell me to put some back because, ‘you only borrow what you can finish if not you would be depriving others the chance to read it.’
I would frown as I pondered the great dilemma before me: should I return this Bookworm book or that Bookworm book. This book is nicer, oh but its later in the series. To return or not too return, that was the question.
That was in the old National Library at Stamford Road,built in 1960. A building famed for its red brick architecture, with its courtyard, fountain and cafe. I took these two pictures from Wikipedia.
As with most things in Singapore, nostalgia has to give way to progress. Still, the decision to close down the old National Library was met with a huge uproar from a dissenting public. There were public forums and feedback sessions, proposals and petitions. All were to be in vain.
The decision to build a new library and four regional libraries was made in 1989, and announced in parliament.
Yet, it was only in 1998, when a forum article was published and the spectre of demolition loomed over the old Library building that a groundswell of interest and passionate objection erupted. Many argued for the conservation of the building as a heritage structure to tie people to Singapore and to help the young nation find its roots. The proposal was to fail, and the old National Library was closed in 2004 and demolished in 2005 to make way for a tunnel.
The library was opened in 2005. Apart from a Central Lending Library at the basement, the building houses the ESSEC Business School from France, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus in Singapore, the Public Service Commission, a drama centre, and seven stories of reference materials collectively called the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.
The most visited place is probably the basement central lending library. I could only get a picture from the outside because apparently you are not allowed to take any pictures inside. So for what its worth, here’s a look at the entrance to the Central lending Library.
The library has some 200,000 books available for loan, and also some other items such as audiobooks and DVDs for loan too. There are usually exhibitions going on at the central location within the lending library.
The largest demographic in the National Library Building are junior college and university students. Why? Because its a terribly nice place to study, especially in the reference libraries. Now, most people do not go to the Reference Library to use the reference materials. Oh no. They go there to study, and why not? It’s free, its quiet has an awesome interior design and a panoramic view of the city.
Perhaps the only drawback about such a great location is that the demand is way more than the supply. Close to the exams, its virtually impossible to get a seat. The seat crunch is not helped by the fact that most people would leave their bags and go for lunch so as to ‘chope’ or book a spot. Its the same concept as tissue packets at food centres, others will automatically avoid the seat.
There are alot of open spaces around and these spaces usually have small exhibitions. Which personally are great to learn new things. There was one about the Malay printing press industry in Singapore, one about the local literature, another about the history of the libray.
The library in Singapore began in 1823 when the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, set up a library in the Singapore Institution (now known as Raffles Institution). The collection of books was meant for the students in the institution but was open to members of the public based on subscription. The library in Raffles Institution till today attempts to retain the feel of the old library through the overall design of the place. It is called the Hullett Memorial Library located under the Boarding Complex Dining Hall in the Raffles Institution Campus in Bishan.
Just a short walk down Victoria Street, next to the larger buildings such as Bugis Junction and Bugis+ (thats the name) is Bugis Street.
Bugis was named after a group of people from South Sulawesi in Indonesia, a sea-faring people who would travel up and down a river that was in the area to do trade with the businessmen here. The whole Bugis location used to a hot spot for night life in Singapore in the 1950-80s, the place was a rendezvous spot for transvestites and that apparently brought in alot of Caucasian tourist dollars.
You can get almost anything from Bugis Street. Wallets, Clothes, Food, Drinks, Handphones… I don’t know about computers and definitely not jewellery. Well, you can’t get everything I guess. Let me rephrase, you can get most reasonable things from Bugis Street.
In fact, I strongly recommend the National Talent and Population Division to give Bugis Street a prize in encouraging population growth. You can walk from one corner of the street and go from sensual female clothes and charming male accessories, to sultry underwear,”I LOVE SEX” shops and then a baby clothes store. The last two literally side by side. Mating, attraction, reproduction – thats a class in biology and business all in one street! Who says you can’t study while shopping?
How to get there
National Library – walk from either Bugis train station of Bras Basah train station
Bugis Street- walk from Bugis train station