by Anasuya Balamurugan
Library@Orchard, officially opened on 21 October 1999, is located on the fifth floor of the Ngee Ann City Shopping Mall, Podium Block, Tower B, at 391 Orchard Road, #05-22/26, Singapore 238872. It is the sixth rental library to be located in a shopping mall and the 16th community library of the National Library Board (NLB). Library@Orchard is Singapore's first lifestyle library, designed to cater to the needs of young adults aged 18-35 years. It is the first library to be located in the heart of the city, at Orchard Road.
The inspiration for Library@Orchard can be traced back to the Library 2000 report which put in place the "framework for the re-invention of the library system." The report identified the role of libraries in the 21st century as an integral part of Singapore's information structure. In a survey conducted by Forbes Research in late 1998, NLB found a sharp decline in the reading patterns of people in the 18-30 age group. Hence, NLB sought to capture this particular segment of the population by offering a niche service. The idea was to adopt a lifestyle-oriented approach offering a specialised collection.
Library@Orchard is a lifestyle library: its look, collection of books and the programmes are aimed to appeal to the target group. To set up this lifestyle library, NLB actively sought the feedback and suggestions of the target group. Focus groups were consulted for a large part of the process, from the initial survey to picking the books and planning the programmes.
The library is the first of its kind in Singapore and Asia. The library was officially opened by the Minister for Information and the Arts, Lee Yock Suan, on 21 October 1999. The library was built at a cost of S$2 million.
The library features a mix of metal, bare concrete and glass for a contemporary, cutting-edge feel. Wooden flooring and warm yellow lights have been added to soften the look and lend a cosy ambience. The library occupies a floor space of 1,500 square metres. Library visitors can plug in to six music channels offering pop, dance, jazz, world music, soundtracks and classical music from 12 listening stations. A sheet of flowing water over a glass plane seeks to be a calming and captivating feature next to the Dome cafe. Orange and blue strips of words on the glass panels all round the library serve as a safety and decorative feature.
From early 1999, a team of 12 librarians in the Library Support Services picked out titles for the Library@Orchard. The team comprised mostly of "young and hip" librarians. To ensure that the target audience would really like the books, the team tested the titles on focus groups before putting them on the shelves. The library carries a focused collection of lifestyle titles such as travel, contemporary fiction, arts, health and fitness, self-help and self improvement books designed to appeal to younger adults. It has a collection of 20,000 fiction books, 2,600 books on the arts, 3,000 books on self-help and self- improvement and 2,500 books on health and fitness. The rest of the collection comprise of travel guides and magazines, making a total collection of 100,000 library materials.
The concept of Library@Orchard was also for it to be more than a place where people could browse and borrow books. The idea was for a programme zone which would provide a platform for people to meet and discuss special topics of interest. The zone stages talks, forums, exhibitions and performances and features an in-library cafe. Thursday nights have been designated as the night of the week for music programmes to be staged at the programme zone, aptly named Music@Orchard. A dedicated group of Friends of the Library (FOL) help to shape the programmes for Music@Orchard. The programme zone seats about 150 people. Next to it is the Dome cafe which seats about 80 people at 20 tables.
The library opens at 11:00 am every day including weekends. It closes at 9:00 pm on weekdays and 8:00 pm on weekends.
National Library Board. (1999). Annual Report (p. 20). Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RSING 027.55957 RLSAR)
Chew, M. (1999, April 6). Library for young book lovers to be set up at Ngee Ann City. The Straits Times, p. 2.
Kaur, K. (1999, October 23). Library at Orchard Road a big hit. The Straits Times, Home, p. 49.
Lim, R. (1999, October 21). A hot link for young adults. The Straits Times, Life!, pp. 1-3.
The information in this article is valid as at 2002 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.