Tampines Regional Library

Tampines Regional Library is the first regional public library in Singapore. Originally sited along Tampines Avenue 7, it was officially opened on 3 December 1994. Tampines Regional Library functioned as a “prototype library” where new services and features were tested before they were introduced at other branch libraries.1 In 2017, the library moved to a new location at Our Tampines Hub, an integrated community and lifestyle hub, where it was officially re-opened on 5 August 2017.2

Singapore’s first regional library
Originally meant to be just a branch library of the National Library, the Tampines branch library was eventually designated as the first regional library in Singapore, known as the Tampines Regional Library. It was intended to be a model “library of the future” as proposed by the Library 2000 Review Committee.3 Tampines Regional Library, located at Tampines Avenue 7 was officially opened on 3 December 1994 by Dr Aline Wong, then Member of Parliament (MP) for the Tampines Group Representation Constituency (GRC) and Minister of State for Health and Education,4 and began its operations two days later.5

The size of the Tampines Regional Library was twice that of a typical branch library, and it would serve residents in the eastern part of Singapore.6 It was also the first library to be managed by a steering committee consisting of residents and government officials, helmed by Paul Cheung, then chief statistician at the Department of Statistics.7 Cheung also chaired the Library 2000 sub-committee that examined the demand for library services in Singapore.

The library’s collection, facilities and piloted services

Housed in a three-storey building, the library was constructed at a cost of S$13.4 million. It was large enough to fit six football fields on its three floors. The library began with a collection of 200,000 books, 300 magazine titles, 10,000 multimedia resources and 30 video-on-demand terminals.9 The collection size was about twice that of other branch libraries.10 Unlike other branches where the reference section was closed on Sundays, the reference collection of the Tampines Regional Library was shelved together with the lending collection so that it would be accessible to users on weekends.11

Located on the first floor was the children’s library, which had an initial collection size of 50,000 books and a storytelling area for parents to read to their children. The adult and young people’s sections were located on level two. These sections started with a collection size of 150,000 books focusing on travel guides, sports, management, information technology and cookery.12 The library had a business collection and business-related programmes were organised to support businesses in the eastern region of Singapore.13

Designed to be a high-tech library, the Tampines Regional Library also served as a prototype library where new services were experimented and piloted.14 On 1 December 1993, the library launched a home delivery service for its members, who could request for books to be delivered to their doorsteps. Requests could be made via phone, fax or online and the delivery will be by Singapore Post at a cost of S$5.15

It was also the first library to be equipped with facilities and features such as video-on-demand terminals, cable television, electronic databases and an Information Technology (IT) Gallery.16 Four self-service check-out machines were installed at Tampines Regional Library allowing users to borrow books without having to queue at the counters. A bookdrop was also piloted at the library. It provided a convenient way for the returning of books at any time including beyond the library’s operating hours.17 There were 30 computer terminals for users to access multimedia and audiovisual content, as well as an electronic library system providing access to international databases for research.18

Located on level three were a 200-seat auditorium, a meeting room and the IT Gallery where users could try out new IT equipment and products such as educational software. The library hosted a resident theatre group, The Necessary Stage, which held performances and storytelling sessions in the auditorium to connect with residents living in the east.19

In 1995, Tampines Regional Library became part of the National Library Board’s public library system when the National Library Board Bill was passed by Parliament on 1 March 1995, and the National Library Board (NLB) was constituted on 1 September 1995.20

Tampines Regional Library underwent two months of renovations in 1998, and was reopened to the public on 30 April 1998. The library had enlarged its Chinese collection to 92,000 books and added more than 10 Chinese Internet machines, in response to user feedback. At the time, Tampines Regional Library held the largest collection of Chinese books among the 15 community libraries, and had the highest borrowing rate among the regional libraries.21

Move to Our Tampines Hub
On 4 June 2017, Tampines Regional Library was closed to facilitate its move to Our Tampines Hub.22 The new five-storey premises opened on 1 August 2017, boasting a larger floor area and increased seating capacity. The new library held 400,000 books in the four official languages and 12,000 books by local authors. Facilities and services include a culinary studio, the PIXEL Lab makerspace, a history gallery of Tampines, an indoor playground and a 700-metre-long running track. There is also an Early Literacy level for parents and children, and an area dedicated to teens known as “#spaceout”. Volunteers run the adult fiction section and double up as guides for the history gallery.23


Goh Lee Kim and Heirwin Mohd Nasir

1. Sara Tang, “Book into a Posh 'Hotel',” Straits Times, 2 May 1998, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Cheow Sue-Ann, “Bigger, Bolder - Tampines Library Turns a New Page,” Straits Times, 1 August 2017, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Protocol Thrown to the Wind,” New Paper, 6 December 1994, 29 (From NewspaperSG); National Library (Singapore), Annual Report 93/94 (Singapore: National Library, 1995), 15. (Call no. RCLOS 027.55957 RLSAR-[AR])
4. National Library (Singapore), Annual Report 94/95 (Singapore: National Library, 1995), 4. (Call no. RCLOS 027.55957 RLSAR-[AR])
5. Tang Wai Yin, “Library of the Future,” New Paper, 3 December 1994, 5; Koh Buck Song, “Cable TV, Computers, Plays – all in One Library,” Straits Times, 30 November 1994, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
6. National Library (Singapore), Annual Report 93/94, 15.
7. “Tampines Get $12 M Super High-Tech Library,” Straits Times, 25 October 1993, 4; Koh, “Cable TV, Computers, Plays.” 
8. “Fewer Read, But Those Who Do, Read More,” Straits Times, 18 May 1994, 2 (From NewspaperSG); “Tampines Get $12 M Super High-Tech Library.”
9. “Tampines Get $12 M Super High-Tech Library”; Tang, “Library of the Future”; “Chock-Full of Goodies,” Straits Times, 23 October 1993, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Ginnie Teo, “Libraries to Provide Automated Check-Ins and Check-Outs,” Straits Times, 21 February 1996, 23. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Koh, “Cable TV, Computers, Plays.” 
12. “Chock-Full of Goodies.”
13. “Tampines Regional Library Fact Sheet,” National Library Board, Singapore, accessed 10 March 2016.
14. National Library (Singapore), Annual Report 94/95, 10; Tang, “Library of the Future”; “Tampines Get $12 M Super High-Tech Library”; “Tampines: The Branch Library of the Future,” Straits Times, 18 March 1993, 23. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Yeo Hwee Yng, “Phone or Fax, and Tampines Library Will Deliver Your Books,” Straits Times, 24 October 1993, 3 (From NewspaperSG); “Tampines Get $12 M Super High-Tech Library.”
16. Koh, “Cable TV, Computers, Plays”; “Tampines Get $12 M Super High-Tech Library”; National Library (Singapore), Annual Report 94/95, 10.
17. Teo, “Provide Automated Check-Ins and Check-Outs.” 
18. Koh, “Cable TV, Computers, Plays”; “AViator System at Tampines”; National Library (Singapore), Annual Report 94/95, 10.
19. “Necessary Stage Is Resident Drama Group,” Straits Times, 30 November 1994, 5 (From NewspaperSG); National Library (Singapore), Annual Report 94/95, 10.
20. “Library Board to Start Operations Next Month,” Straits Times, 19 August 1995, 31. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Tang, “Book into a Posh 'Hotel'.” 
22. Cheow, “Tampines Library Turns a New Page.”
23. Cheow Sue-Ann, “Running Track, Playground in New Tampines Library,” Straits Times, 31 July 2017;Tampines Regional Library to Re-Open on Aug 5 with New Features including a Cooking Studio,” Channel NewsAsia, 31 July 2017. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

The information in this article is valid as at June 2020 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading material on the topic.

Public libraries--Singapore
Branch libraries--Singapore
Regional libraries--Singapore