by Anasuya Balamurugan


Library@Esplanade, officially opened on 12 September 2002, is Singapore's first performing arts library. It is located in the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay building at 8 Raffles Avenue, #03-01, Singapore 039802. It is one of the few libraries in the world to be located within a performing arts complex. This is the second specialised public library in Singapore; after the edge-based Library@Orchard. Library@Esplanade seeks to contribute to the national plan of developing Singapore into a renaissance city of the 21st century.

The objective of the library is to bring the performing arts to the people, and people to the performing arts. Its specialised collections, programmes and information services seek to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the performing arts for people from all walks of life, thus aiming to demystify the arts as an elitist luxury.

The library occupies a floor space of 2,300 square metres on the third level of the Esplanade building. Its layout features four clusters or "villages" of music, dance, theatre and film seeking to create an environment that supports creativity, learning and entertainment for the layperson as well as the professional artiste.

The library features an exhibition space, a performing stage equipped with a glass projection wall and a baby grand piano, a practice room with an upright piano and an electronic keyboard, screening rooms, and an archive on the performing arts scene in Singapore.

Innovation Gallery
The exhibition space, known as the innovation gallery, is located in the centre of the library. It is both a starting point for visitors and a place that represents the "fusion" of the performing arts.

Practice Room
The piano practice room, equipped with an upright piano and a digital keyboard player, is a place for music lovers to practice and try out the wide variety of music scores available from the library's collection.

Music Posts
Six music sampling posts equipped with CD players and headphones are available for library visitors to play compact discs from the library's reference and lending collections.

Screening Rooms
Two screening rooms outfitted with home theatre systems are available for in-depth study or recreational viewing of dance, theatre, operas, and motion pictures in DVD format.

Mini Videos
Mini videos mounted near the shelves of the four "villages" provide continuous screenings of music, dance, theatre or film.

Special Collection Room
The special collection room is an archive of the Singapore performing arts scene. Ephemeral materials such as theatre programmes, company profiles and personalities are located here.

The library consists of a start-up collection of about 50,000 volumes of performing arts materials in both print and electronic formats. It is made up of books on: histories, biographies, and instructional texts; periodicals and magazines; screenplays; play scripts; dance notations; and music scores. The library also contains audio-visual items including classical and pop music CDs and DVDs and VHS tapes of films, dance performances, opera and orchestral performances, and Broadway productions. Specialised journals, encyclopaedias and directories on performing arts are also available. The collection is international in scope, but with a particular emphasis on the performing arts of Singapore and Asia.

Just like other community libraries, library members can borrow four books from the Library@Esplanade for a loan period of three weeks. Library users who sign up as premium members for S$20.60 per year can borrow additional four library materials, including music scores at the library.

The library aims to work very closely with practitioners and groups in the local performing arts scene to deliver programmes that reach out to different target audiences. Some of the library's regular programmes include "Film Saturdays", a quarterly series which showcases local films and their creators; "Open Mic", a monthly programme which offers budding performers and amateurs the chance to showcase their talent and hone their skills; "Taking the Stage", a quarterly series featuring established performers; and "Lunchtime Interludes", a monthly lunchtime concert or recital featuring performances by music students and teachers.

Opening Hours
The library opens from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm from Mondays to Fridays, and 11:00 am to 9:00 pm on weekends.

Anasuya Balamurugan

A touch of glass
. (2002, September 7). The Straits Times, Life!. 

Ong, S. F. (2002, January 12).
Treasure trove of arts resources. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 3.

National Library Board. (2002, September 13).
National Library Board Press Release: Singapores first performing arts library, library@esplanade sets out to draw every one to the performing arts. Retrieved February 13, 2003, from   

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.

Performing Arts
Performing arts libraries--Singapore
Branch libraries--Singapore

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2005.