Community Children's Libraries
by Anasuya Balamurugan
Community Children’s Libraries (CCLs), targeted at children aged 10 and under, were located at the void decks of Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates. These libraries were set up jointly in 1993 by the People’s Action Party Community Foundation (PCF) and the National Library Board (NLB). They were all closed by 2008 due to the high operational cost and increased competition with other public libraries.1
The idea of libraries for preschool and lower primary schoolchildren was mooted by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in March 1992.2 He suggested that the PCF set up a children’s library in each of the 81 wards to complement the National Library and its branches. Such libraries would benefit children who are too young to go alone to the bigger libraries. The aim was to promote the reading habit among children by taking library facilities to their doorsteps. The first four CCLs to be set up were located in void decks in the Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang, Clementi and Mountbatten estates and they were opened from June 1993 onwards.3 Over the years, many more CCLs opened around the island. In 2000, at the peak, there were 46 CCLs in Singapore.4
CCLs were built at a cost of around S$200,000 each.5 These air-conditioned libraries had colourful carpets, brightly painted walls as well as facilities such as multipurpose rooms. In addition to child-size tables and chairs, children could also sit or lie on cushions, bean bags or the carpeted floor to read. Each library was about the size of two three-room HDB flats and had themes like planetarium, undersea world, wildlife and pre-historic world.6
CCLs were open from 4 pm to 9 pm on weekdays, 1 pm to 6 pm on weekends, and closed on public holidays.7
Each CCL featured about 7,000 books in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. The books catered to preschool and lower primary schoolchildren. Emphasis was given to visually attractive and well-illustrated books with strong storylines. To maintain a high standard, the CCL project committee reviews titles and scans through write-ups in publishers’ catalogues and journals.8 In this way, about 700 titles are added or renewed each year. Each CCL also had a small collection of videos and CDs, as well as multimedia terminals for viewing the CDs. Weekly storytelling activities were held in CCLs.9
For a registration fee of S$5 and a monthly membership fee of S$2,10 members could borrow up to four books for two weeks. They were also entitled to borrow another four books for three weeks from any community library.11
According to then-PCF Chief Executive Ruth Low, the closure of CCLs was due to several reasons. Each CCL cost about S$30,000 annually to operate; with a dwindling visitorship and declining loan rate, it was difficult to justify the continued operation of these libraries.12 CCLs also faced tough competition from the bigger library branches that have much larger collections and more varied programmes. When the first CCL was opened in Bukit Panjang in 1993, there were only 10 NLB branches. By 2007, the network of NLB public libraries had more than doubled to 23.13
All 46 CCLs were closed by March 2008.14
1. New void deck library. (1996, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. 12 more children’s libraries in neighborhood. (1996, August 1). The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. PM wants 100 libraries for kids in 10–15 years. (1994, June 26). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Libraries headed for the void. (2007, March 14). Today, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Void-deck libraries for six more constituencies. (1995, March 12). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. New children’s library already has 500 members. (1997, May 27). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. CCL no poor cousin to home collection – Treasure trove for children. (1996, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 53. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Treasure trove for kids. (1996, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 53. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Kids click into library’s CD-ROM server. (1997, May 21). The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Void-deck libraries for children a big success. (1994, July 12). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. National Library. (1996). Community Children’s Library. Singapore: Author, p. 7. (Call no.: RCLOS NC17)
12. Libraries headed for the void. (2007, March 14). Today, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Children’s libraries losing readers. (2007, March 9). Today, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Children’s library gets reprieve – for a year. (2007, March 16). The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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.