Shopping centre libraries
by Anasuya Balamurugan
As at 2016, the National Library Board (NLB) has 13 libraries located in shopping centres.1 This strategy aimed to bring the library closer to the people and encourage life-long learning among Singaporeans. The first shopping mall library, Jurong West Community Library, was opened on 22 March 1996 in Jurong Point.2
The concept of having shopping centre libraries was part of the Library 2000 master plan3 to improve public library services in Singapore. The report suggested that new community libraries could be set up in commercial or institutional buildings in town centres to draw new and bigger crowds. Shopping mall libraries are also a quicker and less costly option than building standalone libraries: taking six to eight months to set up instead of several years.4
By locating libraries in malls, NLB aimed to bring library services closer to the people. It was envisaged that people visiting the shopping mall to buy groceries, catch a movie or have a meal, would drop by the library since it was also located within the complex. At the same time, it would also be convenient for the patrons to borrow and return library materials.5
The shopping mall libraries have been very successful in achieving their objectives by drawing shoppers into the libraries. In a newspaper report published in 1996, some of these libraries attracted up to 12,000 visitors a day during the weekends.6
Jurong West Public Library reopened as a standalone library in 2006.7
Each shopping mall library has an estimated floor area of between 1,200 to 2,300 sq m, which is smaller than the standalone libraries. They provide library services similar to that of other community libraries, but have much smaller seating areas. The services provided are loaning of books and magazines (in the four official languages) for adults, young people and children; self-check stations for book borrowing; e-kiosks for checking of loans status, and payment of fines; and bookdrops for the returning of books. Multimedia terminals for surfing the internet are also available.8
The libraries have a customer service counter to register members and answer enquiries from users. Various library programmes are actively organised in these shopping mall libraries due to their popularity and high visitorship.9
NLB has three boutique libraries amongst the group of shopping mall libraries: New library@orchard, library@esplanade and library@chinatown. The first, library@orchard, was first opened on 21 October 1999 at the heart of Orchard Road in the Ngee Ann City shopping centre. The library, which targeted young adult professionals aged between 18 to 35, was seen as a cool and hip library, which helped to change the image of libraries as boring among Singaporeans.10 However, library@orchard was closed on 30 November 2007 due to increasingly high rental.11 The new library@orchard opened in the Orchard Gateway shopping centre on 23 October 2014.12
The second boutique library is library@esplanade, which opened on 12 September 2002 on the third floor of the performing arts venue Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay. Situated among retail and food and beverage outlets, library@esplanade is NLB’s first library specially catered for the performing arts, with four mains sections centred on dance, film, music and theatre.13
library@chinatown is NLB’s third boutique library. Opened on 31 January 2013, the library is located in Chinatown Point shopping centre and the first public library to be co-developed with and managed by the community. It is sponsored by property developer CP1 Pte Ltd and Buddhist institution, the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, and run by a pool of volunteers.14
As at 31 March 2016, there are 13 public libraries in Singapore located within shopping centres:15
Choa Chu Kang Public Library
Cheng San Public Library
Bukit Panjang Public Library
Bukit Batok Community Library
Sembawang Community Library
Pasir Ris Community Library
Sengkang Community Library
Yishun Community Library
Serangoon Community Library
Clementi Community Library
Anasuya Balamurugan & Roy Won
1. Gwee, J., & Neo, B. S. (2013, March). A library for the people: A case study of the National Library Board. Retrieved 2016, May 6 from Civil Service College website:https://www.cscollege.gov.sg/knowledge/pages/a-library-for-the-people-a-case-study-of-the-national-library-board.aspx
2. New library at shopping centre. (1996, January 29). The New Paper, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. What Library 2000 is about. (1996, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. First shopping-centre library opens. (1996, March 23). The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Koh, B. S. (1996, July 5). Next chapter: 2 libraries in Singapore retail centres. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Sip coffee and borrow a book at Ngee Ann City. (1999, April 6). The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Tan, C. (2006, March 11). In same building? Just take away library book. The Straits Times, p. H10. Retrieved form NewspaperSG.
8. Many improvements at Sengkang library. (2006, February 8). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Koh, B. S. (1996, July 5). Next chapter: 2 libraries in Singapore retail centres. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Sip coffee and borrow a book at Ngee Ann City. (1999, April 6). The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ngiam, Y. L. (2007, July 26). Not@orchard for now. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Cheong, K. (2014, October 24). A delight to see good old library@orchard serving up books again. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
13. Library for performing arts opens. (2002, September 13). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Gwee, J., & Neo, B. S. (2013, March). A library for the people: A case study of the National Library Board. Retrieved 2016, May 6 from Civil Service College website: https://www.cscollege.gov.sg/knowledge/pages/a-library-for-the-people-a-case-study-of-the-national-library-board.aspx
15. National Library Board. (n.d.). Visit us. Retrieved 2016, May 6 from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/VisitUs.aspx
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.
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