National Reference Library

by Heirwin Mohd Nasir


The National Reference Library (NRL) was located on the third floor of the National Library building at Stamford Road. It was formed on 16 January 1998, concurrently with the re-opening of the National Library that was closed for nine months of upgrading works.

In 1951, a reference section was formed on the second floor of the Raffles Library and Museum (the present National Library was then part of the Raffles Library and Museum and located at the Raffles Library and Museum building at Stamford Road). It was known as the Reference Department. There was only one librarian and the reference section was made up of a Reading Room, Reference Department and a Malaysia Collection. It had a reference collection of only 937 volumes that was made up of encyclopaedias, directories, atlases, dictionaries and other such works of this kind.

On 12 November 1960, the National Library moved to its new premises at the National Library building at 91 Stamford Road. The Reference Department began operating at this new building. The Reference Department was renamed as Reference Division in 1963 and later renamed again as Reference Services Division (RSD) in 1970. It remained as RSD until January 1998 when the National Reference Library was formed.

The National Reference Library provides research and reference information services to the general public, government departments and other information seekers. It has a floor area of 2,784 square metres, a collection size of more than 400,000 print and non-print materials and 40 multimedia stations.

Located on level 1 was the General Reference Centre 1 and on level 2 is the Multimedia Centre. Level 3 houses the General Reference Centre 2, Current Affairs Centre, Business Information Centre and Singapore Resource Centre.

An Information Centre was located within General Reference Centre 2 where a Reference librarian manned the counter to provide onsite reference enquiry and advisory services during library opening hours.

Located within the Singapore Resource Centre was the Heritage Room. It houses rare materials on Singapore and South East Asia. It has a collection size of 1,700 items that were published before 1900.The oldest title at the Heritage Room is the "Eden's Trauayle in the West and East Indies", published in England in 1577.

A centralised reference service called Reference Point was also located within the National Reference Library to answer enquiries by telephone, fax and email.

28 Aug 1964
: S. Rajaratnam, Minister for Culture, officially declared open the South East Asia Room to the public. Simultaneously, the Ya Yi Kwan Collection was presented to the National Library by Tan Yeok Seong, a Penang Industralist.
Oct 1967 : A Microfilm Unit was established in the Reference Division.
Aug 1978 : A Current Awareness Service was started for senior staff of the Ministry of Culture and its departments.
Jan 1983 : Major Fong Sip Chee, Minister of State for Culture officially opened the Art Resource Centre.
8 Apr 1996 : Launching of Reference Point, a remote enquiry service via the telephone, fax, email, Internet and mail.
1 Apr 1997 : National Library at 91 Stamford Road was closed for upgrading.
19 Jan 1998 : The National Library was re-opened for public use and the Reference Services Division (RSD) was renamed as the National Reference Library. Concurrently, the South East Asia room was converted to an open access for public use and renamed the Singapore Resource Centre. The Art Resource Centre was replaced by the Art Collection.

Heirwin Md Nasir

National Library. [1964]. South East Asia Collection. Singapore: Government Printing Office.
(Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN)

Seet, K. K. (1983).
A Place for the people. Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 027. 5957 SEE) 

National Library Board. (1997).
Annual Report. Singapore: Author.
(Call no: RSING 027.05957 SNLBAR)

National Library. (1963).
Report of the National Library Board 5 December 1960 - 30 September 1963. Singapore: Government Printing Office.
(Call no.: RSING 027.55951 SIN)

National Library. (1979).
Report for the period April 1978 - March 1979. Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RSING 027.55957 RLSAR) 

National Library. (1983).
Report for the period FY 83. Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RSING 027.55957 RLSAR)

Raffles Museum and Library. (1951).
Report of the Raffles Museum and Library for the year 1951. Singapore: Government Printing Office.
(Call no.: RSING 959.51 RAF)

Further Readings

Dawson, S. (1999, July 24). Do you have a recipe for popiah? The Straits Times, Life!, p. 13.

Have a cuppa with your book at the library.
(1998, January 17). The Straits Times, Home, p. 57.

Ong, S. F. (1998, January 16).
Welcome to 60,000 new books, 38 pcs. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 8.

National Library Board. (2001).
National Reference Library. Retrieved November 1, 2002, from 

The information in this article is valid as at 2000 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.

National libraries--Singapore
National libraries--Reference services--Singapore

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2005.