Toa Payoh Community Library

by Wong, Heng


The Toa Payoh Community Library, located at 6, Toa Payoh Central, Singapore 319191 was opened on 7 February 1974. It was the second full-time branch library built by the National Library to decentralise its library services. It also served as the base for the National Libray's Mobile Library Services at the Community Centres. After extensive renovations, it was reopened on 9 May 1999 offering special services for the elderly and serving as the location for One Learning Place, a centre for training in basic IT.

As early as mid-1969, Housing & Development Board town planners reserved the present site for a library to serve the new satellite town and housing estate of Toa Payoh. Actual planning began in April 1971 led by a Building Committee of five experienced librarians and a PWD Project architect. Construction work started in mid-August 1972 but was temporarily stopped for one month when the partially completed building was used as the Secretariat for the seventh SEAP Games from August to September 1973. The building was completed and handed over to the Library in November 1973.

The Toa Payoh Branch Library was officially opened on 7 February 1974 by Haji Sha'ari bin Tadin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Culture. Jek Yuen Thong, Minister for Culture, was originally scheduled to conduct the Opening Ceremony but circumstances prevented him from performing this function. The Library was opened to the public on the same day.

The Toa Payoh Branch Library was renamed Toa Payoh Community Library when the National Library became a Statutory Board on 1 September 1995. In 1997, the library launched an upgrading programme and was reopened on 9 May 1999 by the then Minister of Home Affairs, Wong Kan Seng.


The Toa Payoh Branch Library is a three-storey stand alone building with sufficient foundation piling for an additional fourth floor. It has a lift-shaft to accommodate the installation of a public lift when the fourth floor is added. It has a floor area of approximately 4,125 sq m, with a capacity of 290,000 volumes and 440 reader seats.

It is located in the heart of the Town Centre and originally had a large circular water fountain and public walks fronting it. This has been converted into an amphitheatre. Within walking distance of the library, there are cinemas, supermarkets, restaurants, banks, public car parks, a bus terminal, public places of worship, sports and games facilities and schools.

In its early years, the ground floor of the Library housed the Children's Room and the Library Extension Section which administered the Mobile Library Service. Behind the Library Extension Section was the Mobile Library garage. A spiral staircase connected the Children's Room with the first floor where the Storytelling Room, Staff Workroom, Office, a Meeting Room, a Lecture Hall, and a large Library Stack were located. The second floor accommodated loan and reference services for adults and young people and a Staff Workroom. Behind the Library building was a large enclosed car park to facilitate easy movement of the Mobile Library trailers and bus.

With the 1999 upgrading project, new facilities were introduced for the benefit of users. A senior citizens' corner was set up with 200 large print books, sofas, chairs and a multimedia computer. The 44 sq m room designed for Singaporeans aged 55 and above, gives the elderly their own space to read and surf the Internet. Programmes for senior citizens are also arranged here. Talks are given in all the four national languages on topics related to the elderly such as on ageing and health. An exhibition on the work of various social welfare groups is put up here. A volunteer group called "Friends of the Library for Older Persons" was set up to attract more elderly citizens to the library.

The "One Learning Place", a training facility offering cheap IT courses was set up in Tampines Ave 5, funded by the Northeast Community Development Council and the Tampines West Citizens' Consultative Committee. Their courses are held at the Toa Payoh Community Library. This facility has proved to be largely beneficial to the residents in the north-east district.

Wong Heng & Thulaja Naidu Ratnala


Chan, T. S., & Tan, L. Y. (1974). The Toa Payoh Branch Library: A library service to an urban community. Singapore libraries, 4, 11-14.
(Call no.: RCLOS 020.5 SL)

National Library. (1971).
Annual report (p. 8). Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RCLOS 027.55957 RLSAR)

National Library. (1972).
Annual report (p. 9). Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RCLOS 027.55957 RLSAR)

National Library. (1973). 
Annual report (p. 9). Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RCLOS 027.55957 RLSAR) 

National Library. (1974). 
Annual report (pp. 1, 11-12, 20-21). Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RCLOS 027.55957 RLSAR)

Cheap IT courses in NorthEast CDC. (2001, May 24).
The Straits Times, Home, p. 4.

Library sets up room for elderly
. (1999, May 28). The Straits Times, Home, p. 75.

See you at the library soon, Grandpa
. (1999, December 2). The Straits Times, Home, p. 65.

Tan, Wendy. (1998, May 5).
Facelift for Toa Payoh Library. The Straits Times, Home Focus! p. 41. 

National Library Board. (2002).
Toa Payoh Community Library information kit [Ephemera]. Singapore: Author. 

Further Readings

Library sets up room for elderly.
(1999, May 28). The Straits Times, Home, p. 75.

Yeo, Adeline. (1999, May 11).
Learn IT in new library. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 2. 

National Library Board. (1999). Annual Report. Retrieved April 10, 2003, from 

National Library Board. (2004).
Toa Payoh Community Library. Retrieved December 16, 2004, 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.

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