Singapore National Library

Weather :

Timings : Monday - Sunday: 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Closed at 5:00 PM on eves of Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year
Closed on public holidays

Time Required : Less than 1 hour

Entry Fee : No entry fee

National Library, Singapore Overview

The proud flagship building of the National Library Board, the National Library in Singapore boasts of having a sprawling collection of books, rare collections as well as some exhibition spaces. Located on Victoria Street, the library is spread over an expansive area of more than 11,000 square meters and is a paradise on earth for the bookworms and bibliophiles.

Boasting of a central borrowing library, a digital library and a reference library, known as the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, the National Library of Singapore is more than just an ordinary place where people can come and read. Housing even the Central Public Library, the National Library in Singapore has collections that feature precious and significant publications from the 19th and 20th centuries many of which are issued by the earliest printing presses of Singapore. These collections are categorised into National Collections, Rare collections, General Collections and Donor Collections. It also has Featured Collection of various fields ranging from Languages to Arts and Business. The building of the National Library Singapore has been awarded for its striking architecture, while the spacious reference rooms and study rooms offer amazing views of the Lion City. 

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National Library

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Collections at National Library of Singapore

The National Collection form the core collection of this library with over 300,000 items with prominent areas of economic and political history, literature and socio-cultural history of Singapore. Various formats of materials such as microfilms, maps, audiovisual mediums and posters are available right beside the publications. This collection is all across Level 8 to Level 11.

The General Reference Collection provides a broad spectrum of subjects across disciples in the areas of Arts, Business, Social Sciences, Humanities and Science & Technology. These documentations offer multi-disciplinary resources covering both global and Asian perspectives, with the assistance of rich online databases. These databases can either be accessed from within the library or remotely. The General Collection is spread across the 7th and 9th Level.

Singapore National Library
Rows upon rows of books (Source)
The Rare Collection totals to over 8,700 items. These titles are all microfilmed, and their surrogate copies can be seen at Level 11 of the library. Selected works among the rare collection have been available on BookSG-an online platform for digitised books and printed materials. Regulated and controlled conditions preserve the original pieces at Level 13. There is on-site access to these surrogate collections at Level 11. Physical copies, on a need basis, are granted after the permission from the Manager of the Rare Collection.

There are over 30 Donor Collections in fields including Singapore, South-east Asian art,  history, literature and education. Materials are available in various formats. Noteworthy collections include works by Encik Abdul Ghani Hamid, Rediffusion, Naa Govindswamy and Shang-Wei. These are stored in the Level 10 and can only be accessed after requisition from Level 11 authorities.

National Library of Singapore
The library interior (Source)

Lee Kong Chian Reference Library

The National Library houses two libraries - the Central Public Library and the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. While the former occupies the Basement Level 1, the latter is spread over Levels 7 to 13. It is also home to the Drama Center, which is located on Levels 3 to 5, and the headquarters of the National Library Board are located on the 14th floor. 

A major area of the National Library Singapore is occupied by the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library which boasts of having a start-up collection of over 5,30,000 print and non-print materials. The library offers various services to its members, such as access to electronic databases, audiovisual material, document delivery services, reprography, microfilm, and onsite reference services. Additionally, there is wireless access to the Internet, and reading and meeting rooms.  

The main collections found at each level include the following:
  • Level 7: Business, Technology, and Science
  • Level 8: Arts and Social Science
  • Level 9: Chinese, Malay and Tamil collections
  • Level 10: Donor’s Collection, Asian Children’s Collection
  • Level 11: Microfilms, Maps, Singapore and Southeast Asian Collection
  • Level 12 and 13: Rare Materials Collection 
Note that materials from the library cannot be borrowed, but can only be referred to, on-site. Additionally, Level 12 and 13 have limited access to them, and prior permission is needed for the same.

The National Library Building

The former building for the National Library in Singapore was the one located at Stamford Road, which closed on 31 March in 2004. The new building is a massive 16 storey construction located in the Civic District, which opened on 22 July in 2005. This architectural marvel was designed by T.R. Hamzah & Ken Yeang, and it comprises of two 16 storey blocks and three basements, with the blocks being linked to each other on every floor by the sky bridges. 

The library houses different sections on different floors; and the highest level on the 16th floor houses a rooftop, known as The Pod. The Pod is designed like a bubble and is used exclusively for functions and events. It is also well known for the spectacular panoramic views of the city core and the Marina Bay Area that it offers. The ground floor plaza comprises of a café, which also doubles up as an exhibition space. Additionally, there are numerous gardens in the building, but only two of them are open for the general public, which includes the Courtyard on Level 5, and the Retreat on Level 10.
National Library in Singapore
Curving Bookshelf at National Library of Singapore (Source)

How To Reach National Library

MRT: The MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system is probably the fastest and most convenient way to reach the library, and the nearest MRT stations include Bugis, City Hall, and Bras Basah MRT Station.

Bus: Buses 145, 197, 32, 51, 63, 7, 80, 2, 7, 12, 33, 130, 133, 960, 56, C3, SMRT 980, SMRT 520, SMRT 851, NR7 & NR8 all pass by the national library on their route. 

Car: A lot of visitors also prefer to drive to reach the National Library of Singapore. The car park at the library has 246 slots in all and operates from 07:00 AM to 11:30 PM on all days of the week. 
The parking rates applicable are as follows:
Mondays to Saturdays:
Cars:  7:00 AM - 7:00 PM: SGD 1.07 for the first half-hour, and 3.5 cents for each subsequent minute, 7:00 PM - 11:30 PM: 1.7 cents per minute
Motorbikes: 7:00 AM to 11:30 PM: SGd 1.05 per entry per day 
Sundays and Public Holidays
Cars: 7:00 AM - 11:30 PM: 1.7 cents per minute 
Motorbikes: 7:00 AM - 11:30 PM: SGD 1.05 per entry per day 
Note that the entrance and exit to the car park close at 11:30 PM every day, and a charge of 1.7 cents per minute till 07:00 AM the next day is levied on cars that are parked beyond the stipulated time.

Code of Conduct

  • Pets are not allowed inside the premises. 
  • All library material should be returned to the relevant shelf, trolley or book bin after browsing. 
  • Do not leave your seat unattended for more than 20 minutes. Also, unplug the devices from charging after 30 minutes, so that others can also avail of this facility. 
  • Study only at the tables, and not at other areas. 
  • Taking photos, videos and audio recordings is not allowed inside the library. 

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