We had worked out the MRT (train) system here in Singapore and mapped out four libraries to visit and their corresponding MRT stops.
First stop was Bishan Library – one of the top ten most beautiful library buildings. I have to agree – the facade with its pop out coloured glass pods was stunning and this theme was mirrored inside the library. I started by asking if it was ok to take photos inside the library – it was as long as I did not take any photos of people. This was very difficult as the library is well used and in the end I broke that rule.
Bishan had a concept of a quiet reading room, imagine a meeting room – floor to ceiling glass, with a large number of comfortable chairs. A coloured strip along the middle of the glass wall said “quiet reading room” and everyone in that room was reading quietly. Simple concept but I imagine this makes a huge difference when you are living in a small apartment and life outside is crowded and busy.
Bishan was multi-level and each level had good views out over the street and park. The signage was excellent and they use a number of ways to communicate policy – via cartoon strips, via digital displays, via poster stands. This library was a medium size library for Singapore.
Our second stop was Woodlands Regional Library. This library serves west Singapore. The library was multi-level and had escalators to get to each floor. Behind the escalator they had a large waterfall – like a wet wall – with enough breaks in it to create a waterfall sound. This overcame the mechanical escalator noise over the four levels and was an architectural feature.
Each level was colour coded and all the signage was coloured to match. They had a cafe to the left of the entrance that spilled over into a larger study space area. All seats were taken on the ground floor with students studying and people reading newspapers. This library is located in a civic centre building – the ground floor is all government services with a small food court around the perimeter. Commercial offices are located in upper levels. The regional libraries serve large communities (for East Jurong it was 800,000) – Woodlands was a little smaller but not by much.
Choa Chu Kang Library was our next stop. This is a library in a shopping mall and we were keen to see if it had any parallels with Linwood Library at Eastgate. They were located on the fourth floor of the mall. We were outed as librarians there and we were offered a tour. Of course we said yes. They said they were set up to provide a taster of services – for customers who wanted a quick visit or a visit that was for more than one purpose – shop at mall, visit library. The only smallness we could see was that they did not have a reference collection and they were one level but they were still close to being a size that was between Eastgate and South Libraries. They said that the mall liked them as they had brought the crowds and that they liked the mall for new customers.
They had very industrial shelving and when I asked about it, it had been recycled from the orchard road library and set up at Choa Chu Kang. Some parallels with our mix of shelving at Eastgate.
I asked about cash payments and they do not do cash payments for any transaction. They have a top up service for the library card which can be used to pay for any library service – but no cash. It’s been this way for years. Borrowing limit is 8 and only 3 av items at a time.
Our final stop was East Jurong Library – this was also a regional library serving the east of Singapore. This library has a collection of 500,000 items so it was a similar size to our old Central Library. The library had 4 floors and a basement. The children’s area was in the basement which was a common theme in the libraries we visited. The fourth floor was the teens area – called Verging all teens – this area was designed with teens input and was very well used. We had a tour at this library as we were outed by a nice librarian called Herman and so we had a very informative tour. The teens area had no staff roving, areas where the teens could add their content to walls, a stage where open mike sessions are held on weekends and no furniture – the teens sat on the floor and studied at little low tables or long seats. They had a vending machine and eating and drinking was allowed. The area was noisy but confined to this floor.
We have more to report back on from this library as it had the strongest parallels with the possibilities for new Central and many many photos to share.