In a world where every independent bookstore is at risk of shutting down, it feels almost impossible to accept that Singapore has nearly doubled the quantity and quality of its libraries over the past two decades.
Singapore’s National Library Board has been collaborating with the country’s Urban Redevelopment and Land authorities to ensure an information-first future for libraries, according to an exclusive interview with GovInsider. This top-to-bottom initiative aims to make Singapore a global leader in information technology while vastly improving the quality of life of inhabitants ranging from toddlers to retirees.
In other words, these aren’t your mother’s dusty stacks in some university basement.
These new user-friendly libraries speak a language of QR codes and automation rather than the Dewey Decimal System, but physical books are very much still present. Visitors can just scan their phones for easy access to hard-to-find items while behind-the-scenes robots sort returned books and process late fees, according to Asia One.
While readers might initially step into the libraries for free WiFi and air conditioning, futuristic amenities like 3D printing stations, augmented-reality storytelling rooms, and expansive waterfront views — like those available at library@harbourfront, a newly relocated and popular library branch — convince them to stay a little.
More and more libraries are popping up in densely commercial areas, like Harbourfront, but this doesn’t mean crowded browsing, necessarily. Singapore’s new libraries are meant for high-capacity, and the cozy lounge rooms and separate areas for supervised children make for an inviting and tranquil oasis.
Disclaimer: The NLB was the source of massive public backlash, and support, in 2014 when it chose to remove three books containing homosexual characters from the children’s section. After notable poets and writers withdrew from two prestigious literary ceremonies and a 4,000-signature petition reached the NLB offices, the board decided to relocate the books, including And Tango Makes Three, to the adult section instead.
Featured Image Via NLB.gov.sg.