Recently visited the National Library of Singapore as I happened to be running an errand nearby and boy oh boy, what a pleasant surprise for myself.
It is my first visit to the national library, apart from visiting the community library nearby Mei Feng’s house back in April. I was taken aback back then (in a positive way) by the community library for its extensive amount of books of all genres and they even have the latest edition of a travel book that is published in 2018. It is very different from the community area that I live back in Malaysia. We had a public library in Kajang but it was often empty as I recalled my past visits and I was told that the public library was moved to another location in Bangi (okay, a search on Google showed that there is a public library near SMJK Yu Hua school.)
Back to the National Library of Singapore – it was a tall building of over 10 floors with the basement being the public library area where you can borrow books and level 7-9 being the reference library with huge amount of resources and level 10 is an exhibition area.
There was a corner on the concourse floor that have details of an ongoing exhibition which caught my attention, titled ‘Selling Dreams: Early Advertising in Singapore’ and being an advertising graduate (I took it as major for my diploma and a minor for my degree,) I was intrigued by it. The little corner itself have interesting details about the exhibition for those who do not have time to check it out in full details on level 10.
I went up to level 7 to check out the reference floors as I wanted to check out their travel section and boy oh boy (yes, I was really excited when I visited this library that I was amazed by it couple of times.) There is a lot of Lonely Planet travel guides and many others travel related books. And the books are not super old editions too.
I took a lot of books that my hands can carry and went to the sitting area where a lot of people are on their laptops (presuming doing assignments or research). There was a signage on the table that asked for those who wish to study, there is another floor dedicated for it. I took my own sweet time browsing the books I took but I can’t help but got a bit annoyed with the repeatedly “ding” sound of the guy who sat in front of me. He got his ears plugged but he didn’t mute his phone and messages keep coming in. Pfft.
After that, I proceeded to the basement floor to check out some books and it was on a weekday around lunch hour and the sofa area in the library basement level was filled with people of all ages, holding a book on their hands, reading or flipping the pages. I was very impressed and at the same time thinking, Singapore sure did it right with their extensive reach to get the general public to read. A nation that reads can be powerful. Well, as long it is not reading a bunch of purposeless and impractical informations online. I do have a concern of information overload and the junky information online; with a lot of people consuming those information without a sense of judgement at times.
There is another aspect of NLB (national library board – that’s what Singapore named its public libraries) that I really like is their mobile app. Without the mobile app, you can search if the books you want are available at the specific library that you want to go, if is it not available, which library have it. If you are visiting a library and wish to borrow the books, you can use the app to scan the barcode on the book and voila, you can walk out with the books, just like that. I thought about how these automation means fewer job creations but at the same time, it also frees up the librarians to do other works. A catch 22 situation?
You can extend the books loaning period without needing to physically visit the library and you can also rent e-books on it to read on your phone (it is nice if you have a bigger phone screen, on my iPhone 6S, it is rather a torture), extend the books loaning period without needing to physically and drop off the books at the nearest public library at a kiosk machine.
No wonder there are still a lot of people who visits any public libraries across Singapore at any given day or time. Without a secret, I wish Malaysia can adopt similar approach on managing public library.
I haven’t visited the national library of Malaysia since maybe 10 years ago? I wanted to visit it out of curiosity but decided not to after I googled online and someone blogged about the dismay state of our national library.