Don’t judge a book by its cover; it’s the personality of these places that count
Don’t judge a book by its cover; it’s the personality of these places that count
- By Aileen Liang
- | Jan 22, 2019
Nothing quite beats the feeling of holding a fresh new book in your hands; stroking its shiny new cover for the first time. When your wallet can’t quite catch up with your perpetual quest for knowledge and intellectual stimulation, though, these trusty libraries extend their warm wooden shelves to you. Here are eleven libraries with unique personalities you’ll want to acquaint yourself with.
Just along Prinsep Street, it’s hard to miss this intriguing stack of black industrial containers, its central vertical column standing tall. Organisers of the biennial Singapore International Photography Festival, Deck is an independent art space dedicated to inspiring local interest in photography. Clamber on up to the second floor, and step into the container marked Library; you’ll come face to face with industrial-metal shelves stacked with photobooks, including 2,800 titles of self-published, handmade and limited edition printing matter. You can take your time paging through the glossy pages, steep yourself in the cosy ambience, and stick around for Photobook Conversations, a series of talks organised bimonthly that’s centred around the library collection. You can even move your party of intellectuals over to the onsite pub, fulfilling both the 'C' (Community) and 'K' (Knowledge) in Deck. 120A Prinsep St.
If it’s an escape from the heat and the CNY crowds you’re looking for, head straight up to the fourth floor of Chinatown Point, and follow the sea of yellow fan motifs right into the library. Be it the traditional Chinese screen panels or the floral motifs underfoot, let yourself get lost in Singapore’s first themed library on Chinese arts and culture. Centred around the four trademark manifestations of arts, Performance Arts, Strategy, Literary Arts, and Visual and Fine Arts, you’ll find a curated selection of elegant titles on calligraphy, music, painting, customs and more. If you’re really looking to connect with your roots, you can even peruse titles and audio-visual materials in dialects like Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese—and make your grandmother proud. Congregate with fellow arts and cultural enthusiasts too, and watch out for their roster of readings and workshops frequently held. Oh, and when in doubt, approach the staff in the orchid polos; the library is entirely volunteer-run. #04-12 Chinatown Point, 133 New Bridge Rd.
A classic favourite with the local arts community, this chic wood-panelled beauty spanning the third floor of Esplanade is the ideal hideout for an afternoon of research and reading. As Singapore’s first performing arts library, it offers literary and audio-visual material covering anything and everything in music, dance, theatre and film, sorted into four distinct Villages. Pick a CD and settle yourself down on a window seat, where you can listen to classical compositions while surveying the skyline like the cultured intellectual you are. Film buffs gather round, for you can lay your hands on screenplays and films, available in DVD and Blu-ray formats; and for a chill afternoon in you can rent out one of their three screening rooms, comfortable sofas included. There’s even a closed archive with special or unreleased films and recordings, should you want to take nerding up a notch. For the musically-inclined, the Silent Studio is a great place for a spontaneous jam sesh with your budding band. If you’re up for true arts immersion, though, hang around for a performance or two, at the Open Stage or Theatre Alcove. #03-01 The Esplanade, 8 Raffles Ave.
Sourcing for beach vibes but without the unforgiving rays of the sun? You’ll get a similar feel just plopping yourself on a yellow deck chair with a book in hand at this library, while taking in a sweeping view of the sea and Sentosa. Take your time exploring and caressing the spines of the 200,000 books offered here, in the vast space of half a football field; and when that gets too tiring, snag a seat in the comfy Reading Lounge. Make reading an activity with the young ones too, with the children’s zone stocked with augmented reality books, and where their imagination can really come alive. If the sleek white shelves and futuristic beams of white lighting aren’t enough of a giveaway yet, library@harbourfront specialises in digital technology, and aims to make technology accessible to all. Be it for reading or just a comfortable rest stop after an intense retail spree, you’ll find peace of mind here in shades of aquamarine and ocean blue. #03-05 VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk
If you still think of libraries as musty, dusty places, this gem in swanky glass-walled Orchard Gateway will prove just the opposite. With wood-panelled floors and warm lighting, it’s got the cosy feel of a classic reading spot, elevated with aesthetically pleasing elements of good design—white shelves curving around each other in an Instagrammable wave-like effect, and a colourful Magazine Wall. Spanning two whole levels of stylish nerd heaven, browse through non-fiction titles sorted into Design Clusters across the 5 categories of People, Space, Product and Lifestyle. For inspiration on your next multi-media project, keep an eye out for the four book trees on the Loft level; themed integrated displays highlighting personalities and icons. Once you’ve piled your arms high enough with eclectic titles, hole up in a reading nook, or situate yourself near other creatives on the Studio level’s wooden arena space. Now you can take home more than just shopping bags on your next trip into town. #03-12/#04-11 orchardgateway, 277 Orchard Rd.
Break away from the monotony of the concrete jungle and enter the luscious greenery of the Botanic Gardens instead, where you’ll find much-needed tranquility in between the shelves of this library. Founded in 1875 and one of the oldest specialised libraries in the region, it’s home to over 30,000 accessioned items, a diverse multimedia collection documenting the rich history of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Leaf through thick books on horticulture, landscaping, natural history and the like, including botanically themed children’s books for your little ones to get in touch with nature. If you tire of words and prefer visuals, have a look through the various displays; scattered all across the library you’ll find a hundred prepared sets of herbarium specimens you can identify yourself, small exhibits of plant-derived ethno-botanic items on rotation, and in the far end, a polychromatic labelled display of dried carpological specimens unique and rare. Here you’ll get your breath of fresh air, served alongside a mighty dose of ethnobotanical knowledge. 1 Cluny Rd.
The one that started it all, this library spanning 3,349 square metres was Singapore’s first full-time branch library, opened in 1970. The current building, having stood through decades of change, still retains original architectural features like its distinctive outer fence and the bow-tie motif at the entrance. A quiet sanctuary away from the crowds, leisurely browse through over 200,000 titles across all kinds of categories, and settle yourself down for reading in their rooms bathed in natural light, pouring in generously through the glass panelled windows. If it’s a trip down history you’d like to take, participate in the library’s segment of the monthly Heritage Trail, where you’ll hear all about its past and present; proof that reading never dies. 53 Margaret Dr.
On top of conditioning the physical, you’ll also want to condition the mind. With aims to be the centre of sports knowledge for locals of any shape and size, the library houses a collection of multimedia materials around eight broad subject areas, including Sports & Recreation, Training & Coaching, and even Arts & Culture. Occupying two levels, Level 1 facilitates the Library’s interactive activities and programmes; if you don’t want to get reading straightaway, try beating a friend first at giant chess and checkers. There’s even virtual sports stations if you want to get physical without the sweat and heat, and cosy video viewing stations for unwinding after. Don’t expect to stay in your seats too long, though, for you’ll want to join in on their yoga sessions and health workshops organised regularly. 4 Stadium Walk
Who ever said libraries had to be for books? Decorated with colourful foam playmats and cabinets stocked with toys of varying shapes and sizes, this library is a dream come true for a child’s imagination. Their collection supplied by donations of pre-loved toys in good condition, children can play with Lego and musical instruments alongside other playmates, fostering an interactive environment targeted at enhancing development. Promoting inclusivity, there are toys specially selected for children with special needs, making it a safe space welcoming children of all ages and backgrounds. Pasir Ris Elias Community Club, 93 Pasir Ris Drive 3
A new town still littered with barricaded construction sites, where do the residents go to for their literary fix? The answer lies in these repurposed, fully air-conditioned cobalt blue containers in the middle of an unused lot, a temporary library awaiting the completion of the Punggol Town Hub. Far from being bare, this library offers over 3,000 books for teens and children, decked out with tables and chairs, and even a reading corner. If you find yourself in the heartlands and want some peace and quiet, here is your place to be. 211A Punggol Walk
Run by 20 volunteers, here’s where you’ll find titles not typically found in your neighbourhood library. Stuffed with shelves of books donated by supporters, the 1,000 titles offered here cover both fiction and non-fiction, and is a free resource centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and curious individuals. Dedicated to being a non-threatening space for exploration of one’s own sexual identity, it is a cosy, quiet haven for some introspective reading. You can join in on the conversation surrounding the LGBTQ community too, by looking out for their roster of book launches, talks and workshops organised here. #02-02, 1 Commonwealth Ln