NLB celebrated their 20th birthday last month with a cake cutting and lunch.

People usually associate going to the library with studying or with being uncool. But libraries are not just for bookworms; they house an extensive range of media, from archived newspapers, to magazines, music CDs, movies, comic books, anime, software, audiobooks, and more. You can even borrow a digital reader. Plus, there are a whole host of programmes which you can attend (often FOC) to expand your mind, your skills, and your network. For anyone who is looking for inspiration, or even just a good way to pass time, the library should be at the top of their list. Being in nicely air-conditioned space (away from the haze) is also an added bonus!

I find it remarkable that so few people visit the local libraries, yet many foreigners and visitors rate it as one of the top things to do while in Singapore. You’ll often see it in visitor itineraries that also include MBS, Botanic Gardens, and Sentosa. Yet it seems like only a very specific demographic visits the libraries regularly. Compared to some of the libraries in the States, the Singapore local libraries are impressive and amazing. Even the design and user experience of some of the local libraries are quite extraordinary. In the States, because of budget cuts and deficits, many of the libraries are dilapidated, and their collections are outdated. Many of them don’t have an extensive range of media; some only have books on tape filling their “audiobook” section (and who even has a cassette player anymore?).

The e-Reader I borrowed from the Toa Payoh Library.

Services which you might not know about
You can borrow an e-Reader, Kindle, or iPad at certain library locations. They require you to register for an informational workshop on how to use the device, but after attending this brief class, the device is yours to use for 21 days. More info can be found here.

Programmes which you might not know about
Every month, the library prints 2 magazine catalog called “Go Library” and “Go Kids” which are filled with programmes and workshops. Most are free and but require pre-registration. You can watch performances and movie screenings; listen to music, authors, and inspiring speakers; join a book club; learn new skills such as a new language, how to use a 3D printer, how to grow edible plants, and how to use specific computer applications; or attend a mindfulness workshop or health seminar. These magazine also will list which libraries are having special exhibitions or special craft sessions for kids.

Below are photos taken from a lunch-hour seminar that I recently attended at the LLiBrary (Lifetime Learning Institute Library). The talk was on methods and techniques to improve your public speaking skills. They even provided light refreshments. (You’ll find that most of the lunch-hour talks at the LLiBrary usually will have light refreshments.)

Books which you may not know about
Every library here has a designated section for the Singapore Collection, which contains local prose, poetry and nonfiction books. For a small island nation, I find this section to be quite impressive.

Libraries which you may not know about
Did you know that there are themed libraries? There is a dedicated teen service library at Jurong (called Verging All Teens), a Children Advisory & Resource Centre (also at Jurong), a SGX Investment Knowledge Gateway section which has financial literacy resources (at Tampines), an Asian Children’s Literature Collection (at Woodlands), a performing arts library (at Esplanade), a “green” library for kids (called My Tree House), and a community-supported library (at Chinatown). All in all, there are 28 libraries, which include the National Library, the LLiBrary, 3 regional libraries, and 23 public libraries which are all under NLB. Besides these physical libraries, NLB also manages web portals which gives you access to audiobooks, ebooks, emagazines, and enewspapers (please see my previous post).

A few last thoughts
Forget Uber, AirBnB, and Ebay, libraries were really the first pioneers of the sharing economy. From when we were young, we learned that the library was a place where we didn’t have to buy something to enjoy it; instead, we knew it belonged to the community, so we could borrow from it, but we had to be responsible in caring for what we borrowed so that it could be passed on to benefit others. This experience also taught us that we too are part of a community. And the local library is a good place to come together and share our stories, interests, and lives. Since their 20th birthday last month, you can now borrow up to 20 books, 12 ebooks/audiobooks, and 6 AV materials (through 31 Jan 2016).

A good time to revisit the library
This Saturday (7 Nov) is Customer Appreciation Day (CAD), and all the local libraries will be having special programmes, including tours, story-telling sessions, photobooths, and workshops. To find out more about the programmes and timing, please visit here and search for “CAD” in the search bar. In addition, there will be a special free local breakfast at the Central Library from 9.30 – 11.30am. Free media, free programmes, and a free breakfast (in appreciation of you) – nowhere else but Singapore!

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