By Janice Ong
There were no visible tears among the 200-odd that witnessed the closure. Instead, there was a somewhat carnival atmosphere in the library among the National Library Board (NLB) staff, board members and business associates. The guests mingled around with each other and chatted with some library users who had turned especially for one last look at the library.
In a spontaneous and moving display, some staff burst into a rendition of auld lang syne when a banner, announcing the relocation of the National Library to its new premise in Victoria Street in 2005, was unfurled in a symbolic gesture just after the library closed at 9pm.
A Place for All
Opened in 1960 by Singapore's very first president, Mr. Yusok Ishak, the National Library was the first library, which did not charge entrance or loan fees to its users. Over the years, the library evolved to keep up with satisfying the changing needs of its users, whilst building up its rich collection and developing the expertise and experience of its librarians.
The National Library is "more than just a libraryE[it holds] a special place in the hearts and minds of generations of users," said Ms. Ngian Lek Choh, Director of the National Library and Deputy Chief Executive of the NLB, in her speech at the closing ceremony, billed as "The Closing Chapter".
"Many people, Singaporeans and visitors from overseas alike, have benefited from the library and what it has been offering, be it reference collections, the enquiry service, rare books from the specialized collection or just a quiet and conducive place to sit back, relax and have a cup of coffee," she added.
Ms. Ngian also thanked the ardent fans of the National Library for the continuous support they had given over the years. Hundreds turned up on the last day to take pictures and even savoured the last chance to walk down its historical corridors.
Some participated in the "My Fond Memories" contest, one of the initiatives organized by NLB to commemorate the memories of the National Library building. Others took part in the variety of other programmes organized by NLB, including the National Library Virtual Walkthrough, the sale of commemorative items, the photography contest and the National Library Guided Tours.
"As we prepare for the opening of the new National Library in 2005, we also recognize the special place that the National Library has in the hearts of the public who have grown up with it," Ms. Ngian said.
She could not have said it any better.
"My Fond Memories" Contest
The "My Fond Memories" contest was held on 31 March 2004 to invite members of the public to pen down their favourite memories and recollections of the library. The contest was well received. Winning entries were announced through the NLB website.
The closing ceremony also saw the launch of the highly anticipated National Library Virtual Walkthrough. Developed by NLB, Apple Singapore and students from various primary and secondary schools such as Maris Stella High School, Catholic High School, Woodlands Primary School and Singapore Chinese Girls' School, the Virtual Walkthrough offers viewers a vivid virtual reality tour of the National Library.
The Virtual Walkthrough aims to provide the public with a tool to, not only preserve the memories of the cultural icon, but also with interesting information about the library's history and background.
Easily accessible through NLB's website, the Virtual Walkthrough will have location maps, virtual images and even slide shows.
Sale of Commemorative Items
Members of the public could also preserve their memories of the National Library by buying commemorative items available at many of the libraries such as Choa Chu Kang Community Library, Tampines Regional Library, Woodlands Regional Library, library@esplanade and library@orchard, just to name a few.
Items on sale include spiral-O note pads, analogue quartz watches, PVC tote bags, 3D polyresin replicas of the National Library with memo holder or bookends and a commemorative CD.
The CD includes a short history of the National Library in Singapore, 150 historical pictures of the library, not to mention the Virtual Walkthrough tour of the library.
The "Moments and Memories" Photography Contest was held from 3 February to 4 March this year, and was one of NLB's programmes to preserve the memories of the National Library among the public. Supported by the Photographic Society of Singapore, the contest received a whooping 723 entries.
Entries were judged on 10 March and the winners of the contest were announced during the closing ceremony. A photo exhibition was also held that day to showcase the winning entries.
The National Library Guided Tours was conceptualized in February 2004 and aimed to give members of the public the opportunity to learn about the history of the National Library, as well as to see what goes on behind-the-scenes. These included tours in some areas like the Fumigation Chamber, which was not open to the public previously.
The response was overwhelming and a total of 142 tours were conducted.
The tour had to even be extended twice! More than 2,000 visitors have since
attended the tours and more than 90 percent of them complimented on the
The new National Library at Victoria Street, set to open in 2005, will continue the learning legacy of its predecessor; provide users with an avenue to tap on the knowledge of the world, ignite their imagination and open their minds to the infinite possibilities of the world.
Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, the 16 storeys of the new National Library building will house collections including the Singapore Heritage Collection, Rare Books Collection and the Arts Collection among others.
The new National Library will also provide users with a scenic view from the roof top observatory pod.
For more information about NLB, please visit http://www.nlb.gov.sg
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