02 October, 2008

Library tour

I am on a busman's holiday as they say - a group of librarians are visiting the best libraries in the world. Fifteen of us from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia are on a 3 week study tour to learn from our colleagues.

Our first stop was Singapore. Singapore libraries underwent a radical overhaul in the early noughties - many wonderful new libraries were built and usage rose dramatically. It has been interesting to see the sustainabilty of this enormous investment that the government made to their library service. We visited the beautiful new National Library that was opened in July 05 - The building consists of two 16 storey blocks, which are linked by skybridges on every floor. It houses two libraries, the Central Lending Library in Basement 1 and the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library from Levels 7 to 13. The lending library was full of people using the space and the facilities and the reference library houses over 8 million items.

We also visited the Esplanade library which is a special public library for the performing arts. The Esplanade building is a landmark building in Singapore, sometimes described as looking like a durian fruit. The library has collections in dance, music, film and theatre and has facilities such as pianos for practice as well as recitals and a wide audiovisual collection.

Our final visit was to the Bishan library which is the newest library in the system. The library is spread over four floors and a basement, with a coffee shop on the first floor. It has over 200,000 items for loan. A feature of this library are the windows that protrude out of the building which are reading pods for readers who want to read quietly. They are very popular with teenagers, who are at the doors every morning on opening to claim one of these spaces.

Singapore libraries are world's best practice in their systems and processes and the work they have done in developing self service has really led the way. They are now looking to the future to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of the people of Singapore.

Last night we arrived in Helsinki, so my next post will be about these innovative and exciting libraries.

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