bookporn #37: singapore national library, or, Contraband

the Singapore National Library is quite a marvel: steel and glass wrought into elegance manifest. It is much taller than its 16 storeys suggest, for each floor is lavish – positively indulgent – with its space. From certain angles on the outside it looks almost like bookshelves

Singapore National Library

from other angles, more like science fiction –

in the belly of the Singapore National library

And what a building it is from the inside! Surely there can’t be many other public libraries that would place their rare books, untouchable collections and archive material on the very top two floors of the building, its research library on the next top five floors of the building, and the books for the masses in the basement? — Rather than the other way around, with the archive boxes squirrelled away into the dark, windowless basements that literally bury the researchers with the past, and the books for normal people out in the sunshine?

But in the Singapore National Library, as an academic researcher, you find yourself enticed – nay, positively obliged – into those lofty glass towers of scholarship. And you sit at vast desks that command such spectacular views over the city, and you wonder that perhaps it is only in Singapore, whose 43-year-old modern history is in many respects so scant and yet so hard-won, where the past is so literally elevated to such heights, and where its value to Singaporeans (and of course, to the Government) is made so utterly, architecturally explicit, in the way that they do best: corporately…

and now the Contraband:

Eleventh Floor of the Singapore National Library

I only got this one shot before being assaulted (quite politely, however) by the librarians. It’s the highest floor of the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library that can be accessed without permission, on the 11th floor – the Singapore (of course) and Southeast Asian collection, where I shall be spending much of my weekends in the coming weeks – and it is truly marvellous.


2 responses to “bookporn #37: singapore national library, or, Contraband

  • Jas

    Hi, this is great information. I am fan of Rock Group Yardbirds. I am from Canada, however. The Yardbirds played with Singapore Band The Quests:

    Jan 17, 1967 in Singapore where they played a show with the Walkers Brothers at the National Theatre.

    Can you suggest me via e-mail, how I can retrieve any archived news from Singapore Newspapers? The press would be for next day…

    Thank you.

    • Slow Loris

      You can search for and retrieve old Singapore newspaper articles from

      There were quite a few articles and ads on the Yardbirds in the press. I think the one you want is Police Step in to Control Weeping Fans by Gabriel Lee (The Straits Times, Thursday 19 January 1967, Page 12).

      The Wednesday 18th paper reports that Two Pop Groups to Give a Show Together (The Straits Times, Wednesday 18 January 1967, Page 11).


      PS Interestingly, Donald Moore organised this concert. He was a great promoter and organiser but unfortunately not so great at turning a profit.

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