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  • Writer's pictureNMSG

Fall in love with Singapore Libraries!

As a career literacy teacher, it was important to me that I quickly got myself up to speed on the Singapore Library system after our family’s relocation. My daughters and I actually visited the Central Library on our first full day in the country. We quickly learned that we’d have to wait for our DP to be finalized before we’d be able to get a card, and our frequent trips to multiple locations have taught us many more tricks of the trade I’ll share with you here.

Getting Started

While the NLB has successfully automated much of the book borrowing process, I found that attempting to sign up for a card at a kiosk was more trouble than it was worth. Armed with my DP, I sought out a helpful gentleman at the Central Library who helped me with the process. I had already downloaded the NLB app on my phone and was able to use Paypal to pay the fees ($10.50 for registration and $42.80 for annual membership fee), but he was key in providing my physical card. Now, once I entered my card number in the app, I was able to stuff my card deep into my wallet where it has remained ever since.

Borrowing Books

That’s right, you don’t actually need the card itself to borrow books thanks to the automation built in at all branches. With the NLB app, you can check out your own books using your phone camera as a scanner. Using the app also lets you take home more materials, with an increased borrow limit of 16 items. Now, if you encounter a tech glitch or make a user error, be warned that the alarm will sound as you attempt to leave with any materials that have not been properly signed out. That said, the one time this happened to me, they were very understanding and simply watched me properly check out the book in question.

Returning Books

One great feature of the Singapore Library system is that books DO NOT need to be returned to the branch where they were borrowed from. This allows you to explore new branches, which we have used as great motivation to check out new corners of the city. The book return process is also automated and my daughter loves dropping them in one at a time to give them a proper farewell.

What branch should I visit?

This really depends on the location of your home. It’s worth checking out the National Library at least once - the Treehouse is a darling spot to read a picture book or two (and they have a great family room if you’re nursing a little one). We have found that the selection of kids’ books there is more limited, probably because it gets a lot of first-time visitors. library@harbourfront has been recently upgraded so it’s gorgeous and has a fantastic picture book selection. Tampines has a drop-in (admission fee required) play space on the children’s floor. Queenstown has a robust fairy tale selection and cute cafe. Woodlands has a sensory friendly space. Pasir Ris is a great place to bring your youngest readers as board books are displayed in an engaging way for the smallest hands.

Avoid library@orchard and library@esplanade, as these branches do not have a children’s department. The Chinatown branch has very limited (ie: a single shelf) English language offerings.

Ebooks? Sure!

I personally prefer reading actual books with my kids, but the National Library Board does offer an extensive e-book collection that I have eagerly taken advantage of for my own reading. Wait times for popular titles are much shorter than they were at my local library in the states. I recommend downloading the Libby app on your phone and checking it out.

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