Physical Environment

big, moveable signage

One thing our visit demonstrated wonderfully is that design has become a huge factor in libraries.  In its presentation, UWCSEA in fact focused on design aspects, as it had two new, purpose built libraries.  Careful thought had also gone into the design of the Tanglin Trust libraries, in particular the new senior library.

Libraries had given careful thought about the balance between creating welcoming spaces that would have a low entry barrier for patrons, and allowing for quiet space where study could take place without interruption.  Most libraries had quiet zones and quiet rooms, usually behind sound-proof glass.

Everything on wheels

These days libraries are not only used to collect and store print collections, but also provide digital services which need to be accessed either on site or through links provided by the library.  Libraries are designed to function as communal spaces where presentations, talks, concerts, exhibitions, book clubs and other events can be used.  For this reason furniture should easily be moved in those areas.  At UWCSEA-East for example, all furniture including bookshelves, tables, chairs and booths are on wheels.

Through bright signage, libraries designate different areas, for example check-out, reference / information areas, quiet areas, computer areas, study rooms, audio visual areas, and special collections.

Clear identification of areas

Separating out of parts of collection for easy retrieval
pods for multi-media perusal

With the shift to more digital material, space has been created for the viewing of films, listening to podcasts or music, recording presentations, making movies and other digital activities which users need to partake in.

Cosiness and intimacy for Primary library

In their design libraries clearly differentiated between themselves with view to their user groups.  For example the infant and primary libraries were very cosy and friendly, with low and soft furniture, and bright colors.  The life-style areas of libraries were interactive and accessible with clear and funky signage and furniture, a non-adherence to tradition Dewey Decimal cataloguing and permission to talk and interact with fellow users without a “shushing” librarian.

Friendly atmosphere for infants

Special collections were separated for their users. For example at Tanglin Trust school the materials for IB students was organised by subject.  In the Ngee Ann library a special area was made for “wealth creation” including related books, a large exhibition on the life of the person donating the funds for the library, Bloomberg screens and space for presentations of famous local businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Innovative use of materials and recycling

The children’s library at the Singapore Central library had made a special effort to be an ecological library with careful choice of materials used in creating the library and also in its collection – 30% of the collection relates to environmental and natural themes.

And finally, as this video below shows – accessibility to the library and its services is paramount.

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