The National Library had its beginnings in 1823 and was inextricably tied to the establishment of Singapore’s first major educational institution, The Singapore Institution, now known as the Raffles Institution, as well as the founder of modern Singapore Sir Stamford Raffles.
Stamford Raffles worked for the British East India Company. He was a self-made man who fervently believed in the opportunities afforded by education and its ability to benefit the poor. Soon after the founding of Singapore, Raffles proposed setting up an educational establishment and envisioned that a library was needed to support the educational aims of the college. As such, the seeds of the National Library were sown.
Raffles laid the foundation stone in 1823 for the Singapore Institution and the building was completed in 1837. Dr Robert Morrison, an eminent missionary, philanthropist and educationist, became the first librarian and played a key role in the early developments of the library.
The library, being a part of the Singapore Institution, was open to its students and staff. However, for 25 cents a month, any member of public could use the library and borrow books as well. However, following increasing public calls for the library to be open beyond school hours, the Singapore Library was formed and officially opened on 22 January 1845. Invited members of the public could use the library after paying a monthly subscription of $2.50. The Singapore Library was thus Singapore’s first subscription library.
A black-and-white photograph of the old library building at Stamford Road
View of the staircase leading to the main entrance of the old National Library at Stamford Road
View of the main entrance of the old National Library building with its walls of exposed red bricks
The library moved to its new home on 22 July 2005. It is the flagship building of the National Library Board , it brings together the core functions of the old library by incorporating a reference library , known as the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library , as well as a public library , the Central Lending Library (CLL) under one roof.
Picture of the current library at Bras Basah Road