Saturday, July 23, 2005

Pointers on the National Library (and why such a huge space?)

Thanks to Tinkertailor for mentioning my post in just hours after I blogged about it. Ah, the beauty of RSS.

I left a comment over there for those who intend to visit the National Library/ Central Lending Library (CLL) this weekend. Thought it's useful to post it here as well:
  1. If your intent is to borrow materials (as opposed to browsing), please be mentally prepared for a packed house.
  2. The Central Lending Library (CLL) is at the basement, and it's the only floor with lending materials. The rest of the National Library is actually for reference and research materials and aren't for loan.
  3. Loosely speaking: Public Library = mainly lending collection; National Library = mainly reference materials (i.e. not for loan)
  4. Payment of fees & fines is via Cashcard, NETS (yes, we have that now), Ezlink (non-GIRO linked) and cheque. No cash accepted since 5 years ago (so please please don't ask why no cash and isn't it legal tender etc etc *sigh*)
  5. Please be nice to the staff. If the queues are long or shelves are messy, it's not entirely our fault 'cos not all readers are considerate users like you :)
  6. CLL doesn't have AV materials (as of this post).
Kevin left a comment, asking if a library like the National Library has to be that big. Well Kevin, it depends on how far we plan ahead, and whether we have thoughtful plans for the use of the space.
"The library is a growing organism" ~ S.R. Raganathan
Let me explain it this way (this is my personal view):
Suppose you are building a study-room and you're asking yourself how much space you intend to set aside for your bookshelves. If you project 2 to 3 years ahead, thinking that you'll throw out most stuff, a relatively small room might suffice.

But let's say 10, 20 or even 50 years passed. With a space that could accomodate only 2 to 3 years worth of materials, if you want to expand then it's probably more expensive to retrofit or even recontruct the room. Or you might not have the budget to build it by then.

Granted that technology could develop into something very advanced, and eliminate the need for large physical spaces. But that is not a certainty. What is certain -- at this point -- is that much of the Society's Heritage, Institutional/ National Knowledge exists in print form. Hence, we plan for what might be certain (or perhaps a "worse-case" scenario).

But suppose we manage to digitise (or "virtualise") all the books in the library in 5 years time. Does that mean the National Library, being so spacious, becomes a "white elephant"? No, because we can always convert the space to something else. But it's a lot harder to create additional space once something is built.

Ok, I'll be there tomorrow evening to look-see (off-duty mode). If you recognise me, come over and say 'Hi'.

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  1. "...asking if a library like the National Library has to be that big..."

    Ok, I'll admit not to be unbiased when it comes to such matters, but I am still hoping for the day when our National Library is as big--in collection--as the present NUS Central, and NUS Central would be as big as UC Berkeley Doe!

    Please, the bigger the better! :)

  2. Anonymous11:09 am

    The LKC Lib is huge and impressive. With the vast collection and a panoramic view overlooking Marina and the rest of the city, it's sure going to be an inspiring experience for serious readers and researchers. Eye soothing, you can nibble on the knowledge bit by bit w/o a stress.

    Btw, i hope tables can be placed somewhere in the centre instead of only by the sides, so dont have to walk end to end to take some books.

    For the lending lib below, I think it's just nice for the moment. Maybe, NLB can let the "i want to be the first to try" crowd syndrome to subside first before the real usage level be known.


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