Queenstown Public Library Is The Oldest In SG & Still Retains OG Architecture

Queenstown Public Library, the oldest library in Singapore

Now that we have plenty of new cafes and restaurants and things to do in Singapore, you may not believe us when we say that libraries were one of the OG hangout spots back in the day. The one that started it all: Queenstown Public Library.

The 55-year-old Queenstown Public Library is Singapore’s oldest library. It still has some of its original architecture and features that have withstood the test of time. We did a deep dive on its history to find out more.

The history of Queenstown Public Library

Image credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

The late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew opened Singapore’s first library, then named the Queenstown Branch Library, on 30th April 1970. This was in line with his goal of encouraging younger generations to educate themselves more, in Singapore’s spry years of independence.

The building had high ceilings and a unique exterior that swayed from other upcoming architecture, with interwoven walls and Modernist arches reminiscent of bow ties. There were also tinted glass windows to allow softened levels of natural sunlight to flow in. If you walk past the building today, you’ll see that the architecture still stands – albeit with some updates.

Image credit: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

In the past, the library was separated into 2 floors; the 1st floor being the children’s section while the 2nd floor was the adult, young adult, and references section. There were a total of 200,000 books in its genesis, sourced all the way from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.

Queenstown Branch Library was a great hit, with nearly 1.76 million loans in the first 2 years of its operation. It also served as one of the first community spaces for Singaporeans, with workshops on plants, martial arts, and even photography.

The library’s popularity helped justify the speedy advancements of its facilities. It was the first library to have aircon and audio-visual media. It was also the first branch library of the National Library to digitise loaning and memberships.

This also set up the library to aid in the National Library Board’s pioneer use of Radio-Frequency Identification Technology (RFID) for borrowing and returning in the ’90s. They were the first to adopt this system in the world, which allowed self-loaning and automatic tracking of the books in the system.

Queenstown Public Library in 2013.
Image credit: Frenzeelo via Google Maps

In the late 90s, the library was renamed to the Queenstown Community Library and zoomed through several renovations. There was an addition of a cafe, an elevator, and the building was painted a funky orange hue at one point.

What can you do at Queenstown Public Library today?

Image credit: @estherellies via Instagram

It’s since been renamed to Queenstown Public Library and now, continues to be a place of community and studying with events, festival celebrations, and modern conveniences through new technology.

Image credit: National Library Board

What was formerly an underused foot reflexology path is now an outdoor garden area, where edible plants like fruits and vegetables are planted. From time to time, there’ll also be gardening workshops for the public.

Image adapted from: @bookedbyallycodia & @karen_limtt via Instagram

Their book sections have also expanded with over 20 topics for adults, 12 for children, the addition of a teens section, and a range of multi-media resources. It also has a book exchange corner – where you can give a book a new home, a programme zone for events, multiple multi-media booths to play audio-visual content, and a quiet reading room for extra focus.

Quiet Reading Room (left) and Children’s Section (right).
Image adapted from: Kristie Lu via Google Maps, National Library Board 

Another way the library stayed true to its original is by continuing to organise workshops and events. Besides gardening workshops, there are also free monthly movie screenings and frequent story-reading sessions for toddlers.

One of their regular workshop themes is inclusivity. The library has championed a Play.Able initiative where children get to interact with and understand differently-abled children through accessible toys and games, as well as being a safe space for them to play and meet new people.

A revamp for Queenstown Public Library was overdue

Image adapted from: @pustakawanmendunia via Instagram

Despite standing the test of time, the library has needed a makeover for a while. The Queenstown Public Library revamp is slated to happen in 2025, with a focus on sustainability as well as more technological advancements. Think a drive-through book drop concept for convenient borrowing and returns.

If you want to visit the library before it closes for renovation, you’ll have the rest of the year to do so. The closest MRT station is Queenstown MRT. From there, it’s an 11-minute walk to the library. Taking the bus may be more convenient as there are 2 bus stops adjacent to the library: Queenstown Lib and Blk 30, which is right opposite. Bus lines 32 and 122 go to these stops. There’s also a public car park that’s a 5-minute walk away.

Queenstown Public Library
Google Reviews
53 Margaret Dr, Singapore 149297
Opening Hours:
Monday 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM Show More Timings

Cover image adapted from: National Library Board, Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore 

Ezekiel Sen

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