SINGAPORE - Bukit Merah Public Library will reopen as library@harbourfront in VivoCity on Jan 12 next year.
The library on the third floor of the sprawling shopping mall will
draw three times as many visitors as before, the National Library Board (NLB) said this week, reiterating its view that the move will make the library easier to reach by public transport.
News of the relocation, first announced in July last year, sparked an online petition as well as complaints from netizens.
They said the new location on the island's southern tip - more than 3km away, and not as close to residential estates - would leave behind the current library's user base of students and the elderly.
The petition has since garnered nearly 1,000 signatures.
The current Bukit Merah library is a three-storey library in Bukit Merah Central that has been a fixture in the neighbourhood since 1982.
It will lower its shutters for the last time on Nov 30.
Bukit Merah Public Library saw about 500,000 visitors last year, half that of similar-sized libraries such as Bishan Public Library.
At VivoCity mall, which is next to the HarbourFront MRT interchange, the number should reach 1.5 million, said Ms Catherine Lau, NLB's assistant chief executive (public library services).
The move is part of the NLB's efforts to move public libraries to locations such as shopping malls and town hubs which have more human traffic.
Tampines Regional Library, for example, has moved to Our Tampines Hub, while Yishun Public Library has reopened at Northpoint City.
At 3,000 sq m, library@harbourfront will be Singapore's largest shopping mall library.
It will have 16 eNewspaper stations, a children's area, multi-purpose zone, and a reading lounge that can seat 120.
Visitors can also expect a refreshed collection of 200,000 books, similar to the size of the collection at Bukit Merah Public Library.
And the new library will not have to pay any rent, thanks to the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Community/Sports Facilities Scheme.
After the old site is vacated, grassroots leaders and social service organisations will offer services and programmes at the library's former site, including a mini-library and reading corner supported by NLB.
People living in the area have lamented the library's impending closure, saying that they appreciate the convenience of the location and the fact that the library is peaceful and not too crowded.
Retired cleaner Yeo Boon Hock, 68, who visits the library every day to read the newspapers, said he understood the rationale behind the move.
However, he doubts he will visit the new library as often because "the things here are cheaper, there are hawkers (nearby). VivoCity will be more expensive".
Tax accountant Irene Ong, 40, visits the library with her family about twice a month.
"It doesn't make much sense to have a library in a mega-shopping mall," she said, adding that children planning on studying in the library will face a lot more distractions.
To address residents' needs, the NLB has over the past year set up 12 reading corners in the Bukit Merah area, which will still be in use after the new library opens.
The reading corners, which are stocked with books, can be found in various community centres, senior activity centres, the Enabling Village, Beyond Social Services, St Andrew's Senior Care, Teens Network Club @ Bukit Merah and the We Love Learning (WeLL) centre at Henderson.
Student Gabriel Koh, 23, who visits the library twice a week after classes, said he likes the library because it is within walking distance from his home and the atmosphere helps him focus.
However, he said he is not against the idea of studying at a reading corner. "As long as there is a table for me to use, I would go there."
But he added: "There are a lot of elderly people who come to the library for leisure, and they honestly wouldn't go that far away (to VivoCity)."
The library board will also consider bringing one of its Molly mobile libraries to the neighbourhood every fortnight, so residents can enjoy more books and programmes.
Bukit Merah residents will be invited to a tour of library@harbourfront a week before it officially opens. More details will be released this month.