When I went to Singapore, part of my itinerary was to visit Libraries to satisfy my proactive soul and look for a possible undergraduate thesis topic. My goal was to even visit all, however, that would be far-fetched because aside from there are a lot of libraries, most of the libraries I’ve seen on the list are for children! Just imagine looking for a hardcore Linguistic book, and finding a colorful book of Red Riding Hood, instead?
Among the libraries I visited are Sports Hub Library, Toa Payoh Library, and National Library, but it was the National Library that enticed me to return several times– which led me to not visiting other anymore because I found the one.
I can still remember the exact moment I visited this library the first time. I was shrinking, I wanted to know if I have to pay anything to get in. But I was alone, and I just felt so diffident just by looking at the lady at the information desk. She looked strict, reserved, and intimidating, like those nuns administering convents for young ladies– and then only God knows how my imagination led to an entire soap opera
I circled around the exhibit in the lobby, and honestly, I was already thinking about aborting my mission.
I wanted to go back to my comfort zone.
I wanted to go home.
But I reminded myself that I have no time to be hesitant because I’ve traveled so far, and it is embarrassing to fail at something just because I was shy. Myself, my family, my mom, my ancestors, my countrymen– they will all not be happy if I go home– just because I was shy.
So I took a deep breath and approached the lady. She politely smiled at me, and under my shaking smile I asked, “Hi, I am a tourist and I want to enter the library, do I have to pay anything?” She smiled more and then she shook her head, “No no, you can just go in, sit, and read.” She even swayed her hand, gesturing me to go in. So, I said thanks, and I went in.
And after that, I returned to the National Library several times, and I started smiling and greeting uncles around the place.
National Library of Singapore, is also called Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. It occupies the 5th and 7th-13th levels of the National Library Building, at the Victoria Street, Singapore. It is located near Bras Basah Complex and Bugis. They are open Monday-Sunday from 10am-9pm (except on Public Holidays).
But for me, I usually stayed at the 8th level because that is where the Social Science and Humanities Collection. In this section, I was able to find a lot of books in all the fields of Linguistics. They have such a huge collection and their books were really kept well. I was even fascinated to find books that are part of the references of the books I’ve read in the Philippines. I don’t know if I am normal but I felt like I am seeing a celebrity in person when I touched their books!
The staffs are also very diligent in their jobs. They have a table on the sides, wherein they will ask you to put the books after you use it, instead of inserting it in any bookshelves. The staffs really make sure that that table will always be free of any books because they put it in their rightful places right away.
Although in using the Online Catalogues, it was quite stupid-eating because it’s different from what we have in the Philippines. In their catalog, if you search for one book they will all give you results even from other libraries. And the call card number is different, I don’t know how to use it. Seriously.
They also have a cafe outside the library but I wasn’t able to check it out and eat there. But they always have a lot of clients, so I think the food there tastes good.
With the rise of the internet, research, and the import/export of books, information has been at the tip of our thumbs. Thus, I don’t believe that ignorance is bliss. It was never, and will never be. At this age of technology, it is embarrassing to still be ignorant.
As anyone has noticed in the facade, facilities, and books at the National Library of Singapore, everyone will agree that it is a modernized library, and being a modernize library actually helped enticing more students, tourists, and people in general, to visit and spend time at the library.
That’s why I do hope that the Philippines would invest in these kinds of establishments. To encourage more students to study and to be able to entice more researchers in the country. Filipinos are already intelligent people, we just need more venue to hone our talents.