the NLB building: «Totally inadequate»

One of the early efforts of Singapore's National Book Development Council, when it was founded back in the mists of time, ie 1968, was to commission a study of the Singapore book market. The study was written by an American librarian, spending 1969 on sabbatical in Singapore. Books in Singapore: a survey of publishing, printing, bookselling, and library activity in the Republic of Singapore (Singapore: Chopmen, 1971) makes for terrific reading. Cecil K Byrd, the librarian in question, had an acerbic pen. He was quite sympathetic to the business of publishing, and his report makes fun reading, even decades later.

One thing though, that might not sound so soothing to today's nostalgic generation: He *hated* the old National Library building. The tone of his description must have been fueled by the complaints of the fellow-librarians who worked there as well:

The building on Stamford Road, the central nerve centre of national library services, was completed and occupied in November 1960. It would be difficult to find a recently constructed library building as poorly designed for interior communications affecting economical and expeditious library operations and services. The fixed installations, -- rest rooms, stairwells, partitions, -- all make it so inflexible that major renovations, for the improvement of interior communications and relocation and service points would seem prohibitive. Aesthetically, the design and exterior materials used, which are in juxtaposition to the soothing, pleasing National Museum, constitute what might be harshly termed a major architectural abortion. The building is totally inadequate for services now required of the National Library.

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