That Red Brick Library – Part 2

…cont’d from Part 1

Besides the above First Day Cover showing the National Library together with a few other landmarks of Singapore, I couldn’t find or remember seeing any stamps or covers on the old National Library alone. Wonder why?

So do you know exactly where is this old red brick National Library? Let’s take a look at the old map below (around 70s) showing the National Library;

You can see that the old National Library is just besides the National Museum at Stamford Road. The demolishing of this old red brick library is to facilitate the building of the Fort Canning Tunnel, but the reasons why the importance of this tunnel, I’m not keen at all to touch on it. See the current map now without the library;

Of course with the tunnel built, and lots of road changes made and the SMU buildings around the area – it seems like a different landscape! Before my memories fade, let’s recall some of the main buildings around here…

CPIB Building;

This 3 storey building at Stamford Road was just near to the old library. The old Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) building was here from 1962 to 1984.

Tao Nan Chinese School;

The old Tao Nan Chinese School was located at Armenian Street and was built in 1906;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

Now this building has been restored and it’s the Asian Civilisations Museum;

MPH Building;

This is an very old building (1908) formerly known as Malaya Publishing House (MPH). This Red and White colored building seems like a very “expensive” bookshop to me during my school days. I still remember the wooden staircase inside the bookshop;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

It is now known as the Vanguard Building, which houses the Vanguard Interiors Pte Ltd;

After taking a look around the old library, now let’s take a look at the old library itself. But just before that, we probably could not forget that old coffee shop besides the library carpark. It’s a very small coffee shop. Below shows some old photos of the red brick library;

The front main staircase

Photo Credit : National Library Board, NLB

Below shows 2 photos taken in 2004.

The courtyard which is rather different from the 70s;

The most memorable fountain at the library. Wonder where it is now?

Above 2 photos credit : By James 1504

Take note of the old logo at the main entrance of the library;

Photo Credit : National Library Board, NLB

See the difference with the new logo;

Now let’s talk about the National Library Logo;

During the Raffles Library times : The Logo resembled the crest of the Colony of Singapore. The crest which looked like the British Royal Coat of Arms had mottoes that read “Dieu et mon droit” (French for ‘God and my right’). It neither represented the library’s function nor aspiration.

Below – something like that;

Credit : Wikipedia

In the 60s : The National Library carried its own logo. It is said that the logo was designed by one of the librarians. The logo composed of a book and a superimposed figure of a lion. The book symbolised the collections, or books and reading, while the lion represented Singapore. This logo was seen on library cards and library books.

The old library card carrying the old logo;

The New Logo : The new logo was launched in 1996 after it became a statutory board. The logo is composed of a stylised book with flipping pages that transits from bold solid pages to pixels. It symbolises the organisation’s aspiration of a modern, dynamic and creative library and information service provider. Meaning of the new logo as stated in the library report;

Stylised book and flipping pages
Represents qualities of dynamism and the power of unlimited learning. It also reflects the qualities that promote reading, learning and a continual search for information.

Transition from bold solid pages to pixel
Traces the evolution from print to electronic media. It represents NLB’s focus in current technology and its commitment to be at the cutting edge of technological developments as well as the drive for improvement and expansion of its services.

Three pages
Depicts the library system’s three-tier concept: regional, community and neighbourhood libraries and the outreach programme to bring information to the doorstep of every household in Singapore.

Here is the new logo;

…how I miss the old red brick library…

Built in 1960 and end in Mar 2004…lived a life of 44 years!

17 Responses to “That Red Brick Library – Part 2”

  1. 1 Lam Chun See Friday, September 14, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    I have no doubt that the new library at Victoria St is excellent and benefits many people. But I don’t see the need to demolish the old building. At first I thot they wanted to build the SMU on the land, but that does not seem to be the case.

  2. 2 py Sunday, September 16, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    I have some fond memories of the red brick building, and the MPH Building. Thank you for this lovely post.

    For now, I am waiting for the Asian Civilisation Museum at Armenian St to reopen.

  3. 3 laokokok Monday, September 17, 2007 at 7:50 am

    PY, thanks. Sometimes I wonder if I will to add up all the charges of all the museums in S’pore, how much will it amount to? Should be quite a large amount haha.

  4. 4 Victor Koo Friday, September 21, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Do you have any old photos of the Indian roadside hawker stalls in Waterloo Street which were only a stone’s throw away from the red brick building? I always stopped by to have Indian rojak or mee goreng on the way to/from the library. (PM mentioned about those stalls in his National Day Rally speech last year, I think.)

  5. 5 laokokok Friday, September 21, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Sorry Victor, I don’t think I’ve them. Try Peter or Chun See.

  6. 6 amy Friday, September 21, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Your post reminded me of something my colleague said. The row of shophouses near the old MPH building is going to be torn down before the end of 2007. Not sure what will be replacing it though.

  7. 7 BillyWarhol Friday, September 21, 2007 at 2:36 pm


    i like the Old Buildings the ones at the turn of the Century*

    amazing Architecture*



  8. 8 Sivasothi Friday, September 21, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Came from Wah! Heart pain to see this. I exhausted the shelves of Dickens, Hardy, Stevenson, Bronte sisters, etc. Was using this actively until I entered NUS in the late 80’s. Also visited to watch Laser Discs of The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company performing Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

    One day in the mid-90s, I needed a specific tome on Carnivores from the Fauna of British India. It was not in the Raffles Collection (of zoological books from the Raffles Library and Museum) in NUS. Lo and behold, the old red brick building had it.

    Nice job, thanks!

  9. 9 laokokok Monday, September 24, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Thanks Amy, BillyWarhol and Sivasothi. Amy if that is true, then I’ll better take more photos around that area.

  10. 10 Jes Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    thanks for this write-up. tears fell as I read it. I loved that old red building. How I used to sit on the steps… it was almost a healing place for me, away from the hustle and bustle of the growing city. And that cool coffee shop under that tree. You didn’t need air-conditioning under that tree.

    It is saddening to see beautiful places like that disappear.

  11. 11 Fashion Haw Friday, August 15, 2008 at 5:06 am

    I feel the same way Jes and that coffee shop under that tree was a little haven for me too.It was always breezy and cool there.I used to drink a 7Up while gazing at that odd crocodile hand bag shop down the steps.Later I would pop into MPH and look up magazines for free.I’m so sad to hear the end of The National Library.And other buildings too.Whenwill all this madness end?!

  12. 12 laokokok Friday, August 15, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Going to that old brick library has a different feeling compared to the heartland library.

  13. 13 sg boleh? Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 11:36 am

    really miss the library. thk for the compilation

  14. 14 tan key zin Monday, November 2, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Im currently a going-to-be environmentalist architect, making research on the education system that Sir stamford raffles had created for us back then. Im currently age 18 and have been to the national library when I was around 10 years old. Running around playing catching in national library is my favorite back then while the librarians continuously request me to stop i often play around the seats back then. Ha ha vivid memories still exist in my mind, Im pretty sure i have forgotten about the canteen perhaps the food isn’t that pleasant at that time. The red bricks are the most iconic feature of that structure and many of us have wonderful memories while we are inside it back then … now perhaps things are changing and many have been demolished due to limited amount of space in central area. Its quite sad that most of the younger generations are living in a country that doesn’t has a strong history background to accompany them. Im fortunate to have live in the times whereby everything is still there but are disappearing making me cherish what we have now and also create a future for me to conserve what we are left with right now. PEACE ! =)

  15. 15 laokokok Friday, November 6, 2009 at 9:23 am

    I’ve been to the new library but somehow I still feel that the red bricks library is more….

  16. 16 Kimology Saturday, November 7, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for writing on the Old National Library. The present library has a great collection. We live in M’sia but my daughter insist on coming back to do research in the reference section of our present Library because of the wonderful collection.
    Yet I miss the old place and its surroundings terribly. There were little entertainment during to holidays and going there was a real treat. The trip involves browsing around the second-hand book shops in Bras Basah, then walking to the library past the rojak stores; the good feeling just going up the brick steps, the browsing through all those books to end up with one’s careful choices, getting the books stamped, lunch at the canteen followed by the little visit to MPH.
    And the best of it all was when I was in primary school, the entire outing would cost me 20cts for return busfare, 30cts for noodles and 20cts for ice kachang, a grand sum of 70 cts.
    The place is more then a just a library to me. Perhaps it is why I just love red brick buildings.

  17. 17 Elsh Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Thanks for writing on the Old National LIbrary. I only vaguely remember walking past by it as a kiddo, thus one can say it’s not my generation’s hang out place. But at least I got to see some old photos of it, so yay!

    On a side note, I think the Old Tao Nan school is not the Asian Civilisations Museum… instead it’s the Peranakan Museum. It comes under the arm of the Asian Civilisations Museum but it isn’t it. Please update thanks.

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