National Library Board
Agency overview
Formed1 September 1995; 28 years ago (1995-09-01)
Preceding agency
  • National Library
Headquarters100 Victoria Street, #14-01, National Library Building, Singapore 188064
Annual budgetS$182 million (2010)
Agency executives
  • Lee Seow Hiang, Chairman
  • Ng Cher Pong, Chief Executive
Parent agencyMinistry of Communications and Information
National Library Building is the headquarters of the National Library Board.
Bishan Public Library
Jurong Regional Library

The National Library Board (NLB) is a statutory board under the purview of the Ministry of Communications and Information of the government of Singapore. The board manages the public libraries throughout the country.[1]

The national libraries of Singapore house books in all four official languages of Singapore; English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Other than paper books, the libraries also loans CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, VCDs, video cassettes, audiobooks on CDs, magazines and periodicals, DVD-videos, Blu-rays and music CDs. Its flagship institution, the National Library, Singapore, is based on Victoria Street.


Although the NLB was first formed on 1 September 1995, its history had begun way back in the 1820s when Stamford Raffles first proposed the idea of establishing a public library. This library was to evolve into the National Library of Singapore in 1960, before expanding into the suburbs with the setting up of branch libraries in the various new towns throughout the country.

Library 2000

In 1995, when the NLB took over the duties of the National Library of Singapore, it was also entrusted with bringing to reality the findings of the Library 2000 Review Committee, set up in June 1992 to review the public library system. This committee, headed by Tan Chin Nam, considered the role of information technology in contemporary library services for the next decade, with the aims of

  1. Establishing Singapore as an international information hub;
  2. Preserving and promoting Singapore's literary heritage;
  3. Providing for education, knowledge and research;
  4. And promoting a well-read and well-informed society.

The committee also took into consideration the library needs of public library users in general, the linguistic needs of an increasingly bilingual populace, the catering to the needs of professions who require extensive information databases, and the establishment of the library as a nucleus of national culture and heritage. After a year-long review, the Committee published their findings on 5 March 1994, which calls for six "strategic thrusts", which are

  1. An Adaptive Public Library System
  2. A Network of Borderless Libraries
  3. A Coordinated National Collection Strategy
  4. Quality Service Through Market Orientation
  5. Symbiotic Linkages With Business And Community
  6. A Global Knowledge Arbitrage

In addition, the report also speaks of three "key enablers" to bring about these changes, which are

  1. the setting up of a new statutory board
  2. staff development, and the
  3. exploiting of new technology.

The NLB was thus formed as a result of this Report.[2] The NLB implements initiatives arising from the Report's recommendations.[3]


In July 2014, the NLB announced that it was pulping three children's books, And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express, and Who's in My Family?, following a user's complaint that the books' homosexual themes did not promote family values.[4] In protest, several poets and writers resigned from the Singapore Writers Festival and the Singapore Literature Prize, while several boycotted a panel discussion hosted by the NLB.[5]

A petition was signed by 3,800 signatories to reinstate the books or relocate the books to a different section, while another petition supporting the NLB's decision was signed by 26,000.[6][7] A group supporting the reinstating of the affected books organised an event called "Let's Read Together" at the atrium of the National Library, where members of the public could bring books of any content to read along with a penguin stuffed toy, drawing 250 people on 13 July 2014.[8] Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim later instructed the NLB to place And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express in the adult section instead of pulping them; Who's in My Family? had already been pulped.[9] The NLB also later announced that book selection and review processes would be refined.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Dresel, R., Henkel, M., Scheibe, K., Zimmer, F., & Stock, W. G. (2020). A nationwide library system and its place in knowledge society and smart nation: The case of Singapore. Libri, 70(1), 81-94. DOI:
  2. ^ Singapore. Library 2000 Review Committee (1994). Library 2000: Investing in a Learning Nation : Report of the Library 2000 Review Committee. SNP Publishers. ISBN 978-981-00-5507-3.((cite book)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "National Library to spend S$1 billion over 8 years", Koh Buck Song, The Straits Times, 4 July 1996.
  4. ^ Tham, Thrina (11 July 2014). "Withdrawn NLB books to be pulped". Singapore Press Holdings. my Paper. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  5. ^ Martin, Mayo (11 July 2014). "S'pore writers not happy over NLB controversy". Mediacorp. TODAY. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  6. ^ Lee, Howard (10 July 2014). "Petition with 3,800 names demands that NLB reinstate books". The Online Citizen. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  7. ^ "More than 26,000 signatures collected for open letter supporting NLB's ban of books".
  8. ^ Lee, Pearl (13 July 2014). "250 gather outside National Library for reading event in response to NLB's removal of three books". The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  9. ^ Tan, Dawn Wei (18 July 2014). "NLB saga: Two removed children's books will go into adult section at library". The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  10. ^ Mohandas, Vimita; Grosse, Sara (4 August 2014). "NLB to finetune book selection, review processes: Yaacob". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014.