19 May 2024

Singapore’s biggest public library opens its doors at One Punggol, with a promise to welcome everyone. It’s the country’s fourth regional library, but it aims to be the first fully inclusive one.

Launching the Punggol Regional Library, Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo joined young readers at the largest children’s section across Singapore’s public libraries.

“As parents, we felt safe letting our children explore different sections of the library and make new discoveries for themselves, and it is why I’m particularly happy that the opening of Punggol Regional Library starts with the first two floors for children,” said the minister.

Punggol Regional offers a world of possibilities for children of different ages. There’s a special collection featuring books on world cultures and modern-day issues, with topics such as globalization, migration, and also in recent times, the pandemic.

The new library is also a big pilot test for visitors with disabilities. Incorporated into its design are features like wheelchair-friendly borrowing kiosk, and padded rooms for patrons who need a quiet, safe space.

To make all this happen, the Singapore National Library Board (NLB) worked closely with a panel of advisers on an approach that takes everyone into consideration.

“In this library, there has been options given to people who come to visit the library. You can decide to use the ramp, you can decide to use a lift, you’re not saying that just because you have a condition, you use this or the other, options of high low shelves, where everything’s reachable by a person, whether they are a child or whether they’re sitting in a wheelchair,” said Judy Wee, a member of NLB Persons With Disabilities Advisory Committee.

J R Karthikeyan, another member of the advisory committee, said that an inclusive society is not possible, if the country does not strive to remove all the barriers. “So what we have done simply is to try and remove as many barriers as possible, so that people with disabilities can participate like anybody else.”

Three more floors geared towards teenagers, adults, and special programs, will open their shelves for visitors later this year.