Libraries: Books, books, books… and more books. That’s an outdated impression sure to change when you drop by one of Singapore’s 26 public libraries island wide today. Staying true to its mission of making culture and knowledge accessible to all, the libraries have expanded beyond books to include robotics classes and co-working spaces. Whether you’re an entrepreneur working on your next big idea, a creative seeking inspiration, a senior keen to pick up new skills, or everyone else in between – here are seven things you can do at our public libraries.

1)    For the geeky makers 

What happens when two wheels attached to each other move in opposite directions? The confused vehicle goes into spasm. This is just one of the many amusing discoveries made by kids during a recent robotics workshop held at the IMDA Labs in Jurong Regional Library.

The first such dedicated venue in a library for exploring new technologies, everyone is welcome to learn and tinker with 3D printers and electronic kits such as Rasberry Pi and Arduino. You may also work on DIY projects or experiment on your own. If you’re new to the world of tech, there are beginner-friendly kits such as Littlebits and Makey Makey that are open to all ages. Amongst the workshop attendees were two seniors who spent much of their time figuring out why their robot was “gostan-ing” (going in reverse). Turns out they set their speed at negative—signifying the opposite direction!

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2)    For the arty farty film buffs

Missed that latest blockbuster in cinemas or having trouble finding that arthouse film everyone is talking about? Chances are you’ll find it at library@esplanade, home to thousands of DVDs, Blu-ray discs and even VHS tapes! Whether you’re into Hollywood hits, indie films, classics, or Asian cinema from Hong Kong, India, South Korea, and of course, Singapore, you are bound to find something that suits your tastes. For $5.50 an hour, you can also book one of the library’s three screening rooms to catch a film as if in the comfort of your own living room. 

3)    For the hipsters and the creative in you

From sleek timber armchairs to bookshelves that curve like ocean swells, library@orchard’s interior is designed to unleash the inner creative in you amidst its sea of design and lifestyle publications. Besides classic titles covering all fields from graphic design to architecture, you will also find the latest doses of creative inspiration from around the world via a wide-ranging collection of independent magazines. Choose from cult favourites such as the minimal-chic Kinfolk and even rare handcrafted copies of WERK by Singapore’s award-winning creative director Theseus Chan. More into food than design? The library also has as impressive collection of food books, including The Food Lab by Serious Eats’ J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. You will also find books in Chinese language, including titles from Taiwan and translated copies of popular cookbooks such as Jamie’s Italy.

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4)    For the wolves of Shenton Way

With its dual monitor screens flashing graphs and numbers and a high back office chair, anyone who sits in front of the sole Bloomberg Terminal on the seventh floor of the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library will look like da boss. This terminal provides real-time financial market data, analytics and news which library users can use for free an hour each day. For the rest of your time there, why not check out the library’s impressive collection of business books that include market reports, legal information, statistics and country information.

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5)    For the mobile workers pretending to read

Instead of spending money on watered down coffee in exchange for a cramped and noisy workspace at cafés, freelancers and entrepreneurs now have a dedicated workspace in the library designed just for them. No more faking interest in a book just to ‘chope’ (reserve) a seat at libraries in Jurong, Geylang East, and Toa Payoh as there is now a section dedicated as business centres well-equipped with hi-speed Wi-Fi, printers, scanners and photocopiers. You can choose to work in private cubicles, office pods, or common tables. This privately run space is available for rent by the “mobile” executives. The convenient location of these libraries also make them great for holding business meetings with clients and suppliers.

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6)    For seniors who want to do more than play Candy Crush

Updating social media statuses and video-calling friends may come naturally for many of us but it can be a challenge for some seniors who are not digitally savvy. If you are 50 years and above head down to the Woodlands Regional Library and Bedok Public Library for various courses on digital media. Learn how to use Facebook or be introduced to the exciting world of YouTube and Spotify. You’ll be able to finally “like” and comment on all your children statuses or share that forgotten tune with friends and family. You may even find yourself dishing out a few tips and tricks to the younger ones too!

7)    For book lovers who have too much or want more

If you are a book lover who has an abundance of books and want to share the joys of reading, go on down to the Book Exchange Corner at the Central Public Library basement.  Given how varied people’s reading habits are, the Book Exchange Corner often delivers surprises like a subscription box.*  You may even find new authors and books you like. Amongst the more typical English fiction, Japanese manga, andwas a book by Swedish comedian PewDiePie dishing out wisdoms like, “Don’t be yourself. Be a pizza. Everyone loves pizza”. That’s something worth chewing on.

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*Subscription box is a package of retail products sent directly to a customer on a recurring basis.
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