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Statutory Functions of National Library

The National Library of Singapore
Legal Deposit
The Singapore National Bibliography (SNB) : PublicationSG
National Union Catalogue (NUC)

The role and functions played by National Libraries, while similar, are not homogeneous and are largely governed by a number of factors such as the literary and published heritage and the social and economic conditions of the country.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is the international body representing the interests of the library and the information profession. It has defined national libraries as follow:

National libraries have special responsibilities, often defined in law, within a nation's library and information system. These responsibilities vary from country to country but are likely to include:

  • the collection via legal deposit of the national imprint (both print and electronic) and its cataloguing and preservation
  • the provision of central services (e.g., reference, bibliography, preservation, lending) to users both directly and through other library and information centres
  • the preservation and promotion of the national cultural heritage

The National Library of Singapore

There are 3 main components of the statutory functions of the National Library of Singapore:

  • Legal Deposit
  • National Bibliographic Services
  • National Union Catalogue

Through these statutory functions, the National Library is able to acquire, preserve, organise and provide access to materials related to Singapore and as such play a part in Singapore's literary and cultural heritage.

The foundations for these functions were laid with the passing of the Raffles National Library Ordinance (No. 31 of 1957). The ordinance which came into effect in 1958, marked a milestone in the National Library's history and included, " the provision, free of charge, of lending, reference and mobile library services, responsibility for the Colony's archives and for the deposit and care of all publications printed in the Colony under the provisions of the Printers and Publishers Ordinance, compilation of a current national bibliography and historical national bibliographies; compilation and maintenance of a union catalogue of libraries of all kinds and acceptance of responsibility as an organising centre for the national and international lending and exchange of publications.

Legal Deposit

Legal Deposit is one of the statutory functions of the National Library and through this, all works by Singapore writers, producers and publishers can be collected and preserved to become a part of Singapore's heritage.

The National Library of Singapore has an important role to safeguard the documentary heritage and intellectual memory of Singapore. Publications received under legal deposit are made available as source materials for research, especially into all aspects of Singapore life, culture, history, education, scientific study and other activities by present and future generations.

The National Library is supported in this role through the provisions of the National Library Board (“NLB”) Act (Chapter 197, No. 5 of 1995, Part II Section 10) whereby two copies of every Singapore publication have to be deposited with the National Library. In keeping with changing times, the Bill to amend the NLB Act to include digital publications under Legal Deposit was passed in Parliament on 9 July 2018. The link to the updated version of the NLB Act incorporating all amendments will be provided as soon as it is available.

The NLB Act was preceded by the Printers and Publishers (Amendment) Ordinance. The ordinance came into force in 1960, in which six instead of three copies of every publication published and printed in Singapore, had to be deposited at the National Library, by the publisher and not the printer.

In November 2007, Deposit Web was launched for publishers to deposit their titles and also apply for, ISBN, ISSN and CIP online.

The Legal Deposit collection has been made available for reference and research via the PublicationSG online catalogue in November 2015. Library members can place a reservation to consult the Legal Deposit materials in person at Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. Library members may also submit their requests online via the "Request for PublicationSG Materials" form.

The Singapore National Bibliography (SNB): PublicationSG

Many countries, largely through their National Libraries, produce a national bibliography in some form, whether as a printed publication, a CD-ROM, or an online database.

The Singapore National Bibliography (SNB) will cease in 2015. SNB has been upgraded and members of the public are requested to use PublicationSG. While SNB was a select bibliography, PublicationSG contains all titles published in Singapore and deposited by publishers with NLB. 

PublicationSG is a useful resource for members of the public who are interested in Singapore’s published heritage and upcoming publications. The objectives of the catalogue are:

  • to serve as a long-term record of materials published in Singapore and deposited with NLB.
  • to aid libraries in the selection and acquisition of new materials for collection development 
  • to provide access by serving as reference source for librarians, researchers and bibliographers

National Union Catalogue (NUC)

The National Union Catalogue (NUC) is a comprehensive record of the collective holdings of the libraries of Singapore and is a useful tool for resource-sharing locally and internationally. The National Library plays a leadership role as it collaborates with contributing members to consolidate and connect the collections and resources of Singapore held by other libraries and information centres. NUC is accessible online via the Virtual Union Catalogue (VUC) platform. VUC allows users to do a single search across all catalogues of the participating libraries, online, without having to maintain a centralized catalogue. Real time searches will be conducted in various catalogues using the Z39.50 protocol with the results harvested and pooled.

Access VUC here.


IFLA National Libraries Section

Seet, K.K. A Place for the People The story of a National Library. Singapore: Times Books International, 1983.

Last Updated On 10 January 2019

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