(20 March 2017) On Wednesday March 15, 2017 SMU held the official opening ceremony for its new School of Law building and the Kwa Geok Choo Law Library. It was opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, marking a milestone in SMU’s history and attended by over 800 guests including senior judges, donors, SMU faculty, staff and law students. Other dignitaries joining the Prime Minister on stage were Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, SMU Chairman Mr Ho Kwon Ping, and SMU Law Dean Professor Yeo Tiong Min. Both the School of Law and the Library have been operational in the new building since the start of semester on the 3rd of January, 2017, after many years of planning.
The Kwa Geok Choo Law Library has been named in memory of the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo, wife of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, herself a brilliant student and accomplished lawyer. “She also was key to the drafting of significant legislation which profoundly shaped Singapore in its formative years,” added SMU Chairman, Mr Ho Kwon Ping. This building’s unique pearl shape is an iconic feature in the Fort Canning landscape and as Prime Minister Lee stated, his mother “would have been proud to have a library named after her”.
SMU Chairman, Mr Ho Kwon Ping, said in his speech, “The Library is expressed architecturally as a sculptural dome to represent an ‘inspirational beacon’ that seeks to illuminate the lives and minds of those who draw upon the library’s centuries of legal knowledge.”
The 2,200 square metre building is located on three levels with seating for over 500 users and a capacity to hold 50,000 print volumes. It caters to the latest trends in teaching and learning with attractive, varied and innovative learning spaces supported by the latest in furniture design, including project rooms and two learning labs which can be used for the teaching of legal research. The glass structure provides a beautiful outlook over Fort Canning Park and the top level includes an outdoor terrace for student and SMU community use. All of these is geared towards making users feel comfortable and creative and Prime Minister Lee expressed his hopes that the new law building and Library would inspire faculty and students to explore, adapt and thrive amidst changing times.
The Kwa Geok Choo Law Library supports the teaching and legal research needs of the SMU School of Law as well as courses in Law taken by undergraduate and postgraduate students in other schools. The Kwa Geok Choo Law Library and the Li Ka Shing Library together provide access to over 90,000 electronic resources, including e-books, e-journals and databases, catering for multidisciplinary research and interests. SMU Libraries subscribe to 188 databases, 58 of which are law related. Many databases hold hundreds of e-journals and e-books, providing access to millions of documents. The two Libraries provide seamless access to information services and resources to the entire SMU community, available anywhere on and off campus. Like the Li Ka Shing Library, the Kwa Geok Choo Law Library also has a Learning Commons which students, faculty and staff can access 24/7
Two new legally qualified Law Librarians arrived at the end of September, 2016 to SMU. Elizabeth Naumczyk is the Head, Law Library, formerly Chief Librarian, International Criminal Court and Chai Yee Xin is a law librarian who recently graduated with an LLB and MSc in Information Science. Needless to say, the contribution of the previous Law Librarians, Charlotte Gill and Rita Lam, must be acknowledged for their efforts from the time the new School of Law was established by developing the collection, providing a high level of library services and contributing to the planning of the new building.
The ceremony was followed by a guided tour for the dignitaries that showcased the building’s highlights, including the Kwa Geok Choo Law Library and its Learning Commons, the David Marshall Moot Court, and other innovative learning spaces. Other guests, including local law librarians and legal vendors were treated to a sumptuous buffet and given a special guided tour. It is anticipated that the Kwa Geok Choo Law Library will be available to host professional events for local law librarians. It is planned to host the IFLA Law Libraries Section pre-conference Satellite meeting on 21-22 August, 2018 on the topic Teaching Legal Research: innovations and trends, so please reserve those dates.
See images of the new library here.