Ghim Moh resident sets up community children’s library at her lift landing to share the joy of reading
SINGAPORE: There are fewer than 50 books in this children’s library, but it has already proven to be a hit among some residents in Ghim Moh.
“One of the families here, they have young children, and then a few floors down as well. They’re still toddling so they will walk up the stairs, they will come over … Sometimes I see the books being removed or reshuffled and I know they (were) here. And then my neighbours (will say), oh yeah, we see little children coming up,” said Ms Yvonne Looi with a laugh.
The self-described full-time mum is the architect behind the Little Library, which is a small reading nook that she set up at her lift landing on the 39th floor. Less than two months old, it boasts two chairs, several cushions and a lot of natural lighting - an ideal environment for a quiet afternoon of reading.
Most of the books are children’s books, and include classic titles from Enid Blyton and collections of fairy tales and bedtime stories. There are one or two books for adults as well, a bonus for parents sifting through the selection.
Other than the books, Ms Looi also contributed the chair, left behind by a friend, the wooden crate to hold the books, a plant from her living room and an old frame from her mother.
The Little Library gained some attention after Ms Looi posted about it in Facebook groups Books Don’t Throw and Viral Kindness SG in January. Since then, she has received six to eight offers from strangers wanting to contribute their own books to the library, with about five more parents indicating their interest in visiting the library.
While it is called a library, anyone is free to keep the books or share them with others, and people can also contribute any books that they have on hand.
She is mindful that some might be worried about the risk of contracting COVID-19, which is why she left a note that visitors do not have to return the books if they do not want to, or to clean and sanitise the books if they intend to bring them back. She also left a bottle of hand sanitiser out and sanitises the library daily.
CREATING A COMMUNITY OF BOOK-LOVERS
The idea for a community library started when Ms Looi, a book lover, came across some well-kept books being thrown away. As she rescued the books, she realised that some people might not know where to bring unwanted books.
She also wanted to start something, to get to know the community of “book-loving families” at her place.
Her neighbours have been “supportive” of the initiative, she said, and Ms Looi has been telling residents she meets in the lifts about her library. She also told her community of young mothers in the neighbourhood - a group which she started - about the library.
She feels the “kampung spirit” and a sense of community when people visit her library, she said, as she gets to meet people that she does not really see.
She has even made friends through the library. Ms Sundari Paramasivan, 49, who lives nearby, is a contributor who found out about Ms Looi’s library through her Facebook posts.
“I thought it was very cute and it was coincidental that I also happen to live in Ghim Moh,” said Ms Sundari. Although her children have already grown up, she is still holding on to some books they read as children, she said.
“(Reading books) is a shared time with your child, so you want to pass it on to somebody you know would use it,” she said. “I thought it was a good initiative, and that if there was any way I could help, that would make it meaningful for me too.”
Retired librarian Mary Jacobs Mathew, 70, was “so encouraged” when she saw Ms Looi’s Facebook post.
“I feel that reading is really going to become a lost art … If you can do anything to encourage your child to get books when they’re young and hook them in then, it would be wonderful,” she said.
“I just feel that the books can send you to different worlds and it helps with your imagination.”
She added that young parents might find it difficult to bring young children to the library, and having a children’s library in proximity could help. Books could also be a door to a “bigger world” for children who don’t have the means to travel, she said.
SHARING THE JOY OF READING
Even though she had no expectations of the library when first starting out, Ms Looi is heartened to see her two sons take on the spirit of sharing.
“Sometimes my son will say, 'oh, mummy wait, this one we have two copies, or this one I’m already done, maybe we can give it to other people, who have (no books)' … It’s the idea of, okay, if I have enough or I’m done, somebody else can take a turn,” she said.
Eventually, she hopes that the library can get its own proper space, so that more people have access to the books, and she has already brought it up with the town council.
“So later on, who knows? Maybe at different estates or different neighbourhoods, we can have that ready to promote the act of book-loving and just giving away,” she said, adding that she envisions a reading nook next to every playground, or even a small library at each lift landing.
On what she hopes the reading corners can achieve, Ms Looi said: “I think it would just be to love a book and really to appreciate (them). To connect people together, that’s my aim … and you can share the joy of reading.”