Jammin' with books

Jammin' with books
Pop-punk band JJ And The Paperplanes did a gig at the Jurong Regional Library.

There is a place in town where you can watch a concert, play board games, pick up cooking tips at a demonstration and even star-gaze, for free.

The place is the library.

Public libraries are more than book lenders these days, offering a host of lifestyle activities - from workshops and performances to professional networking sessions. While some activities require prior registration, almost all are free, with materials provided.

And library users are lapping these activities up.

Mrs Sae Then, a quantity surveyor, goes to public libraries every weekend, mostly to take part in such sessions.

She and her three children - Thea, 12, Jerome, eight, and Jacob, five - have taken part in more than 30 activities since last June. Most are arts-related, such as pottery, calligraphy and book-binding.

"Initially, I signed my kids up to keep them occupied during the June holidays," says Mrs Then, 41, who is married to a research and development manager. "But the classes were free and so interesting that I signed up myself."

The family, who lives in Woodlands, has travelled to libraries as far as Tampines and Jurong to attend activities.

For example, her kids participated in a hip-hop dance class at Sengkang Public Library last Sunday.

The National Library Board, which manages the National Library and all 25 public libraries in Singapore, started offering more programmes in recent years. These programmes are typically conducted in designated programme zones within the library, separate from the main reading area.

The idea is to enhance readers' learning experience, says Ms Jasna Dhansukhlal, 39, the board's assistant director of library services and management.

She says: "Libraries are social learning spaces, and these programmes can spark an interest in reading among our users. For example, after attending a concert, users might want to read about the artist, or genre of music, from our collections."

She adds: "As work, learning and play increasingly overlap, it is no surprise that more users are requesting such activities, and we try to accommodate as much as we can."

Indeed, some library patrons are reading more after turning up for the activities.

Mrs Then's family, for example, typically borrows about 10 library books every month. But they sometimes borrow more after attending activities.

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