Shh...NLB takes a gentler approach

Shh...NLB takes a gentler approach
Volunteer Saberah Begum (right), a pre-school teacher, passing a bookmark and explaining good library habits to Zuhairah Ubaidillah, eight, seen here with her father Mohamad Ubaidillah Rafet, 35, at Sengkang Public Library.

SINGAPORE - On a visit to the Sengkang Public Library recently, pre-school teacher Saberah Begum scanned the place quickly.

But what she was looking out for was not her favourite romance, cookery or travel titles but children behaving badly.

For the 53-year-old is one of the 40 pre-school teachers roped in by the National Library Board (NLB) to urge noisy children to pipe down and inculcate good library habits in them from young.

Unlike in the past when patrol teams policed the grounds and shushed the children, the NLB is now taking a different tack to make sure toddlers behave.

"Pre-school teachers have the techniques in handling the children, especially toddlers, and it is better to get the community involved in reminding their fellow users rather than policing people," said Ms Jasna Dhansukhlal, assistant director of library services and management at NLB.

Noise complaints have been the top bugbear of libraries here for decades, according to the NLB. Children contribute to the problem, especially during the school holidays when parents leave them in libraries to ruffle through the books while they work or run errands.

This school holiday month, daily visitorship numbers for its 25 libraries rose 10 per cent from the average of 79,000 people a day to about 87,000.

The pre-school teachers volunteer at the library from once to a few times a week. By year- end, the NLB hopes to recruit more than 200 teachers, to be deployed across all its libraries.

Madam Saberah, a teacher with NTUC My First Skool, has been volunteering at the Sengkang library since June 1.

When she spots a bawling kid who has left books strewn all over the floor or one who is racing around, she swoops in to help the parents manage the child.

She watches her body language when communicating with difficult children who climb on library furniture or talk on their mobile phones loudly.

"You don't take a stern stance and warn them to stop doing that but talk to them at eye level and explain to them gently," she said. She also picks out books for distraught children who cry when their parents leave their sides.

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