First volunteer-run library doing well

First volunteer-run library doing well
Volunteer Nicholas Soh Sin Yan (centre), 62, helping Dr Tony Tan during the President’s visit to the library at Chinatown Point mall yesterday.

SINGAPORE - Madam Siti Norraini Shamsuden, 46, is the go-to person for books on Chinese culture and history at a library in Chinatown.

Ask her and she will point you to the exact shelf where the Chinese calligraphy or fengshui books are.

"I know where Sun Tzu's Art of War philosophy books are or where the Chinese handicrafts books are because they are so interesting," said the housewife. Her interest in Chinese arts and culture grew after she started offering her time last year at the library.

She is one of 60 volunteers who man a tight ship at the first volunteer-run library here, up from 40 when the library first opened last year.

One year on, the library on the fourth floor of Chinatown Point mall has done well even though it has no full-time staff running it.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who visited the library yesterday, said volunteers could be tapped to run other libraries if this "interesting experiment" proves successful.

The helpers, who include students, professionals, housewives and retirees, come in a few times a week to shelve books and help patrons find books.

The 1,000 sq m library houses about 30,000 books, in the four main languages here, on Chinese arts and culture.

Dr Tan noted that many of volunteers belong to the pioneer generation and was touched that they have continued to contribute.

He said: "As the President, I have the responsibility to look after our financial reserves but it is also important to build up our social reserves so that people feel a sense of community and we become a more compassionate society."

The National Library Board's chief executive Elaine Ng said the board will look into roping in more volunteers for its library at the upcoming Orchard Gateway Mall in Somerset, slated to open by the second half of the year.

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