SINGAPORE - Relocating Bukit Merah Public Library to VivoCity mall will result in three times as many visitors as before, the National Library Board (NLB) noted this week as it reiterated its view that the move will make the library more easy to reach by public transport.
News of the relocation, first announced in July last year, sparked an online petition as well as complaints from netizens.
They said the new location on the island's southern tip - more than 3km away, and not as close to residential estates - would leave behind the current library's user base of students and the elderly. The petition has since garnered nearly 1,000 signatures.
NLB has announced that the relocated Bukit Merah library will be called library @ harbourfront, and open on the third floor of the sprawling VivoCity shopping mall on Jan 12 next year with a view of Sentosa.
Its forerunner, a three-storey library in Bukit Merah Central that has been a fixture in the neighbourhood since 1982, will lower its shutters for the last time on Nov 30.
Bukit Merah Public Library saw about 500,000 visitors last year, half that of similar-sized libraries such as Bishan Public Library. At VivoCity mall, which is next to the HarbourFront MRT interchange, the number should reach 1.5 million, said Ms Catherine Lau, NLB's assistant chief executive (public library services).
The move is part of the NLB's efforts to move public libraries to locations such as shopping malls and town hubs which have more human traffic. Tampines Regional Library, for example, has moved to Our Tampines Hub, while Yishun Public Library has reopened at Northpoint City.
At 3,000 sq m, library @ harbourfront will be Singapore's largest shopping mall library. It will have 16 eNewspaper stations, a children's area, multi-purpose zone, and a reading lounge that can seat 120. Visitors can also expect a refreshed collection of 200,000 books, similar to the size of the collection at Bukit Merah Public Library.
And the new library will not have to pay any rent, thanks to the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Community/Sports Facilities Scheme.
After the old site is vacated on Nov 30, grassroots leaders and social service organisations will offer services and programmes at the library's former site, including a mini-library and reading corner supported by NLB.
To address residents' needs, the NLB has over the past year set up 12 reading corners in the Bukit Merah area, which will still be in use after the new library opens.
The reading corners, which are stocked with books, can be found in various community centres, senior activity centres, the Enabling Village, Beyond Social Services, St Andrew's Senior Care, Teens Network Club @ Bukit Merah and the We Love Learning (WeLL) centre at Henderson.
The library board will also consider bringing one of its Molly mobile libraries to the neighbourhood every fortnight, so residents can enjoy more books and programmes.
Bukit Merah residents will be invited to a tour of library @ harbourfront a week before it officially opens. More details will be released this month.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.