Monthly book exchange programme also helps to reduce wastage

Promoting the reading habit: KL Book Exchange was mooted and remains single-handedly run by Wong (second from right). Friends occasionally drop by to help her cart books and man the exchange sessions.

BOOK enthusiasts can rejoice, for they now have another avenue to acquire books via the KL Book Exchange (KLBE).

The initiative is held on the first Sunday of the month at the Wisma TM open-air carpark in Taman Desa,
Kuala Lumpur.

More impressively, KLBE was mooted and remains single-handedly run by 27-year-old Gladys Wong.

KLBE’s concept is fairly simple — bring a book to exchange for another.

Wong said books in any languages and genres were accepted, though the majority of titles KLBE received
were English fiction.

However, the books have to be in a decent condition.

“The programme started as an online rental library called Four Letr Word.

“Most of the books were acquired from a recycling organisation I volunteered with,” she said.

“I noticed there were many books that were being included with newspapers and other recyclable materials.

However, these books were still in good condition, so I felt it was a waste for them to be sent off for recycling.

“I tried selling these books at secondhand stores, but none was interested.

“It was through discussions with friends that the idea for Four Letr Word came about two years ago.”

Wong said the online rental library concept did not work out because of a lack of awareness.

“But I was not ready to throw in the towel,” said the petite entrepreneur.

“I then thought of having a book exchange and approached a friend who was running the Subang Jaya
Book Exchange Programme for ideas.”

The first KLBE was held in May 2014.

“I was very nervous then as I did not know what to expect or who would turn up.

“A handful of people came after finding out about the event on Facebook,” said Wong.

“KLBE was initiated because I want to promote a love for reading, reduce wastage and encourage people to do something for themselves and the community.”

Running a one-woman show also means her having to do stock and event updates by herself.

“I maintain a database of the books online,” said Wong.

“Those who are looking for a specific book can browse to see what KLBE has and, if it’s available, request
for that book to be brought to the next session.”

She also tapped into her graphic design training to design furniture and props to complement the initiative.

“I designed the table, stools and book holders that are used at each KLBE event.

“All of them are made using leftover cardboard from the printing business that I run,” said Wong, adding
that the furniture is sturdier than it appears.

“Traffic to KLBE’s monthly morning exchange session is slow, possibly because of its limited duration and fairly early hours on a Sunday.

“However, I also bring KLBE to the Art for Grabs events, and it was very well received at last year’s edition held at Jaya One.”

Wong admitted that it could be very tiring to keep running the programme alone, such as when she has to lug boxes of books from storage in her office to transporting them in her car and setting them up at each session.

“However, I have been fortunate enough to have friends or kind neighbours who help me to cart the books at Art for Grabs, and an aunt keeps me company at the same events,” she said.

“What keeps me going is the people I get to meet at each session.

“Some come because they heard of KLBE on Facebook, but many just happen to pass by and stay
for awhile because they enjoy reading.

“Visitors can even buy books if they don’t have any to exchange or find something they really like.

“The books are sold at between RM5 and RM10 (depending on their condition), and all proceeds are channelled back to the recycling organisation I help out at.”

According to Wong, some of the better finds among KLBE’s collection are books by Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Dan Brown and Michael Connelly, as well as those from the Little Black Dress and Chicken Soup series.

She also clarified that KLBE is different from a similarly named initiative called KL Book Exchange Club.

Wong, who personally enjoys books by Mitch Albom and Paolo Coelho, hopes to find a permanent place to house KLBE.

“The challenge will be to find a way to sustain the programme and to acquire enough funds to run it,” she said.

KLBE will next be held at Art for Grabs on March 21 and 22 Dataran Underground, Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur.

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