CHILDHOOD friends Nur Fatihah Tasnim Nordin and Sarrah Eisyha Mahsin are college students now but for them, the pull of the Kota Damansara branch library is still there.
Both continue to frequent the library, one of several branch libraries under the Petaling Jaya Community Library, as they like the convenience and conducive environment it offers.
They have been members of the library for about 10 years, from the time it was located inside an apartment block to its present location in a community hall — the Section 7 Multipurpose Hall in Kota Damansara.
Both girls stay within walking distance of the library.
“I used to come here almost every day after school to do my revision and homework, as well as to borrow reference books,” said Nur Fatihah, 18, who studied at SMK Seksyen 8, Kota Damansara.
“It is a comfortable and conducive place to study, with minimal distractions. I would usually come alone but inform my parents ahead of time so that they know where I am.”
Now studying for a Diploma in Management, Nur Fatihah said she would visit the library often since her classes were being conducted online during the recovery movement control order (MCO) period.
Sarrah, 19, said the library was her go-to place to study, as she would otherwise be distracted by other activities and television at home.
“During my schooling days at SMK Seksyen 10 in Kota Damansara, I used to come here with my classmates to do homework or have group discussions,” she said, adding that they would keep their voices down so as not to disturb other users.
“During exam periods, I would be at the library from morning until closing time just to do my revision,” said Sarrah who is now pursuing a Diploma in Engineering and Mechanical Textile.
Besides its proximity to home and conducive environment, she said the library’s membership fees were affordable and that the collection of reference books and novels suited her needs.
Over at the Taman Medan branch library, a group of Form Five students from SMK Dato Harun were in discussions over their accounting project.
“We prefer doing group discussions at the library because it is quieter,” said Muhammad Aqil Suhaimi, 17.
“Sometimes I use the library’s computer and free WiFi facilities.”
Nur Irdina Muhammad Khushaini, 17, said she would borrow novels in Bahasa Malaysia when she was not busy studying.
“My friends and I will probably be coming here more frequently over the next few months for more group work and to prepare for the SPM exam.
“While the library is small, it has what we need,” said the Taman Medan resident.
Main vs branch libraries
Petaling Jaya Community Library senior librarian Ainul Farhiah Abdul Wahab said the branch libraries were established to offer services and facilities for local communities in selected neighbourhoods in Petaling Jaya, particularly those from the low-income group.
“We want to create an interest in reading and IT literacy among the people here.
“The branch libraries are located near residential areas so residents do not have to travel too far,” she said.
“The branch libraries are mostly frequented by young children, teenagers, housewives and sometimes senior citizens. The services provided are basic but cater to the community’s needs.”
The Petaling Jaya Community Library (PKPJ), a unit under Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), manages the main library, three branch libraries and several smaller scale facilities. PKPJ is in PJ Old Town.
The first branch library, located in Kota Damansara, started in 2002 and was a collaboration between MBPJ and Selangor State Development Corporation.
It relocated to its present site because of space constraints.
The second branch was opened in Taman Medan in 2009, next to a Tabika Perpaduan, and last year a third branch was established in Bandar Utama 3, within MBPJ’s community and sports hall.
Ainul said there were significant differences between the headquarter and branch libraries, in terms of facilities, books and membership rates.
“PKPJ has close to 300,000 books while the branch library has 25,000 or fewer.
“The main library’s collection is also more extensive, in both the fiction and non-fiction categories,” she said, adding that popular genres included landscaping, interior design, sports, cooking, health, hobbies, technology and finance, as well as children’s books.
“PKPJ has a more extensive reference collection as it includes Malaysiana books, encyclopaedias, dictionaries and MBPJ archives.
“The audio visual collection, which the public can access to borrow CDs, VCDs and DVDs, as well as the toy library, where young children can enjoy a variety of interactive activities at an affordable rate, are only available at PKPJ.”
The branch libraries offer mostly children’s books, reference books, novels and cookbooks to cater to the local community’s preferences.
As for membership fees, Ainul said the branch library’s rates were about one-third that of the main facility because of the limited services offered.
“At PKPJ, it costs RM31 for new registration and RM15 for annual renewal. At a branch library, it costs RM11 for new registration and RM5 for annual renewal.
“Only the main one offers special membership rates for senior citizens and the disabled, tagged at RM15 for new registration and RM10 for annual renewal, as well as a lifetime membership priced at RM300,” she said, adding that PKPJ was equipped with a ramp, lifts and toilet for the disabled.
Prior to 2015, Ainul said PKPJ’s membership was open only to Klang Valley residents.
Its membership is now open to Malaysian and non-Malaysian citizens, provided they fulfil the registration requirements.
A library member is allowed to borrow 10 books at PKPJ versus six books at a branch library.
“Cross borrowing is allowed, but a branch library member has to upgrade membership to that of the main library’s rate before they can do so.
“After their membership is upgraded, they can request for books only available at PKPJ and pick them up from the branch library a week later,” said Ainul, explaining that those special requests were for out-of-print books or old novels adapted into movies.
She said schoolchildren made up a majority of all four libraries’ visitors, with the peak period being exam season and school holidays.
Besides reference books, popular genres among children include storybooks, horror, science fiction and comics.
“We acquire about 1,200 new books per month.
“For children’s books, one title would have five copies — one each for the branch libraries and the remaining two for PKPJ.
“The titles that we buy are based on the publishers’ catalogues and public suggestions,” said Ainul.
She disclosed that MBPJ’s allocation of RM938,000 for PKPJ’s development fund this year covered purchase of new books and audio visual equipment, office maintenance and cleaning services.She shared that PKPJ had introduced a mobile library in early March for schools that needed library services, whether on a fixed schedule or for special programmes.
“The mobile library offers only book borrowing services. The programme kicked off at SK Damansara Damai 2 before it
was halted due to the MCO,” she said.
“We are looking at reviving the mobile library service but this will depend on the schools as most are not accepting external visitors now.
“We may also get the mobile library to visit senior citizens’ homes in future,” she added. The Covid-19 pandemic has also resulted in PKPJ suspending all internal and external events within its premises as well as the toy library service.
Meanwhile, Ainul said PKPJ welcomed book donations, provided they were in good condition and on relevant, non-sensitive subject matters.
“We will process and filter the books before deciding where to place them.
“This is necessary as about 20% of donated items we get are irrelevant materials such as instruction manuals and old papers.
“Books with Malaysiana or historical elements will be placed at the main library while fiction and children’s books will be housed at either Kios Ilmu Taman Jaya (Taman Jaya Knowledge Kiosk) or Rumah Buku Taman Aman (Taman Aman Book House).
“The kiosk and book house allow visitors to relax and read at the park.
“Visitors can take the books home and return them another day or do a book exchange,” she highlighted.
Taman Jaya Knowledge Kiosk and Taman Aman Book House are open from 8am to 6.30pm daily.
The operating hours at PKPJ and its branch libraries have been revised during the recovery MCO.
Children under 12 now have to be accompanied by an adult or older sibling when visiting any of the libraries.
For details, call 03-7781 2775/90 or visit mbpjlibrary.gov.my
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