I have a vivid memory of being excited as I browsed through the only copy of the National Geography Atlas Of The World in my secondary school library, examining pictures of flora and fauna in different parts of the world. I was fascinated by the world’s diverse landscapes, and the different civilisations captured my imagination. My mind was expanded and an interest in exploring the world was sparked.
I was fortunate to be given an opportunity to further my tertiary studies in the United States. That’s where I got firsthand experience of the wonderful local municipal libraries where everyone is welcome and their social and learning needs catered to.
Mothers can bring their toddlers in for daily nursery rhyme sessions run by library staff and learn parenting tips from experts, high- schoolers browse young adult fiction books after accessing resources for school projects, and retirees come in to read newspapers and magazines as well as use the computers to access the Internet.
Such libraries also offer educational workshops for people looking for job upscaling and reskilling opportunities. There are also programmes covering resume and cover-letter writing tips, using office application software, and job interview tips.
Then there are the social courses on things like floral arrangement and sign language. Anyone can book a room to meet up for their own activities like sewing and knitting, book club discussions, boardgaming, etc. Entrepreneurs and business locals come to the library for networking sessions and to work on startup projects together.
A municipal library is truly a place for all citizens, for bringing everyone together. I have seen similar libraries in Australia and Britain – actually, one doesn’t need to look that far, our neighbour Singapore also provides such lovely library services as well.
Throughout my many visits
to these libraries, I have never once observed any misuse or abuse of library amenities and have never seen any antisocial behaviour.
As Malaysia is aiming to reach developed nation status, I think that municipal libraries can be community-making places and an essential tool in cultivating civic- minded citizens with lifelong learning habits.
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