40,000-book collection goes to charity

Madam Yap Hui Hong said selling the lot for a low price would not do the books justice, so she gave them to the All Saints Home. Proceeds from their sale will go to its nursing home. Most of the books belonged to her late husband Aravinakhsan Nair.
Madam Yap Hui Hong said selling the lot for a low price would not do the books justice, so she gave them to the All Saints Home. Proceeds from their sale will go to its nursing home. Most of the books belonged to her late husband Aravinakhsan Nair.NEW PAPER FILE PHOTO

Owner closes shop after lease ends; says offers for whole collection too low

Second-hand bookstore owner Yap Hui Hong, 65, spent the past few months looking for someone to take over a collection of 40,000 books from her 102 sq m industrial unit that was running out of room and out of time.

The owner of VTS Books, a bookstore in Irving Industrial Building in Irving Road, received several offers for the entire collection - most of which were low - from other second-hand bookstores.

Having to vacate the premises as her lease was coming to an end on Nov 23, Madam Yap made a last-minute decision last month to let the books go - for free - to a voluntary welfare organisation (VWO).

"I wanted to find a home for the books, and these are rare and good books," she said, adding that the collection spans more than 40 years.

"Selling the collection for a low price wouldn't do justice to the books, so I decided to donate them."

The bookstore, with its mountains of books stacked as high as 2m, was an unlikely paradise for bookworms here.

The books, some of which are out of print and could fetch high prices, were mostly sold for below $5 each.

Late last month, most of the books, which cover a variety of topics such as history, literature, religion and the arts, were donated to the All Saints Home. The VWO runs four nursing homes.

Mr Richard Quah, director of the Yishun home, where the books are now stored in a 20ft container, said it would be holding a three-day book carnival next month to raise funds to support its work. Needy students in Yishun will be invited to pick up books for free as they would be sponsored by potential donors. The money collected will be used for the elderly at the nursing home.

Days before the shutters came down, nine packers were at the VTS to sort the books, and box and label them. It took them five days to pack and transport the books.

Madam Yap did not feel too sad as the books were taken away. "I was just relieved someone wanted to take over the books," she said.

Most of them belonged to her late husband, Mr Aravinakhsan Nair, who died five years ago from heart problems. He was 62.

His passion for collecting books started when he was 17.

"He just liked the feeling of being surrounded by books," said Madam Yap, who met her husband when they were students at the then University of Singapore.

Before they were married, he would take her to book sales, where he would often buy hundreds of books at one go.

Madam Yap said: "I was into reading, so I didn't object to his collecting books."

The collection grew. After they got married, their Potong Pasir flat became cluttered with shelves filled with books. Books could also be found in the bathroom.

With space becoming an issue, they started a second-hand bookstore in Chinatown in 2008. VTS Books was named after their three children: Vinod, 33;Tamara, 27; and Sheila, 26.

After three years, the books were moved back home. Last year, the collection was moved again - into the unit in Irving Industrial Building.

About 1,200 volumes are still sitting on the shelves of Madam Yap's flat. She plans to give most of them to the All Saints Home, too.

She said: "If you are a book lover, you would want the books to go to other book lovers. And to give them to a cause, that's what my husband would have wanted."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline '40,000-book collection goes to charity'. Print Edition | Subscribe