Chapter 3 for Molly, the library on wheels

The latest Molly, which has a wheelchair lift and a magnetic whiteboard for users to express their creativity, will, like its predecessors, serve the underprivileged.
The latest Molly, which has a wheelchair lift and a magnetic whiteboard for users to express their creativity, will, like its predecessors, serve the underprivileged.ST PHOTOS: AZMI ATHNI
The latest Molly, which has a wheelchair lift and a magnetic whiteboard for users to express their creativity, will, like its predecessors, serve the underprivileged.
The latest Molly, which has a wheelchair lift and a magnetic whiteboard for users to express their creativity, will, like its predecessors, serve the underprivileged.ST PHOTOS: AZMI ATHNI

The National Library Board (NLB) launched a new "Molly" mobile library yesterday as part of its commitment to promote reading.

The third mobile library to be launched since 2008, NLB's latest vehicle has been designed with accessibility in mind, sporting a new hydraulic wheelchair lift for the disabled and their caretakers.

The previous model, equipped with a ramp, was decommissioned earlier this year. This is the only full-size Molly on the road, holding 3,000 books, though there are also two "mini Mollys" aimed at young children in housing estates.

Other new features include a magnetic whiteboard for activity sessions, and book borrowing and returning stations placed at a convenient height for young readers.

The launch took place at AWWA school in Hougang, which caters to pupils with special needs. Its pupils have been using the Mollys since 2008.

For the school's head of language, Ms Nurnain Safariah Selamat, 37, having a mini NLB branch at the school's doorstep has allowed disabled pupils to learn how to use public facilities in a safe environment without the bother of travel.

"In a typical learning journey, the actual going to the destination... would take half of the learning journey, and then you would have the actual lesson planned in the library,"said Ms Nurnain.

She added that as such trips also present social challenges, Molly focuses the lesson instead on the actual loaning, looking at books and interacting with the librarians. Other skills can be taught in a separate lesson.

Libraries on wheels have been spreading the joy of reading since the 1960s. Mr Lim Kok Eng, region head of NLB's public library operations, recalled how Singapore had very few libraries back then.

"The mobile library service then was a way to reach out to the community," added Mr Lim, 57.

The last mobile library service points closed in 1991, and when the service was revived in 2008, the target audience was different.

Mollys are designed to serve communities who may have difficulty accessing a library on their own, such as orphans and those with special needs.

Mr Lim said: "There are students who borrow books for the first time - these are instances that give us joy, that we are serving the community."

Since 2008 Molly has served more than 600,000 visitors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'Chapter 3 for Molly, the library on wheels'. Print Edition | Subscribe