Punggol to get temporary library

Ms Sun, flanked by grassroots leaders Derrick Teo (left) and Marc Tan, at the Punggol Walk site where the library will be built.
Ms Sun, flanked by grassroots leaders Derrick Teo (left) and Marc Tan, at the Punggol Walk site where the library will be built.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Residents of Punggol Walk will get a library within walking distance by October but it will be in the form of two cargo containers.

The idea by the area's MP, Ms Sun Xueling, stems from repeated requests by young families who form the majority of her constituents in the Punggol West ward in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. Most of the flats there are less than five years old.

"I understand the parents' concerns. It's important to encourage children to read from young," said Ms Sun, who has a three-year-old daughter and is expecting her second child in November.

But a public library, as with a town hub and regional sports centre for Punggol, will be ready only in four years' time.

"Four years may not be a long time but try telling that to the children. It's like asking them to wait their entire life," she told The Straits Times.

Though it is a temporary measure, residents interviewed are delighted as the closest library a 20-minute walk away - Sengkang Public Library - is closed for renovations until next year.

Like most residents, Ms Masrina Jamaludin, 37, said she takes her seven-year-old girl to Cheng San Public Library in Hougang Mall, a 30- minute journey on public transport.

The container library on an unused plot of land next to residential block 211C in Punggol Walk will be just a block away from her home.

Grassroots leader Derrick Teo, 38, said: "There are a lot of young parents in this area and they are very concerned about their children's education. It's natural they would want a library where their children can go to read."

Ms Sun, chief executive of non-profit organisation Business China, credits her discussions with business leaders on the sharing economy for sparking the idea.

"The concept is to make good use of existing resources, which is what we are trying to do in Punggol," she said. "The plot of land and the books are both existing, unused resources, so it is of no cost to the people who own them."

She and her grassroots team worked with the Housing Board to identify suitable plots of land for the interim library before the location was confirmed last week.

The land, earmarked as a place of worship, can be used for the container library for the next two years until 2018. The library will cost about $50,000 to build and can accommodate up to 40 people. The National Library Board (NLB) will loan it about 2,000 books.

Ms Sun said she had asked for two-thirds of the books to be for teenagers and younger children.

An NLB spokesman said it will also train volunteers on how to run such community libraries.

Ms Masrina, who also has a 15-month-old girl, said: "The Cheng San library is not very far away but it is not very convenient (for me) with two young children."

She added: "It is very important to me that my daughter reads a lot. It's the only way for her to be good in English."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2016, with the headline 'Punggol to get temporary library'. Print Edition | Subscribe