Teens get together to make library a cool spot

Members of the Inspiring Readers Society include (front row, from left): Natalie GohHui Shi, 14; James Teo, 15; Momo Banyar, 13; Ng Jing Kai, 15; Nur Eliisa Abdullah Juntunen, 15; and Palmer Wang, 15.
Members of the Inspiring Readers Society include (front row, from left): Natalie Goh Hui Shi, 14; James Teo, 15; Momo Banyar, 13; Ng Jing Kai, 15; Nur Eliisa Abdullah Juntunen, 15; and Palmer Wang, 15.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Pasir Ris library's youth group is out to inspire teens to read and change the image of the library

Libraries are not typically the after- school hangout spot for "cool kids".

But the 45 members of a new youth volunteer group plan to change the image of the library with a dedicated area for teens and programmes tailored for them.

The Inspiring Readers Society (IRS) was formed last October as part of the National Library Board's (NLB) move to promote reading among youth.

These teens, aged 13 to 19, are in charge of running Pasir Ris Public Library's new Teens' Mezzanine as well as organising reading-related programmes for other teens.

One of their first duties was preparing the mezzanine for the library's reopening last November.

Under the supervision of six librarians, the group spent most of their December school holiday decorating the new space with colourful posters and 3D artwork.

There are also swinging pod chairs and raised platforms with cushions for comfortable reading.

After spending months together, the members, who were recruited either directly by the library or through their schools, have grown close to each other.

Springfield Secondary student Momo Banyar, 13, describes the library as her "second home". "I'm a quiet and shy person, but I feel comfortable here. We all share a passion for reading - it's my comfort zone," said the Secondary 2 student.

But Secondary 4 student Palmer Wang, 15, was a bit of an odd one out at first as he did not particularly enjoy reading when he joined. It was only when his best friend and classmate Ng Jing Kai, who is also a member, introduced him to The 39 Clues adventure series that he became hooked on books.

"It's a good way to improve my English and have fun at the same time," said Palmer, who is vice-captain of the IRS.

The teens are being trained to help run upcoming library programmes. Their training includes learning how to create video trailers for books, lead book discussions and promote books through creative displays like pop-up trolleys.

If this pilot group proves successful, the NLB plans to roll it out to its other libraries.

And this looks likely given the interest in the group, which now has a waiting list.

Associate librarian Chua Su Yin, one of the group's mentors, said the IRS offers teenagers a chance to have a sense of ownership of the library.

"People sometimes think the library is uncool. We want to change that mentality," added Ms Chua, 25.

"It's easier for teenagers to reach out to their peers. They tend to listen to each other."

Civil servant Patricia Goh, 42, whose 14-year-old daughter Natalie is part of the group, said she was initially concerned that spending time at the library would affect her daughter's studies.

"At first I was worried that it would take time away from her homework. But this also means she has to learn how to manage her time better, and that's a good skill to learn," said Mrs Goh.

Natalie, who is a CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School student, said reading is something that everyone can enjoy. "Everyone has an inner soul that wants to read. Some just haven't found the right book yet."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Teens get together to make library a cool spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe