Volunteer-run library celebrates 3rd year

Volunteers at the library include (from left) Mr David Lim, Ms Chow Wai Ling, Mr Dhara Venkata Agoya Kumar, Madam Yang Jun and Madam June Tan. The library is on the fourth floor of Chinatown Point.
Volunteers at the library include (from left) Mr David Lim, Ms Chow Wai Ling, Mr Dhara Venkata Agoya Kumar, Madam Yang Jun and Madam June Tan. The library is on the fourth floor of Chinatown Point.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

library@chinatown is first and only one here staffed this way

Decked with festive lanterns, a 1960s-style photo booth and a live band, library@chinatown bustled with activity yesterday.

Standing out in the crowd were senior citizens in purple uniforms, who are volunteers at the library - the first and only one here fully run by volunteers.

First opened in January 2013, the library on the fourth floor of Chinatown Point celebrated its third anniversary and volunteer appreciation day yesterday. Over the past three years, volunteers at the branch have doubled from 40 to 80.

"The majority of volunteers are active seniors and volunteering at the library helps to keep them physically and mentally agile," said the branch's manager Wanying Chen. "The model creates a force multiplier that has encouraged more people from the community to volunteer."

She did not say if there are plans to have another branch fully run by volunteers, but said: "The concept of working with volunteers has expanded to other library branches. An example is that of the Taxi Shifu Reading Club, which is run by volunteers at Ang Mo Kio public library."

As most of the volunteers at library@chinatown are above 50, there are unique features to help them. An autosorter is used to sort returned books into six categories and reference numbers on books are kept simple by omitting decimals. The volunteers also enjoy flexible working days.

Ms Chow Wai Ling, 69, who volunteers once a week, also works part-time as a kindergarten assistant. "We come down when we can. This is where I keep my mind active and I look forward to coming here every week," she said.

Mr David Lim, 70, volunteers as a service steward and programme facilitator. Apart from shelving and arranging books, his duties include mediating between seniors at the e-newspaper kiosk. "As a senior, I can relate to them and break up their quarrels more easily," said Mr Lim, who also runs programmes on paper cutting.

Mr Dhara Venkata Agoya Kumar, 38, an Indian expatriate, used to serve at the Marine Parade public library before transferring to the Chinatown library to fuel his interest in Chinese culture. "Volunteering here has opened my heart and mind to Chinese arts and culture. I have met so many friends who I now regard as family," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'Volunteer-run library celebrates 3rd year'. Print Edition | Subscribe