New chapter for Bedok library next year

After 31 years, it will move into an integrated hub that will also house a sports facility

In the early days of the Bedok Public Library, which opened in 1985, queues for borrowing and returning books snaked out the front door and around the building, recalled senior library officer Wu Poh Choo, 59.

"Entire families were excited to come here," said Mrs Wu, who has worked at the Bedok North Street 1 library for almost 30 years.

Last month, the three-storey Bedok Public Library celebrated its 31st anniversary and its last year at the present location. It shifts to the Bedok Integrated Complex just next door next year. The complex will house a new sports facility, a polyclinic and an eldercare centre.

The Bedok Public Library, earlier known as the Bedok Community Library, is one of Singapore's older branches and the sixth one built by the National Library Board. The oldest public library is 46-year-old Queenstown Public Library.

The Bedok Public Library was opened by Dr S. Jayakumar, then Minister for Home Affairs. On its third day, more than 20,000 people packed into its rooms and reading halls.

Built at a cost of $6.87 million, the library shelves then held some 100,000 books. Today, its collection has more than doubled.

This includes a Malay Library on the second floor, which has a large collection of books on subjects from folklore to science.

Built at a cost of $6.87 million in 1985, the Bedok Public Library (above) opened with some 100,000 books on its shelves. Today, its collection has more than doubled. PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Mrs Wu recalled picking storybooks to read to children during the library's weekly Chinese storytelling sessions.

"The children would be seated on the floor in the storytelling room, and the parents would wait outside. The children loved stories. They would crowd in front of me, sit close and listen."

She chose books with plenty of pictures for her audience of kids aged four to eight. The colourful pictures got them excited, she said.


Growing up, the library was a place where my imagination could run free. I am happy that the next generation will get to enjoy it.

HOUSEWIFE JASMIN R, who took her daughter to the library recently.

One of the library's longest-serving employees, Mrs Wu was also part of the team which ensured the manual loan system ran smoothly.

"I had to manually stamp the due dates and check the handwritten membership cards. If an entire family came with four books each, I'd have a giant stack in front of me."

While the lending system has since been computerised, Mrs Wu still helps visitors from her seat at the customer service desk.

The keeper of fairytales and biographies has seen once-young patrons who thumbed through picture books visit the library with their own toddlers in tow.

"A library regular, who has been visiting since he was a schoolboy, recently told me he recognised me from years ago," said Mrs Wu. "This time, he came with his two kids. That was when I realised that I have been here for so long."

The Bedok library has become an important part of the community, said branch manager Pearlyn Tan, 42. "The programmes cater to the needs of the community," she said.

Together with the former Infocomm Development Authority, the library has rolled out initiatives to cater to its growing group of elderly patrons. "We run monthly courses for seniors to teach them how to use the iPad," she said.

"Courses are so popular, they are always fully subscribed."

The library today serves more than 200,000 residents from Bedok to Kembangan and Kaki Bukit.

Said housewife Jasmin R, 48, who was there with her daughter recently: "When I was growing up, the library was a place where my imagination could run free. I am happy that the next generation will get to enjoy it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'New chapter for Bedok library next year'. Subscribe