Take a book, leave one behind at 'box': Book sharing movement comes to Singapore

24-year-old starts free mini-library here after one in US inspired him

Mr Lim and his mini-library outside his Wolskel Road home. It has become a talking point in his neighbourhood.
Mr Lim and his mini-library outside his Wolskel Road home. It has become a talking point in his neighbourhood. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Tucked around the corner of a private estate in Serangoon is a small structure that has sprouted up next to a lamp post and mango tree.

Some people walk by it, others pause and leave with books.

Go closer and one sees that what looks like a white oversized mailbox is a small bookcase with the words "Take a book, leave a book" painted on its shelf.

Mr Bryan Lim, 24, installed this tiny "library" of no more than 20 books outside his two-storey semi-detached house in Wolskel Road two weeks ago.

His little experiment is part of a global book-sharing and social movement that aims to bring free literature to the streets.

Called Little Free Libraries, the trend has inspired people in countries such as the United States, Australia, Ghana and even Afghanistan to build miniature lending libraries in front of their homes, bus stops and storefronts. There are more than 15,000 such boxes worldwide today, in various shapes and sizes.

It all started in 2009 when a man called Mr Todd Bol in Wisconsin built a model of a one- room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who enjoyed reading.

He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard, and his neighbours and friends loved it.

Such a box caught the eye of Mr Lim when he was working in California last year.

"I thought that it was such a romantic idea and decided to build one outside my place when I came back," said the wedding planner.

He followed the instructions on a website that Mr Bol started to teach people how to build their own libraries and how to run them.

The library went up after four months of work and has become a conversation piece.

"In the last few days of putting this up, I have met and talked to more neighbours than I have in my 20 years of growing up in this estate," he said.

The library has attracted the attention of neighbours out jogging or walking their dogs. People beyond the neighbourhood also chance upon it on their way to eateries in the adjacent Jalan Riang.

Ms Cheryl Foo, 20, a student who lives just a few streets away, stumbled upon the mini-library on her way home last Friday.

"I found it really interesting because it doesn't just encourage reading but also gives people opportunities to know one another," she said.

To spread the word, Mr Lim has gone round the neighbourhood giving out leaflets and is hosting a small opening party for the library on Saturday.

Besides fostering a greater sense of community, he said he decided to do this because of its serendipitous nature.

"Unlike the bigger national libraries where people mainly go in search of certain books, here you never know what you may discover as the small collection is always changing as people circulate their old books," he said.

His library has popular titles such as The Lord Of The Rings series and Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, alongside Lonely Planet travel guides.

"There's also Fifty Shades Of Grey which went very fast," he said with a chuckle.

The books are mostly donated by his friends and he tops up the library every week.

The National Library Board has a similar project. It has set up 13 book exchange corners outside its libraries this year.

Said its spokesman: "We hope such initiatives will encourage people to start their own book- sharing movement and continue to read, share and recycle their books."


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