SINGAPORE: A community library located in the void deck of a Boon Lay Housing Board block is set to close down, just months after its grand opening in April.
The founder of the library, who goes by the name Hengster Kor on Facebook, cited several reasons for this unfortunate decision, including complaints, a persistent issue of messiness within the library, and a noticeable lack of community involvement to maintain the space.
The announcement was made on Tuesday (17 Oct), through the Little Libraries Singapore Facebook group.
In his statement, Mr Kor expressed his intention to permanently close the community library.
He extended an open invitation to anyone interested in his impressive book collection, which he wished to share or help establish another community library.
Those intrigued by his offer were encouraged to contact him via private message on Facebook.
He also mentioned his plan to dismantle the library by the end of October. Any unclaimed books would be disposed of, along with the bookshelves.
Bookshelves and book collection vanish within hours of opening
The origins of this library were marred by an unfortunate incident. Shortly after its debut on 25 April 2023, Mr Kor reported the theft of his bookshelves and his entire book collection.
This came as a shock, considering the substantial effort he had invested in preparing the library.
It took him months to gather the necessary resources and three hours to set up the library.
Regrettably, within a few hours of opening, both bookshelves and the entire book collection, including encyclopedias, were stolen.
In an interview with The Straits Times, Mr Kor expressed his dismay at this turn of events, stressing the considerable effort that had gone into the project.
He initially conceived the open library concept in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the project faced delays due to a lack of books initially, Mr Kor eventually initiated the library in March, thanks to generous book and shelf donations from neighbors and friends.
Notably, he also secured approval from the town council for this community endeavor.
A remarkable twist in the story occurred when, after media coverage of the stolen books, the collection miraculously reappeared, although the shelves were still missing.
The community library was established to foster a shared space that could bring the community together
The community library had an admirable purpose: to create a shared space where the local community could come together.
Mr Kor’s motivation was to foster improved relationships among neighbors, grandparents, grandchildren, parents, and their children.
Over time, this small corner with limited shelves and books, primarily sourced from residents and well-wishers across the island, transformed into a cozy, well-stocked area with numerous bookshelves and a diverse range of books.
The heartwarming aspect of this project was the willingness of many community members to maintain the library, without any formal request.
Parents were often seen visiting the library with their children throughout the day, and various individuals pitched in to keep the area clean.
Mr Kor had further ideas to enhance the library’s appeal, such as painting the surrounding walls with inspirational quotes and images, creating a more engaging environment for children.
Support for Mr Kor’s kindness in establishing the community library extended beyond his neighborhood, with many netizens expressing their appreciation and offering to donate books.
“Maintaining the place has become quite challenging”
Regrettably, the community library did not sustain itself for long.
A few months after its launch, Mr Kor decided to close the library, citing the growing difficulty of maintenance as a major factor.
Although it was intended to be a collective effort, the burden of maintaining the library increasingly fell on him.
Group members expressed their disappointment over the library’s closure, to which Mr Kor responded, “the complaints and the mess that the children make every day just don’t make sense to maintain the place.”
He even posted a video showing a child climbing the bookshelves, leading to books scattered on the floor.
The decision to close the library prompted mixed reactions from netizens.
Some expressed regret and urged Mr Kor to reconsider, while others believed that children’s interest in misusing the library would diminish over time.
Some netizens began to question whether civic education was still emphasized in schools
In response to this unfortunate news, some netizens questioned the state of civic education, wondering whether Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) was still effectively taught in schools.
According to the Singapore Ministry of Education (MoE), CCE is a vital part of the curriculum in Singapore, teaching students about their responsibilities to family and community, emphasizing their role in shaping the nation’s future.
It aims to foster integrity, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and positive relationships based on mutual respect.
“This kind of act only works in highly developed, civilized countries”
Some comments from netizens suggested that Mr Kor’s altruistic act was more likely to succeed in a highly civilized society with a strong civic consciousness.
They cited examples of citizens failing to return trays, even with regulations in place.
Netizens criticize parents for not instilling good manners in their children
Furthermore, some netizens shifted the blame to parents, criticizing them for not teaching their children proper manners and holding them accountable for their behavior.
They argued that children’s actions are often a reflection of their parents’ values.
Donating the books to where it is needed the most
Amidst the criticism and frustration expressed by netizens, there were suggestions that Mr Kor should consider donating the books to places where they would be more appreciated and needed.
This, they argued, would demonstrate kindness more effectively.
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