Last week I had a conversation with my dad and I told him that if I choose to live somewhere else in future, there is one thing I’ll miss here: the local public library system. The collection of books in the catalogue is so extensive that most of the English books I want to read are available for loan. The reference section too is nothing to sneeze at, housing books that would cost me over a hundred dollars, were I to buy them.
Most of the time I take the libraries for granted because I’m so used to them. Yet the longer I blog, the more I learn of people who don’t have a library in their neighbourhood that is up to date on the latest releases. Some people don’t even even have a library in their neighbourhood to begin with. This is why I decided to take a moment to reflect on the things that I’m thankful for about my local library.
When it comes to the local library, this comes in many forms.
- Accessibility — Many libraries are located inside malls, and those that have their own buildings are located near the subway stations. This makes it really easy for me to visit a library in between appointments.
- Opening hours — Most branches are open until 9 p.m. (weekends included), so even if I’m busy during the day, I can still pop by to borrow books in the evening.
- Book drops — Returning books doesn’t actually require me to enter a library. Book drops are located outside the libraries, near the entrances, allowing patrons to return books around the clock.
- Borrowing stations — Patrons generally borrow books at self-checkout stations. Several such stations are located around the libraries’ premises, so queuing rarely is an issue.
The amount of books available in every genre is mind-boggling.
- YA fiction — I took a look at the YA shelves at one of the libraries today, I guesstimated that there must have been at least 3500 books available. Some of these titles had multiple available copies, so I think that there were about 3000 different titles up for grabs.
- YA non-fiction — I hardly ever look at the YA non-fiction shelves but the number of shelves pretty much matches that of YA fiction.
- Adult fiction — The number of shelves must be three or four times that of YA fiction. Whenever I venture to those shelves, I’m overwhelmed and don’t even know where to look.
- Non-fiction — Every call number has books. No topic I can think of has been left out. I borrowed a lot of books that taught me how to bake. I depended on library books too when I learnt how to sew. I even glimpsed how to bind my own books thanks to the craft section.
- Reference library — The national library has an impressive collection of reference books that span several floors. Books for loan are in the basement while another seven levels are dedicated to reference books. I challenge any book lover to walk among those shelves and not drown in awe.
- Supporting performing arts — Then there’s a library branch dedicated only to the arts. When I took theatre studies and drama at A Levels, that library branch practically was my second home. Drama scripts from around the world are available there for theatre buffs. There are so many books about various theatre traditions, my two years of theatre studies could never even begin to cover them all. Music lovers can immerse themselves in music CDs and music scores. Patrons can also have their pick among TV series, mainstream movies and indie films that are available on DVD. I found the entire series of Gilmore Girls there, so that for me was a huge plus.
- Going digital — Another thing my library system has going for it is the electronic databases for ebooks, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks, journals, research papers, music and film. My favourite database is Overdrive because once again, the collection is very extensive. I took a look at the titles available to patrons from libraries around the world on Overdrive and I daresay, Singapore has one of the biggest collections. The number of ebooks and audiobooks combined for YA books alone is approaching 5000. Fun fact: there currently are 75,982 ebook titles and 6578 audiobook titles available for loan from my library via Overdrive.
- Up to date — Latest releases often hit the shelves sooner rather than later. I’m always surprised when I find titles I’ve been waiting for on the library shelves within the same months they were published in. Most of the time though it takes about a month, which still is very soon after publication.