I went to the Royal Lake Club, located within Lake Gardens, for a seminar last week. Just as I came up from the underground carpark, I caught sight of something which quickened my pulse and brought back a flood of memories.
Located on the ground of the club was a library. Not the modern type with metal shelves and bright lighting, but one with nice wooden shelves and a cosy atmosphere.
My love affair with libraries began when my dad first took me to the Sarikei public library when I was eight years old. Abridged Ladybird books were then the staple of my reading.
When we moved to Sibu, the SMC library became my regular haunt, and I read Tolkien's The Two Towers long before I realized it was a classic.
Sarawak was luckier than the other Peninsular states in Malaysia, because up till the 90's, the British Council was a significant donor of books to the public libraries there. Thus, I learnt BASIC programming without even touching a real computer, and had access to a wonderful collection of British magazines.
When I came to KL to study in 1989, the National Library was at Jalan Raja Laut, and together with the British Council library at Bukit Aman, became my favourite weekend haunts.
Things got better when I got to Queen's in Belfast, for they had a 10 storey main library and a 3 storey science one, not to mention Linen Hall library at the centre of the city. I felt like a man trying to gulp down an ocean of water, borrowing books like crazy.
Back to KL in 1996, the British Council library became my regular again, together with the KL Memorial library at Dataran Merdeka, which I felt was the only decent government funded library in West Malaysia apart from the National Library.
It was also at the British Council library that I found the perfect excuse to "bump into" my future wife, as she was studying for her MAICSA then :)
Sadly, after shifting to Wisma Selangor Dredging, the British Council library is now closed down for good.
After witnessing the terrible collection at the MBPJ library in 2000, I gave up visiting local libraries, and nowadays prefer to haunt Kinokuniya and MPH instead.
However, I was glad to find out that Puchong is finally going to have its own library at Bandar Puteri, which I think will be open sometime this year. Here's hoping it will have a decent collection.
With the pervasiveness of the Internet, Wikipedia, etc nowadays, do libraries still have a place in our lives and our kids' lives? If we want to go beyond consuming snippets of info, plentiful though they may be, I believe physical books will still continue to have a future. Let's put it this way - consuming info from the Internet is akin to eating a McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, convenient, fast, but insubstantial. Reading a book, on the other hand, is akin to tucking in into a nice steak, something to be enjoyed slowly.
My little Cynthia has been observing her daddy always having a book in hand in the evenings, and my wife would sometime catch her intently studying a copy of the Reader's Digest, even though she can't really read yet. When she does, I look forward to share with her the wonderful world of libraries.