Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My peeve with Singapore's public libraries

After procrastinating for two years, I've finally applied for a library card in Singapore. Now you would think that this means I can finally catch up on all my reading and not have to worry about buying books that I'll only read once, right? I wish.

One of the main reasons why it took me two years to decide on getting a library card is because as a non-Singaporean citizen / permanent resident, I have to pay $10.50 for registration and an annual membership fee of $42.80 -- which to me, is not an issue. I believe that citizens and PRs should have certain privileges. For citizens and PR, basic membership is free, premium membership (which allows the user to borrow more items) ranges from $21 - $42 a year.

But considering that I now have time on my hands, lazy coffee afternoons, and the Central Public Library was only a few bus stops away, I ponied up $53.30 and couldn't wait to check out a ton of books, afterall, my library membership entitled me to borrow 4 books and 4 magazines/AV materials for up to 21 days, which is a good number of reading materials. I headed over to the online library catalogue to search for "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger, as I've wanted to read this for quite some time and friends were telling me it was a must-read. And to my annoyance, all 6 copies (yes, you read right - only 6 copies, all editions, in the Central Library) were either On Loan or Reserved (more on this later). And here's the kicker, this was the same for all 22 branches throughout the island! Note, that "The Time Traveler's Wife" was published in 2003, we're talking about a book that's been out for 6 years, and they're all out on loan! Jesus.

So I figured, fine - I'll just put a reservation on it, no qualms about waiting a tad longer. And to my surprise, I had $1.55 once the book is in my hands and I check it out. Ridiculous! It's $1.55 per book! So not only do I have to pay an annual fee, I have to pay per book in order to wait for it to arrive to read it. What's the point of a public library if that's the case?

But you know, I was feeling generous, and decided to give Singapore another chance. I decided to check if they had other books; since starting my job in PR, I've accumulated a healthy list of books to read when I find the time - which included Gregory Maguire's Wicked, Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job, Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse Series. Don't judge my selection of books - I'm looking for easy reads. And surprise, surprise -- either I have a really common taste in books or Singapore needs to re-think and re-stock their library shelves. Seriously! Some of the older books were available, but only at the library branches in the suburbs. It's annoying that the libraries don't have a system of moving the books between branches, so that way, if you want a book but it's not available at the library closest to you, you can put in a request (for free) and tadaa, you'll have your book. What this means is that if you're willing to pay aimlessly for a public service that's meant to be free, then sure, you'll have your book!

Sigh. From looks of things, if this keeps up, I might have wasted my $53.30 and resort to buying books again from Borders. So much for trying to use local community facilities.



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