I visited Bukit Panjang Public Library for the first time since its re-opening on 1 July 2017. My last visit was the last Interactive Book Club meet there before the renovation ten months ago.
My first impression of the renovated library was that the old one was better, in terms of layout and design. After ten minutes, I began to wonder if the designers were readers or library users and whether they spared a thought for the elderly and colour-deficient readers.
As the photo above shows, to locate the different zones (eg fiction, non-fiction, Chinese, magazines) one has to follow the different colour ribbons on the floor. The ribbons on the ceiling are supposed to be of corresponding colours. This is not clear even to a non-colour deficient person like me, so how is a colour-deficient reader to find his way around the library?
The next area for concern is the steps. There are steps all over the place. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find such an image online and I didn’t take any photos.) There is no indication (whether with railings or signs) to warn one of the steps ahead. This is a potential hazard, especially for the elderly. In fact, one of the book club members (probably in his mid or late 70s) missed a step, stumbled and nearly fell if not for a younger man beside him who held on to his arm.
The book club meet was to be held in the Programme Zone, and to the disappointment of all present, it was an area that is “sunken”, surrounded by glass panels (with no curtain or blind) which could not be fully closed, so every sound from inside was transmitted loud and clear outside. The uneven steps too caused a lot of concern for everyone. It felt like we were in a fish tank. I’m sure the noise from the discussion irritated the readers in the main area. Worst of all, amidst all these, I noticed that a sign on a pillar to tell readers to look after their belongings was in sub-standard English: “Hey! Where is your phone? Please look for your belongings.”
I was also disappointed that there was no ‘serious’ discussion of any book or essay at this meeting. Instead, a few enthusiastic members shared their own readings and experiences. It was only towards the end of the two-hour meet that the facilitator conducted an audio sharing on How To Be A Better Reader by Li Xiao Mu. I agree with the recording that Reading would nourish the soul; we read to experience beauty; and reading is a beautiful experience. Unfortunately, I noticed that one left mid-way after waking up from his little nap, three others dozing or nodding away with their eyes closed and two talking away. There was no discussion from the group.
Copies of a contemporary Chinese poetry anthology was distributed at the end of the session for members’ loan, in preparation for the meeting next month. I do not think I would be attending the next few sessions at Interactive Book Club as I’m not keen to spend more than an hour’s travelling time to a place that I don’t find conducive to book discussions.