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A happy place, a sanctuary: Singapore’s libraries through the eyes of volunteers who love them

Ms Shamimah’s ukelele jamming sessions also take place online and in other libraries besides Tampines Regional Library. 

“I realised that to me for a long time I was always thinking of libraries being serious places,” she said. 

The ukelele sessions made her think otherwise and even attracted people who told her they had never before stepped into a library. 

“I see now the number of programmes that the library runs, they are so many and so varied. In fact, I think what we are all short of is time. There’s so many programmes I’d like to attend but don’t have the time to.”

Asked what a library now means to her, Ms Shamimah said: “The library is a happy place for me. It is a place I will go to whenever I have free time.

“You know some people in between when they got to kill time they go shopping. If I have to kill time I will go find a library and sit inside there.”

A SNAPSHOT OF SINGAPORE HISTORY

For docent Pok Cheng San, his spare time is best spent going back in time.

The 64-year-old hungers for knowledge of Singapore’s history, and for over a decade has spent pored over library resources on the topic – even using a dictionary to get around his lack of English proficiency. 

He is just as eager to dish out what he learns to willing ears.

In 2016, Mr Pok first jumped at the chance to share his know-how by being a tour guide at a World War II exhibition at the Former Ford Factory, which is run by the National Archives. He became the exhibition’s first Mandarin docent in 2017, after it was revamped and reopened.

He now continues to give tours two Saturdays a month at the historic building where British forces surrendered to the Japanese Army on Feb 15, 1942. 

On scheduled weekends, Mr Pok conducts tours in Mandarin that often last beyond the stipulated time of one hour. 

Speaking to CNA, he passionately expounded on the importance of the World War II period to Singapore, sometimes deviating into brief lectures on history.

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