Our Happy Place

One of my favourite books is a book about books, ‘Ex Libris’ by Anne Fadiman. In one of her essays, she describes her parents’ library, with her dad and mom between them having “about seven thousand books.” In another she writes about having so many books in her loft that it “had come to look less and less like a home and more and more like a second-hand bookstore.”

While I don’t have a thousand (yet!), like Fadiman, I sometimes feel like we live in a bookstore too (think homely BOOKSALE rather than chic Kinokuniya). Back when Hub and I lived in London, I managed to accumulate a Billy-bookcase-and-a-half’s worth of books, aided in no small part by a wealth of choices (it was a literature lover’s paradise), cheap prices, and the convenience of book-shopping via Amazon.

Since we moved to Singapore, the family library has ballooned to nearly three tall Billy bookcases, not to mention my kid’s own growing collection. We were running out of space…!

It was such a joy for us then, to find out early last year that they were opening a library in a mall close to our condo. From zero bookstores within a mile radius to thousands of books at our doorstep! Bye-bye Amazon! It truly felt like Christmas had come early.

As a non-citizen, all I needed to do was pay a S$10.50 one-off registration fee (around Php 400) and a S$42.80 annual membership fee (around Php 1,520), and I could start borrowing up to 16 physical books straightaway. On top of that, I could borrow up to 16 e-books, so the total number I could check out was 32.

I don’t think I ever maxed this limit out borrowing books for myself, but the fees were truly worth it when it came to book choices for our kid. The selection of books we could read to him increased exponentially from what was on his little shelf. It made our routine “story-time bedtime” more interesting (both for him listening and us reading).

A trip to the mall library became almost like a weekly family ritual: we dropped by before a run to the grocery, while killing time waiting for a movie, after eating dinner out.

During the circuit breaker period though, libraries were one of those places deemed “higher risk” and were told to close. We thought they wouldn’t open until Phase Three. But – joy! – the government announced libraries across the country could open on July 1st.

We all wanted to visit it immediately, especially my kid. He’d been stuck reading the same old stuff from his bookshelves and I could tell he was getting bored.

But there were now a few extra steps we needed to do:

  • Pre-book our visit online. We were only allowed to stay in 30-minute time blocks and the online booking had to be done at most the day before the visit. The government’s message was clear – get in, get your book, and go home. But… but… who does that?! Libraries are made for aimless wandering.
  • Check the crowd levels before our visit. I admit, this feature is pretty useful. This link shows which libraries are crowded in real-time, so you can avoid the crowds and save yourself a walk. I would use it, even if we weren’t safe distancing!
  • Have our temperature checked and “check-in” by QR Code or government ID before entering. Like all other places now open in Singapore, there was a compulsory infrared thermometer scan at the entrance. We also had to check in via SafeEntry, the country’s national visitor management system, for easy contact tracing.

Of course, this didn’t stop us and we made it to the library – our library – yesterday. It took all of my kid’s self-control not to sprint through the entrance checks.

We had it to ourselves. There was a section right outside the library where the clouds reflected against the windows. It looked stunning, as if the books met the sky.

It dawned on me then that this truly was our family’s happy place.

Best 30 minutes spent this week.

Think critically dear readers,

11 thoughts on “Our Happy Place

  1. It’s very interesting that almost all my Pinoy fellow bloggers love reading. My wife comes from a family of high school teachers and college professors (my mother in law used to teach at the Bulacan Agricoltural State College) but I rarely see any of them reading anything. They prefer kwentuan…

    Liked by 2 people

          1. I remember my mother-in-law coming back home from her teaching at the Bulacan Agricoltural State College and never reading anything and I would ask myself: “when and how does she prepare for the lesson?”…. maybe drinking buko juice…


  2. What a beautiful library! I’m glad you found it. Kids go through books fast. I used to like to buy books for my grandkids. Before they were too old, they told me not to waste my money. They could fill their arms with books at the local library.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agree! Our neighbourhood library was such a game-changer for our reading choices and our wallet 😊 It’s a good way for us to “trial” a book too, I’d end up buying a copy on Book Depository if my kid liked a library book so much he wanted repeat reads!


  3. ALWAYS love the library. You have a beautiful one. In fact, I was going to check and see if our is open now. Like yours, they probably will limit how many can visit at a time. I noticed at coffee shops, many of them have covered up the electrical outlets. No more sitting with your computer to do work or day dream for a while. I guess we have to sit at the park with our computer, but need Wifi.

    In America there is an APP called, “OverDrive.” It links us to the library, so that we can download ebooks/audio books. Do you have a similar APP? I always prefer a hard covered book, but now I have also gotten used to finding books online.

    Glad that your children are learning about the library too.

    Books – WONDERFUL!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh, I hope yours is open!
      That’s funny — our library used to use OverDrive too! But recently they switched to Libby. Googled it just now and apparently Libby is from the same developer as OverDrive.
      I used to hate e-books too, but I’ve slowly gotten used to it… it’s easier to pull out my phone on the train vs. lugging around a fat paperback. At home it’s still all about physical books though 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I noticed that OverDrive became Libby too. OverDrive still works, but I think they are trying to get people to use Libby, because when I tried to install OverDrive on another computer, it kept pushing me to Libby. So… LIBBY, it is!

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