KOTA KINABALU, April 2 — When did you last visit a library? Unless you are a student, the answer is probably “years ago” when you were an actual student yourself.
Hundreds of Sabahans here, however, have shown that they not only like visiting libraries, they want to be members!
After seven years of being temporarily housed in a shopping mall, the state capital’s library has a brand-new home in Tanjung Aru and it was flooded with hundreds of new membership applications during its 36-hour soft launch.
From 1am to 7am yesterday, hundreds of eager applicants lined up for free lifetime memberships.
Library director Wong Vui Yin said that the number of visitors on opening day was overwhelming, considering it was a weekday.
“Already we have received 7,000 visitors up to 9pm,” he said last night.
The new library created a buzz not only because of its opening offer of lifetime memberships, but also due to its unique design elements.
Wong, who had a significant say in the design, said he was inspired by his travels to build a library that challenged the role of a conventional library in Malaysia.
He also wanted it to be relevant to Sabah and its people.
The new building, notable for its floor-to-ceiling glass panels, has unmistakably local motifs adorning its exterior.
“We wanted to incorporate a lot of Sabahan elements into the design. We have the local Murut motif ‘Nantuapan’ that depicts two men and two women coming together.
“The idea is that the library is a place for a meeting of people and minds. Libraries are no longer about lending books and studying, but rather to provide a space to gain and share knowledge,” said Wong.
Together with the architects, Wong ensured key design elements paid homage to Sabah, such as the main counter’s centrepiece, which is a stylised “wakid” or woven basket that farmers use to carry produce on their backs.
The floor also has glass panels that contain sand from Kota Belud and Kudat and some signs in Kadazan.
The new RM49.5 million library was partly sponsored by the Sabah Development Bank and Lahad Datu Water Supply as their corporate social responsibility project, while the state government provided the infrastructure.
“At 62,500 sq ft, it is the biggest of all the branch libraries, without including the headquarters,” said Wong.
But the library’s uniqueness really lies in its facilities and design — aside from the usual reference and lending books, an all-new children’s section was designed with interaction and creativity in mind.
“We didn’t want it to be just a children’s library where kids have to be quiet and read books. We wanted to nurture creativity and have them be free and playful, so we have a design that would hopefully pique their interest and creativity,” he said.
The children’s section has an underwater theme, and is decorated with images of fish and marine life. It also includes sound absorption panels, an infinity mirror room, a net for climbing and a storytelling corner.
Other facilities include open study pods, a jamming studio which can be rented for a nominal fee, a seminar room, and a space for the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and Petronas.
There is also a lot of room for weekly activities and community events.
Wong said that it is beneficial to the public that the library is open every day of the year.
“We want the library to not be just about books but somewhere families can go on the weekends. It should be able to serve the community,” said Wong.
“So much money was spent on the facilities and infrastructure, so we want people to use it as much as possible.”
The library is open from 9am to 9pm daily, including public holidays.
The official launch will be on April 23.