Boon Lay open library books stolen then returned a day after shelves were taken

The Straits Times
April 27, 2023

All the books at an open library at a Housing Board void deck in Boon Lay were stolen a day after two shelves at the same library were taken.

However, the library’s founder said that they were returned hours later, although the shelves are still missing.

The founder, who wanted to be known only as Hengster Kor, had spent three hours on Monday shifting and arranging books and shelves at the void deck with the aim of setting up an open library for the community. However, hours later, the shelves were stolen.

In a public post on his Facebook profile, Mr Kor said that following a report from The Straits Times on the stolen shelves, he went to the library corner on Tuesday night to arrange some books and place a notice telling people to not remove them.

“I thought the shelves disappearing is the worst that can happen,” he said.

However, he discovered the following morning on Wednesday that all the books had also been taken.

“I haven’t felt so dejected for a long, long time, because I feel that I have failed many children. The sound of the heartbreak is real,” he said.

“At this rate, it will probably take many more months before the eventual shape of the library takes place, because I am sure whoever is removing the things, will keep removing the things, even with notices and CCTV.”

He then posted about the situation the same day, with the post gaining traction on social media. Later that afternoon, at about 1pm, he was informed by someone that many books were seen at the library, and thought that they were new books donated by people after they got to know of the incident.

“After this whole episode appeared on the news, believe it or not, the books have miraculously reappeared. But my shelves are still missing,” said Mr Kor, who is also chairman of the residents’ network for Boon Lay View.

In an update on his post about the incident in the Little Libraries Singapore Facebook group on Thursday, he added that he hoped the incident has “created some awareness about taking care of books, and not take the things we do for granted”.

“I am still in the midst of making some shelves using plywood from discarded furniture,” said Mr Kor, thanking members of the public for their support and suggestions.

He told ST that he has no intention of pursuing the matter as the books have been returned.

“I wish to believe that it was an honest mistake. Although many people have told me to install CCTV, I think that will defeat the purpose of wanting to create a common space in the community that is built on trust,” said Mr Kor.

“I wanted to start this library because I want people to come together, build positive relationship and share the love of reading.”

For the greater good of the community

Mr Kor said he believes that what he is doing is for the greater good of the community.

“I want everyone to know that there is a group of people who are doing a lot of things for the community. Many of us are not rich, but are willing to put in the effort to contribute in our own ways, because we are just people who want to make the world better.

“I will push on, and make sure the open library becomes a reality.”

Mr Kor said that an open library could enable shelves and books that have been disposed of to get a second life, and also create a community space for residents to mingle, make friends, and create meaningful relationships.

“Reading is a good habit that our children should have, especially in this digital age. Physical books give parents a chance to bond with their kids, at a young age. For older kids, a book gives them the space for imagination.”

Didn’t expect the news to be so viral. Anyway, it was for the better, cos all the books were returned. And since they...

Posted by Hengster Kor on Thursday, April 27, 2023

He told ST that he will continue operating the library the same way he started it.

“I hope that I do not have to install a CCTV, nor do I have to gate up the area. Reading is something that can be done, even if it is late at night,” he said, adding that he had got the Town Council to help him install lights at the library corner so that there is sufficient lighting for reading at night.

A mini library in Holland Village boasting a vast collection of books, homely furniture, a table tennis table and musical instruments also had items stolen from it after it was opened in August 2022.

According to the library’s founder, several books, as well as a ukulele, were taken and never returned. However, “with every book taken, more were donated the next day,” she said.

Two ukuleles donated by a resident also replaced the one that was taken.

Mr Kor said that he hopes that the library can develop into something similar to the one at Holland Village, noting that he had drawn inspiration from those who had successfully set up their open libraries.

“Hopefully this can become a place where residents can hold their birthday parties, or even initiate activities such as storybook reading to the young children in the estate,” he said.

The Straits Times

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