Little free library started by doctor for fun in Tampines is thriving and has since 'exploded'

Submitted by Stomper Dr Colin Lim

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Some members of the local book community were shocked when the founder of a community library in Boon Lay announced its closure after sharing the woes of maintaining the place.

However, it is heartening to know that other such community libraries in Singapore are still around and even thriving.

Dr Colin Lim told Stomp that he started his library in Tampines in 2019 after being introduced to the Little Free Library movement in the United States during his travels.

With the pro bono assistance of the OneMaker Group, his little free library became a reality.

The library started as a beach house-inspired structure located near Dr Lim's clinic but has since expanded organically thanks to the donation of shelves by residents and town council workers in the area.

He shared photos with Stomp of how it looked like when he first set it up to how it has since 'exploded'.

"When I started it, I basically wanted to have fun with my love of books," Dr Lim said.

"I did it for myself as I had always wanted something like this.

"If some people in the community benefit, well and good.

"I didn't depend on anyone for the upkeep, maintenance and stocking of the library but it is gratifying to see people pitching in."

This is in contrast to the troubles the community library in Boon Lay faced, from people stealing books and shelves to children making a mess and treating the library like a playground.

However, Dr Lim isn't so concerned about book thieves.

"Donations are frequent and almost daily and it's always a pleasure to discover some gems there," he said.

"The books are all free for anyone to take.

"I'd rather people take and don't return so that it frees up more space for books to be added."

He quipped that 'library' is a misnomer and that it's more of a free book nook.

He has 'spies' who have observed some book dealers leaving with big bags and said he caught one in the act once and let him off with a warning.

Dr Lim also shared some little nuggets he has observed since starting his little library.

Textbooks are very popular as well as Reader's Digest and National Geographic magazines.

He noticed that copies of the Financial Times Weekend are always promptly snatched up as soon as he leaves them at the library after reading.

He added: "Diaries are donated here too and once here, they are fair game!"

There are also some hidden gems such as signed copies of books by local authors.

Dr Lim recently managed to pick up a brand new copy of Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Korean writer Cho Nam-ju for himself.

For those familiar with geocaching, a global treasure hunt-like activity, there is even a cache at the library. Dr Lim said it was left long ago and filled with figurines and Philippine pesos.

"I love the sheer serendipity of it all," he said.