The Great Book Exchange

We set off in high spirits, my dad, my maid and I. We were dreaming of neat piles of books which were awaiting new owners. Dad had received a coupon for every book that he traded in, and now he had lots of coupons. The plan was for dad to tackle the English fiction, my maid to check out the Malay/Indonesian titles, and me to sieve through the children’s books. Dad has always been an avid reader and I have inherited his genes; he even encourages our maid to read. I was determined to get some children’s books for a friend who does voluntary teaching for an adorable group of 6-year-olds.

As dad drove near the National Library building, we saw the queue of tired adults and excited children. By the time we reached the venue with our bags at 8.24am, the queue was three quarters of the way around the circumference of the building. If I were alone, I would have left. Just imagining how many hours of queuing it would take made me feel defeated! To the credit of NLB which ran the event with incredible efficiency, we got to the books just 15 minutes after the event started, at 8.45am.

Spotting the children’s section was easy enough as it was right at the back. Getting hold of the books, however, was a different matter. Eager children gleefully pulled out the books that were neatly arranged, glanced at the titles and pulled out more to look at. Over-zealous parents pushed luggage that got in the way of other participants, and a few times, arms, elbows, and shins of perfect strangers met with mine and contested for space. I tried to squeeze into the occasional empty spot that I could find, and sometimes resorted to looking at what others unearthed and rejected. Never had I seen such enthusiasm for books!

At the adults’ sections, peace and civilization reigned. Many browsed the titles in a languid fashion, and there was even room to stand and flip through the books. The books remained in neat stacks, though at one point there weren’t many fiction titles left. The non-fiction sections looked mostly untouched in comparison! Chinese books were also very popular, while the section for Malay and Indian titles was  tiny. Throughout the 2 hours that I was there, there were announcements of freebies from sponsors, such as recyclable bags, milk and yogurt.

All in, I managed to get 18 children’s books, most of which were fairly new and in good condition. In fact, I’m already looking forward to next year’s book exchange, and will surely brave the long queue with cheerful stoicism!

In case you’re wondering if NUS Libraries will do something similar, we have an annual book donation drive during which we collect books that are donated and sell them at low prices. All the proceeds go to the annual giving fund for NUS students with financial needs. The drive is ongoing and will end in August, after which the books will be sold in early September. Do give your support to this worthy cause!

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