Without libraries what have we?

Selected winning entries of the recent write up contest. Many thanks to those who have taken the time to participate and submit an entry.

A)Without libraries what have we? – by Thusha Rani Rajendra, PhD candidate from the Faculty of Language and Linguistics

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future – Ray Bradbury

My fascination with libraries has been ingrained in me from childhood. From the old National Library located along Jalan Raja Laut eons ago, to my school libraries at Sentul Convent Secondary and Primary Schools and the dimly lit aisles at Setapak High School, I have been and always will be awed by libraries. You see, libraries are my sanctuary to nurse my soul for they provide nourishment like no other. Twenty years ago, I was dumbstruck as an undergraduate when I first set foot into the glorious library and its offerings at the University of Malaya (UM). I then return five years later as a Masters postgraduate, being awed all over again and now, once again as a PhD candidate.

To date, the University Malaya Library (UMLib) has been an excellent companion throughout my education journey. I have seen it grow in the last 25 years and I am proud to be one of those who was and still is enjoying its many offerings and facilities. Besides the opening hours (even on weekends), I simply love the librarians and security personnel who are always ready to assist and more importantly, take pride in their jobs. There are many other things that I love about UMLib and I shall give an insight on a few of my favourites.

The wide array of books and ebooks

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UMLib offers an impressive collection of 800k books and over 20k+ ebooks. This staggering amount is always increasing and new books are frequently displayed at the entrance of the library. From Gaiman, to Hawkings, fiction to non-fiction, the library has something for everyone and is truly an epitome of both an academic and leisure library. Coming from a literature background, I find the literature collection captivating and I have taken this opportunity to enjoy Allende, Kinsella and Coelho all over again. In addition, current academic books are also readily available and the librarians are always open to suggestions for new titles. UMLib’s smaller libraries at the faculties also offer subject specific books in its collections. For one, the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics has a varied and current collections of books on what else but languages and linguistics!

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Interlibrary Loans
“Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization (Jo Walton) and the UMLib has an excellent track record, I can attest. In my quest for knowledge, I have requested a few books and though I never always get everything I want, I am one happy client as hard to obtain books are quite easily available through this service.

Carrels
Ah…carrels. I love these carrels. They are actually tiny private rooms which could be accessed by postgraduates for privacy. The rooms are equipped with a study table and a power outlet. These rooms are useful especially for those of us who have a peculiar way of studying (like nodding heads, talking to oneself etc.) But be warned though…you have to be early (by 8.30 am) to get the keys for the room. This just proves how popular these carrels are and my favourite carrel is on the third floor. Somehow, you will always meet familiar faces who try sticking to their regular carrels. To note, we share camaraderie of sort…after all we are in the same battle of obtaining that piece of scroll at the end of our journey.

Self-charging Machines
This excellent facility at the UMLib saves time and you don’t have to queue during peak periods. Just borrow your books and charge them at the self-charging machine which is located at the entrance, and voila, you are as good as Go! My initial reservation with this machine was really unfounded because it’s totally easy to use and very client friendly. If you are having problems, a librarian will readily assist you.

The self charging machines

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The TV and Newspaper Lounge
This lounge is indeed a favourite to laze and catch up with current news (usually CNN) and get my daily dosage of Utusan Melayu and The New Straits Times which I don’t subscribe. A cosy and aesthetically vibrant corner, this is the place to get a breather after having locked myself in the carrel for hours. This facility certainly is a hit among many and during peak periods, there are hardly any seats available.

Online Databases
The online databases offer a varied selection and they are truly a blessing to update oneself with the latest in research and innovation. From ProQuest to EBSCO Host, these databases are crucial especially for researchers and some can also be accessed from home if one is an active member.

Children’s Corner (CC)

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Being the new kid on the block (pun intended), the CC is a new addition to the library. The CC is truly a heaven sent facility to those who need to multitask and come in with their children occasionally. With specially designed furniture for children, the CC is for children 12 years and below. Nevertheless, children must be supervised to prevent untoward incidents and excessive noise. Sometimes, you might find one or two individuals (children at heart?) lingering around and soaking up the ambience.

Over the years, UMLib has certainly lived up to the reputation of University of Malaya being a premier university. UMLib as an entity by itself has complemented the existence of UM with its myriad of up-to-date and relevant facilities. When I first returned to UM after 20 years, I was firstly impressed with its grand façade. It is no Bodleian of Oxford, but beneath its walls and pillars, it’s a private sanctuary for bookworms like me. And for that, I am truly grateful.

And to quote Ray Bradbury (my favourite author) once again, “Libraries raised me” and I thank God for this wonderful gateway called The UMLIb.

B) How I use UM Library ~ by Wong Yong Jie, from the Faculty of Engineering

The automatic doors open at my approach. Whiffs of literary scents assail my nostrils. My eyes are fixed onto the magnificent arrays of the condensed essence of wisdom. The collections of books allure me. As a saying goes, books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time. They support us in our struggles and lighten our burdens. They are the beacons of light when I am in the midst of hardships. The library of University Malaya (UM) never fails to astonish me whenever my gaze falls on rows upon rows of books. The books of philosophy, psychology, religion, sciences of history, language and literature, technology and et cetera, have opened a window, enabling me to travel anywhere in this world and beyond through their pages. Undoubtedly, the UM library is a treasure vault of knowledge which we should value.

In all my life, I have been an avid library attendee, even when it meant going to school a few minutes earlier to visit its library, or convincing my family to take me to the local library. No matter what, I am always eager to plunge into the sea of knowledge. I have participated in the libraries’ story-hours, used their computers, borrowed their books, and visited their educational programmes. When I entered UM, I appreciated its main library the most. It is important to determine which surrounding works best for you, and then build that environment to suit your study needs. For me, UM library is a very comfortable place for me to do my revision. I am sure that most of the students dislike doing revisions in stuffy rooms, as we would feel suffocated and lose our attention in studies. An air-conditioned environment and a good ventilation system make me feel more focused and refreshed compared to our hostel rooms.

Knowledge is infinite but here in UM library, all is readily available for grabs. UM library has an astounding collection of over 800,000 books and 20,000 e-books. When I have doubts, I can search for information among the collections of books regarding to my studies or my presentation topics. Beside academic books, I like to read novels especially mystery novels such as “The Sign of Three”. I believe that analytical thinking can be boosted by reading. I am able to put critical and analytical thinking to work by taking note of all the details provided and sorting them out to determine the murderer behind the scene. A well-written novel can transport me to other realms, while an engaging article can distract me from the petty worries of life and keep me in the present, draining away tensions and allowing me to relax.

The facilities in the library such as the self-charging machines are like spring rain. Self-photocopying service brings convenience to another level by fulfilling urgent needs in printing and photocopying. Documents can be copied quickly and cheaply. I can reproduce a document as many times as I wish with ease. As a library user, this increases the efficiency of getting our tasks done. Besides, vending machines selling coffee and other refreshing drinks as well as snacks can be found in the corner of the library’s ground floor. It is a good idea to have some time off after studying assiduously in the library. For a student like me whose time is too precious especially during preparation for final exam, instant coffee and breads are always the best choices for me.

There is a ship that would never sink, which is friendship. Most of my course mates live in different colleges, making it hard to find a place for group discussion. The green zone in the library provides me an ideal place to conduct group studies with my friends. We have the opportunity to meet and discuss the course materials, forming a strong bond between us. Through group studying, my mind is opened to new perspectives, and I have learnt a thing or two on adopting study skills that I never knew existed! We share ideas, experiences and knowledge selflessly. A problem that requires an hour to be done can be solved within a blink of an eye. After an intensive revision, we will soothe our tired minds by watching “National Geographic” or grabbing some light materials like newspaper or magazine on ground floor. Not only will this help us to relax, but it also enables us to know the global issues like the latest news of MH370 or the latest technology trends which we can never get from the textbooks.

Now we live in the world of IT. Finding books is no longer a matter of scouring the books one by one. Using the Pendeta Discovery in UM Library website, I can search for the book I want easily. Just type in the name of the author or title of the book and you can obtain its call number and location.  This really saves time as it can tell us the availability and location of the book. If I encounter problems, the kind and polite reference desk librarian will always be there to guide me. They will help me find the location of the book and show me the correct way of searching it.

In a nutshell, everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you will never know when it might come in handy. The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you will have to face. Additionally, here is a bit of food for thought: should you ever find yourself in dire circumstances, remember that although you can lose everything—your job, your possessions, your money, even your health—knowledge can never be taken away from you. UM library is just like a gold mine, allowing me to dig deeper and deeper, leading to more extraordinary discoveries. Come! Join me in the UM Library!

C) Dream come true ~ by Angelicia Anthony Thane, from the Faculty of Language and Linguistics

The familiar sensation rushes through my veins. The scent. Ah, yes, the smell of books. In fact, the room was brimming with them. I ran my fingers across the books as I walk between shelves. Then, he entered. Cropped jet black hair. Large, strong frame on which the red jersey fitted so well. He stood there with a book held in his hand. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Ah, fine taste!

ROOOMMIIIIEEEEE! WAKE UP! NOOOOWWWW!

I forced open my heavy eyelids.

“Roomie, get up. Time for you to imprison yourself in the library today,” Susan greeted me with her version of ‘Good morning, sunshine’.

I kicked back my blanket and sat up, still thinking of the dream. That strange, recurring dream for the past two weeks.

“You better hurry up. It’s nearly 8.30am. Luckily, it isn’t study week. Or else you’d be out of plug points by now,” teased Susan as she brushes her hair.

In less than 15 minutes, I was on my way to UM’s main library. It is my second home. Fast wifi, spacious and comfortable. Especially with its powerful air-conditioning system. My friends have likened the library to a giant refrigerator once. Well, when your room feels like a crammed oven, the library is your best escapade. Like today.

9.00 am

My favourite spot is still available, thank God! The library opens at 8.00am during weekdays. I try to be as early as possible so I can have my favourite spot. I need a power point for my laptop to function. There are plenty of them, no doubt. I just like having the large table all the way back on the third floor; away from any other library visitors and distractions. After setting my laptop up, I made way down to the locker area to have my daily dose of caffeine. Amazingly enough, the coffee machine serves one of the best coffees ever. One by one the lockers were filled signifying that the library is filling up.

10.15 am

Done checking my Facebook. Now it is time to work. Some literature search on Hong Kong English for Madam T’s class and an essay to write for Sociolinguistics. The Internet connection is stable as usual so I get to stream Hitz.FM while searching for my articles on the online databases. My lecturer has recommended sources on Cambridge database. Among the various subscriptions, I am especially fond of English Today. Loads of relevant articles, I only need time to read. But I have got all day.

12.30 pm

Grabbed some buns in KPS and met Leila! We sat on the benches provided in front of the library. We spoke of never-ending assignments and of matters like her cute cat, Jaafar. Apparently, she was in the library from morning too. Since, she is a postgraduate student, Leila was privileged to book a carrel. A carrel is a cosy room which offers you ultimate privacy for brain-cracking sessions. You will even be given a key so you can leave your things in the safely in the carrel while you have your quick meal. My visually impaired friend, Caleb also has his own designated carrel. His cubicle is much more spacious though. I must say it is of great convenience to him.

1.45 pm

I was still too full to write or do academic reading. Plopped myself on one of the comfortable chairs in the lobby and watched how viruses evolve on Discovery channel. It was horrifying in one sense but nonetheless fascinating. I noticed that the two other persons beside me had their eyes glued on the television LCD screen despite holding a copy of The Star & Berita Harian respectively in their hands. Hmm, I have not read today’s news yet. I usually do it online but the library provides free hardcopies daily.

3.20pm

I got a few book from the 2nd floor before returning to my seat. Time to write!

6.15 pm

Finally! Or else I will be accompanying Jane up to 10.30pm tonight. Had the library’s closing hours been earlier, she would end up in the nearest Starbucks- spending extra money just to finish her assignments. I am going to check out the fiction section I discovered on the 2nd floor just now before heading home. I scanned through the shelves looking for anything that will catch my interest. Tagore. Thackeray. Twain. Famous names. This must be the literature shelf. In the midst of books, I saw a familiar shade of red at the end of the shelf. The golden prints on it read…Tolstoy! Anna Karenina! Just like the one in my dream. As I reach to grab the book, another hand swiftly lifted it off the shelf.

“Excuse me!”

My sudden cry startled the tall, well- built stranger. “Errr, yes?” still retaining that quizzical look in his eyes.

He appeared to be ruggedly handsome in his red jersey and worn out jeans. Like one of those intelligent army men. Wait a minute. He is the guy in my dream! This cannot be happening. The sensation I knew so well washed over me.

Slightly embarrassed, I replied, “Sorry. It’s just that I saw that book first and I thought…”

“This?” he held up the book in his hands. “I never knew students would pick up Tolstoy. There are over 800k books in this place”.

I chuckled at his last line, “You sounded like a library promotion brochure”

“Yea, read it somewhere today”. He laughed nervously. “I am Julian by the way.

Here. I only wanted it for leisure reading,” as he handed me the book.

“Oh, no! I was going to read it for fun too. My name is Villemarie”

“Pretty name. Well, it’s nice to meet a fellow literary lover. Are you doing literature?”

“Thanks. Nope, linguistics. You?”

“Engineering. Have you read Vanity Fair by any chance?”

“Yes!” and thus our friendship began.

Work done, new knowledge, new friendship. What better way to use UM library? 😉

One thought on “Without libraries what have we?

  1. Enjoying myself reading above stories from our own friends/students in campus. Maybe we can publish it. At least for me, It’s fun and energetic and inspired us. Thanks UM libraries for providing us a world of knowledge and information.

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