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Sorry, No Outside Books Allowed In The Library

When I was in England, whenever I wanted to have a quiet afternoon to have a little reading, or do some writing; I’d go to the library. Be it the City Council Library or the library at the university I was both teaching and studying at, I never had a problem getting in and have something done. No one checks my bag, or the books or notes I was bringing in with me. If you steal, the door will scream at you.

The Singapore National Library presents a great-looking exterior and comfortable-looking interior, and does offer some books (well I do have problem sourcing for some titles). It is tempting to spend a luxurious afternoon in there.

My first time visiting the library, I had Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream with me. I was stopped by the security guard on duty, and had to go in without it – there is a locker system where you can place all your bags and belongings in – securely – hmm…


Today, I had with me a few written essays, which my human students did from plenty of research taken from the library (so they said). What’s the best place to mark these essays, in order to verify their references’ authenticity? The library, of course!

I was stopped by the security guard again.

“There are too many notes, you are only allowed to bring in a couple of blank sheets of paper.” He said, very politely, referring to the essay papers.

“No, Sir (Please note that I’m writing this in a more international context, referring to my also-polite manner. If I really have addressed him as ‘Sir’, he would have thought I’m nuts – for God’s sake, that is Asia!), these are my students’ papers and I need to…” I tried to explain my objectives.

‘But there are just too many notes, who knows you can be studying your own notes?”

What? Are we only limited to only reading the library-owned books in a library? Is this a policy in Singapore? This reminds me of the restaurants’ little sign on the door: “No outside food or drinks allowed on this premises.” It sure sounds like that to me. And do note that he was still referring to my papers as ‘notes’. #-o

I insisted that I cannot see the point of the policy, and he ESCORTED me to the librarian. I explained the situation to her. I got in, finally.

It was the right place to do the grading, until this bunch of Chinese teenagers came in and sat right next to me, and chatted like nobody’s business. Now where on earth is that overly responsible security guard?

I left shortly. And I’m not coming back. Ever


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