Every three months, Ms Hemalatha R. Rajendran gets a free taxi ride… for a good cause. The 29-year-old co-curricular programmer with a local education services company is part of a group called Friends Of The Library which volunteers to deliver books to people who are physically challenged and can’t visit the library.
The service, called Project Deliver Me, was started in 2007 by the National Library Board (NLB) and helps the homebound gain access to the extensive library services available in Singapore.
Members indicate the types of books they like on a form when the volunteers visit and Friends Of The Library get the books to them with help from CabbyCare Charity Group, which provides free taxi trips. The volunteers can choose up to eight books or audio-visual materials from the list provided and deliver them to the members of the service.
Helping with this service fits in with Ms Rajendran’s busy schedule and her desire to be a volunteer and do something worthwhile with her free time.
“This is a little something I can do with whatever free time that I have. The people that I deliver books to have a passion for reading, it’s just that they can’t physically go to the library. Some of them are children and teenagers who are ill and can’t leave their house. Their disability shouldn’t stop them from reading,” she said.
Having signed up as an NLB volunteer two years ago, she started delivering books in the Jurong area before requesting for areas closer to her home in Telok Blangah. She even roped in two friends to the programme and recently introduced her cluster groups from work to sign on as volunteers.
Ms Rajendran and her friends are part of the 35,000 Friends Of The Library (FOL) volunteers who help to promote a love for reading in the community. An NLB spokesman said the volunteers are engaged through regular outreach activities and they help to enhance the experiences of library visitors at various library events and activities.
Delivering books is just one of the jobs Friends Of The Library do. They also spend time as storytellers in public libraries and at kidsREAD clubs, help as programme facilitators for Project Deliver Me, READ! Singapore Reading Clubs and Bookcross@Com- munity, join the Memory Corps for the Singapore Memory Project and play supporting roles for other reading and literacy-related activities.
And these volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds; from students to retirees as well as new migrants to Singaporeans like Mr Solaimalai Shiva, a financial executive who moved to Singapore from India more than four years ago.
Mr Shiva, who is on an employment pass, told tabla! that he heard about the FOL from a friend and decided to volunteer on an ad hoc basis at the libraries. The 30-year-old, who hails from Tamil Nadu, has been involved in various activities like educating library patrons in making full use of the facilities available to them, helping to maintain the library’s collection and supporting events like the recent NLB Book Sale.
“It is also a good way for me to get to know Singaporeans better by interacting with them and I’ve always liked to do some volunteer work as well. And the bonus is I am close to what I love, which is books,” he said.
Another newcomer who has volunteered her time with the library is engineer Kavitha Valliappan, who is a storyteller at the Bukit Batok library. Having volunteered at a library when she was based in Maryland in the United States for five years, she wanted to continue to share her love for reading when she moved to Singapore more than a year ago. Now, for the past year, she has been reading to young children twice a month books from the library’s collection.
“I was initially helping out in the other areas of the library when I found out about the storytelling programme. So I asked if I could be part of it and the library sent me to three workshops that teach you about storytelling. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading to the children and interacting with them. They always come up with such amazing responses to the stories,” said the 30-year-old Mrs Valliappan, who has a child of her own.
If you would like to be part of the Friends Of The Library programme, ask the staff at the counters of any public library for a hard copy of the Friends Of The Library resource guide or log on to https:// vms.nlb.gov.sg