Book Fairies in KL

By: Ruthravathy Tenaigaran

Long ago, book lovers would dash into public libraries for the delight of reading. As the years go by, the tradition of visiting libraries has not passed from sight. In fact, libraries are no longer a building with collection of books. Now it can be found in the middle of hectic cities too!

Ever heard of Books On The Move?

Previously known as Books On The Underground, the movement is a brilliant idea created by Hollie Fraser in the UK and now it has expanded to over 14 countries around the world including Malaysia. The movement encourages more people to read and share the joy of reading by swapping books around.

In support of a global book sharing initiative, Books On The Move Malaysia collaborated with Biji-biji Initiative, Me.reka MakerspaceThink CityPrasaranaYouth Made Malaysia and the British High Commission KL to build environmentally friendly mobile libraries at Ampang Park, KL Sentral and Pasar Seni LRT station.

Why Train Stations?

People are always on the go from one place to another. They barely have time for reading. They also find it difficult to visit public libraries to pick up a book. Day by day as technology slowly takes control over people’s lives, the reading habits vanishes into thin air.

According to the Adult and Youth Literacy: National Regional and Global Trends report published in 2016 stated that out of 85% of Malaysians who read regularly, 77% preferred newspapers, 3% read magazines, 3% read books and 1.6% read comics. There is still room for improvement in trying to attain a literacy rate of 99% by 2020 and enhance the quality of the material read.

Thus, installing a mini library at train stations is a great way to encourage people to pick up a book and read while travelling to somewhere. Plus, it’s free! Drop a book, take a book and keep it going! This way we can encourage and help to nurture love for reading in our society.

Lines of books dropped by book fairies

Why Biji-biji Initiative?

At Biji-biji Initiative, we make everything as sustainable and durable as possible. We reduce the negative impact on the environment and our community. Also, we educate the public on what we do in order to raise environmental awareness. Our team members are not only expertise in construction, but also in design. Thus, our art installations are of high quality and ethical!

This would be our first project with Books On The Move and we managed to come up with what caters to the needs of the users. Read on to know how we did it.

Behind the scene

Students were given opportunities to come up with the prototypes through our workshop at Me.reka Makerspace. They were challenged to display creative skills for innovation. After some effective brainstorming sessions and discussions with our team members, they came up with three different prototypes, each with a different notion.  

Students and their prototypes

Meanwhile, the backdrop and bookshelves were constructed at the Biji-biji factory.

Diesel drum barrels painted and left to dry out in the sun

“The materials used are sustainable. Like, the OSB board that we used as the backdrop is made of discarded woodchips. While the bookshelves are made of upcycled diesel drum barrels,” said Nicholas Sheum, the Project Director.

Nicholas, glueing alphabets made of  plywood on the OSB board

Each library has a unique theme:

Circles of Unity (Ampang Park Library)

The circle represents the unity of the multicultural society in Malaysia. Selected quotes were written in the circles to showcase the capability of local writers to write in multilingual languages. The colours of the bookshelves (red, yellow and blue) represent Jalur Gemilang while a lower rack of the bookshelves is specially designed for smaller children to reach books.

Selected quote from local novelist, Tan Twan Eng from his bestselling book-The Garden of Evening Mists

Wayang Kulit (KL Sentral)

It is the famous traditional performing arts of shadow puppetry, thus it is a good choice to be showcased to younger generations to keep it alive. If you look closely, the outline of the Wayang Kulit is drawn like DNA molecules, shaped like twisted ladder. Also, the bookshelf is shaped like DNA structure!

Books arranged on the bookshelf  to be shared

UK and Malaysia (Pasar Seni)

The British colonial period has long gone, but there are always strong ties between Malaysia and the United Kingdom. For this reason, the iconic Twin Tower and Big Ben Clock Tower are  drawn side by side on the backdrop, with rectangular books pattern filling in the outline. Meanwhile, the chairs and bookshelf painted in blue and red represent Union Jack.

People can rest on the chair made of diesel drum barrel

“I am extremely grateful for this awesome art installation by Biji-biji Initiative! From developing the prototype to production, they really showcased brilliant skills, mainly to promote sustainability,” said Carol Koh who runs the movement.

Carol Koh carefully arranging donated books on the bookshelves

For those who would like to donate books in bulk, can kindly drop them at our book donation space in Me.reka Makerspace.

Life is much better if we share good thing, so let’s keep the movement going!

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