It was an honour to accept Bhante Cakkapala’s request to revive and revamp the dormant library and made use of the existing books which would otherwise lie idle in waste. The Rahula Room was designated as the library. A formidable team was assembled at first attempt comprised of Brother Yeap Cheow Soon, Brother Chan Tuck Sing, Sister Ng Wan Eng and myself. It was fortunate for each member is a professional in his or her field to tap upon their invaluable experience collectively to revive and administer the new library. All of us are from the evening classes and Brother Yeap also attends Sunday class.
Voluminous collection of books
A large collection of about two thousand five hundred copies of book were transferred from Chew Quee Neo Hall. They were individually cleaned up with paper kitchen towels, wet and dry cleaning cloths and a hand held vacuum cleaner to get rid of the dust, dirt and filth, accumulated over a period of half a century with some books donated in 1960. Many non-Buddhist books were removed from the shelf. To enrich and enlarge the Library, books from the Reading Corner including numerous Chinese Buddhist books were catalogued and added to the collection. A section on Burmese Buddhist literature was also established for the Myanmar devotees and community.
Contributions for revival
The revival process would not be possible without contributions from the Library team members who singly and collectively provided not only time, effort, expertise but also material support to revamp the new Library. To revival and revamp the Library without automation is anachronistic.
Collective contributions from the library team included three laptops with peripherals like mouse, all-in-one printer, barcode reader, portable optical scanner with OCR software, LED monitor and library application software. Other contributions included, but not limited to stationery like adhesive barcode, location code and protective labels, book repair kits and DIY materials like glue and gum, “non-sticky” cellophane wrapping sheets, adhesive tapes and other ancillary stationery. Furniture like three-step ladder, a foldable table for laptop, bookends and a receptacle for book-drop to contain books are among the other contributions and not forgetting herbal repellant to preserve the books from infested by insects.
Additional books and Nikayas and Buddhist literature were purchased from two major bookshops during the trip to Sri Lanka in October 2014 to the sum of SLR 115,289.50 with contributions from MV Management, donors and well-wishers. The library team was also among the list of donors, is available from the link Acquisition of books for the revamped Mangala Vihara Library | Buddhism and Daily Living. An ideal Library should have a comprehensive collection to cater to the needs of most users, thus a Burmese section with a collection of 210 copies of book were acquired by Bhante Cakkapala during his visit to Myanmar in early January, with donation amounting to $500.00 from Burmese devotees and well-wishers and $400 from the library team together with Brothers Raymond Yow and Hing Sing Huat and Sisters Lily Chan and Suriaty ‘Sue’ Simon.
Automation of the Library
About 1,800 volumes were catalogued under primary classifications like Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, Chinese collections and Burmese collections. They are further sub-classified under themes like Pali Canon which comprises of the Sutta Pitaka of five Nikayas. The Khuddaka Nikaya further lists the 18 books; likewise the Abhidhamma Pitake further lists the 7 books. Other themes include The Life of Buddha, Teachings, Buddhist Philosophy and Mahayana text among others. A computer system was employed using an application specifically designed by Brother Yeap Cheow Soon to manage the Library. The application software also has a module to cater for registration of members to borrow books. A unique feature of the application is the search function where an author or title is selected, and if successful will include the cover page and content page to provide more information to a user.
The data input and scanning of the images were tedious tasks, but in the good hands of an expert in Brother Yeap Cheow Soon and the deft finger work of Sister Ng Wan Eng together with the many Burmese volunteers it was a smooth sailing. All the books were individually inputted into the computer system and tagged with a barcode label affixed on the inside cover for tracking, easy search and reference. The cover and content page of each book were also scanned to provide more information to the user. The images of the content pages were converted into text file using OCR (optical character recognition) software for the search function. The books were then reshuffled and shelved according to specifically assigned shelves based on subjects, themes or topics.
To facilitate ease of locating the books from the designated shelves, a location code was assigned to each book with a printed adhesive label affixed on the spine of the book. The affixation of barcode label on the inside cover and the location code label on the spine with a protective transparent label over it on each copy individually were laborious tasks.
Wrapping, Repair and Restoration of Books
Many out-of-print antique valuable Buddhist books in depilated state were repaired and restored by Brother Chan Tuck Sing who lent his expertise and experience from his book printing business provided handy work to render the books readable and gave guidance to some Burmese volunteers the dexterous skill in book restoration in additional to wrapping the books.
Shelving and display of books for loan and reference use
The books are displayed on the shelves as assigned by the location code pertinent to subjects, themes and topics. The library system is also designed to cater for loaning of books where a borrower’s membership is stored in the system to ease administration on borrowing and return of books. Books designated for reference are not available for loan and the computer system will prompt with a message to alert the borrower. It also tracks the movement of the books and generates a list of borrowers with books past the due dates.
Trial runs and testing
The system passed a trial test on reliability, efficiency and accuracy. A simulated transaction was created staring off with registration of a new member, borrowing a book and return on due date with the system tracking it. Borrowers with books past the due were prompted by the system to alert duty staff to follow up with a SMS.
A recruitment drive to enlist volunteers to man the Library during operation time attracted a dozen of volunteers. For readers who are interested to volunteer for the library may visit the site: Mangala Vihara Library needs Volunteers | Buddhism and Daily Living for enlistment.
General guidelines and opening hours
The library is opened to all users of Mangala Vihara and a set of guidelines was drawn up to administer the operations, like general conduct of users, books borrowing and books donation policies. The library is managed by MV Dhamma Fellowship with volunteers from the English class, Mandarin class, Burmese class, evening class student members and Buddhist Pali College. The opening days and operation hours are Thursday from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm and Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm, is subject to changes, from time to time as the case may be, without notice.
Last but not least the library project team would like to thank all the volunteers and helpers who had in one way or another rendered their services and time in cleaning, sorting, restoring, repairing, arranging the books, data inputting, scanning the images, shelving the books, tidying up the place and disposing of discarded books.
The library project mooted and commenced in mid-August 2014 took about five months to complete and operational on 25th January 2015. Eight of the thirteen Library volunteers who were present were assigned IDs and passwords to operate the system after the hands-on guidance by the Library team.
We welcome readers to browse the collections and be a volunteer to manage the Library.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
MV Library Project
Date: 25th January 2015.