Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Penang public library

I decided to visit the Penang Public Library in Seberang Jaya, Province Wellesley on the mainland of Penang today. Haven't been there for quite a while. Despite it being the middle of the week, there were people inside. Mostly doing their reading but there were a few who were nodding off on the easy chairs. Don't blame them, of course, because the library was so darn conducive for this kind of activity.

As for me, I headed towards the mini-exhibition on the upper floor of the building. The library had put together some interesting facts on the Governors of Penang.

Prior to Independence in August 1957, there was a whole list of people who had been appointed Resident Councillors, Resident Commissioners, Governors, Lieutenant Governors and even a Military Governor. Some were appointed only in an acting capacity. There were those who served for several years but there were also those whose tenure lasted only for a few months. Interestingly, during the period of Japanese Occupation in the Second World War, several Japanese military bigwigs assumed this post in Penang. They might have brought terror to the people here but to their credit, crime was at a minimum level.

Francis Light was, of course, considered as the very first person to govern the Prince of Wales' Island, as Penang was called initially. He was the first Superintendent of the island from 1786 till his death in 1794.

From the upper floor of the Penang Public Library, I wandered downstairs to the Lincoln Corner which was set up in 2008 as a collaborative effort between the Library and the American Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. This is only one of several Lincoln Corners in the country.

If the aim was to share information on Americana with Malaysians, I must say that I wasn't much impressed by the current collection of books and magazines. It was really very modest. I really believe that the United States Embassy could have done better. Surely, there is a wealth of cultural information to share with us through your books. And surely too, your magazines can do with better up-to-date copies. The latest copy of any magazine I saw was dated October 2012, and this was already June 2013 when I visited.

But I know that there will be people who will say that my criticism is unwarranted. Perhaps they are correct because I am actually measuring this little Lincoln Corner against the original yardstick which was the immensely grand USIS Library that used to occupy India House at the corner of Beach Street and Church Street Ghaut for about 18 years until November 1970. Walking into the place then was like walking into a very august institution with all sorts of hallowed traditions. Really missed that place.

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