Malaysian bookaholics have long moaned about the state of the country's libraries. (I recently moaned about the Shah Alam library, for one!) But rather than whine and hope that the government would do something about, some communities have come together to form non-profit libraries.
One of the most notable ones is the Subang Jaya Book Exchange, located in the bowels of USJ, Selangor. The local council had generously gave the group a little cabin where books donated by the the community are kept. Before, the group, which was founded in 2009, had operated from a five foot way.
When I first got to the cabin, I was admittedly a little worried. It was very quiet and looked nothing like what I imagined a library to be. I only knew I was in the right place from the sign that hung on the fence around the cabin.
I took off my shoes and went inside...
How it works
Bring a book to exchange for another from the library.
Fiction is exchanged for fiction, non-fiction for non-fiction.
On that first day, I had heaps of books to donate but didn't take many books, so I was given a token indicating the number of books I could still take from the library. (For example: Donated ten books, but took only two books. So was given an 8-book token.)
They may not have a huge collection, but the Subang Jaya Book Exchange still has an impressive number of genres in that little cabin. Yes, you get your Grishams, Kings and Pattersons, but you also get rare literary finds as you can see on the pic on the right.
Their non-fiction collection, however, isn't terribly big or note-worthy. The exchange is best for fiction lovers.
The library is open once a fortnight - the first and third Sunday of the month - from 3pm to 5pm. However, be sure to check their Facebook page as sometimes they may not open due to lack of volunteers to man the library or open an extra day too.
How to donate books
I have to admit it - when I first heard about their "no old books" rule, I was miffed. But I can understand why: the exchange has limited space, they can't just accept everything. Also, moldy, stained, old books are not good for health. And text books are not accepted as most of the exchange's readers don't read text books, naturally. So, if you want to donate books read their guidelines and FAQ first.
The Subang Jaya Book Exchange do get the oddest donations from people - brochures or exam papers, for one! Once, I even heard someone ask the volunteers to recycle items for them!
Update on 14 July 2019: Sadly, The Subang Jaya Book Exchange is now closed as they’ve lost the cabin. Here’s their Facebook post announcing the sad news. This is really depressing news as Subang Jaya is in dire need of a good library. It makes me wonder whether something can be done by the community to get some kind of space where the community can enjoy books … without fear of losing the physical space.