Last week, I got an email from the National Library Board telling me that the 40 books we borrowed before the Circuit Breaker were finally due. Yup, we panic-borrowed a ton of kids' books a day before CB measures kicked in, and now, almost four months later (btw, libraries reopened on July 1), it was time to return "Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs" and friends. I mean, four months is a pretty good grace period, and I don't even want to think what the fine would be if we missed our July 21 due date, so off to the library we go.
On the morning of July 21 and not a day sooner (yeah, I live on the edge — this was the due date for everyone who had borrowed books before the CB), I decided to check out the NLB website for our library's opening hours. Only then was I reminded that visits are now limited to half an hour, and reserving a time slot is encouraged. At 9am, I managed to get an 11am slot, and instructed the kids that we must not be late, or we will miss our time slot. We got to Bedok Library at 10.55am, took five minutes to dump our 40 books into the book drop outside the library (we had grown really fond of these books after four months, so it was hard to part with them), and at 11am, joined the queue to enter the library. There were two queues — one for those who had made reservations (we were the only ones in that queue) and one for those who didn't (this queue wasn't that long either — about six in the line and they were letting people in quite quickly, as the library wasn't crowded on a weekday).
After the usual temperature taking and SafeEntry scans, we were in. I hustled the kids to the children's section, told them to pick out a few books, not touch anything unnecessarily and keep a safe distance away from other people (capacity is limited 50 people per floor). Then it was time for me to pick out books. It had to be a balance of efficiency (I wanted to borrow as many books as possible so we didn't have to keep coming back to the library), quality (we don't want books that were not suitable for us) and speed ('cos only 30 minutes). I was a library veteran so I achieved 35 books in 25 minutes. In between picking out books, I also had to make sure my two kids stay at least 1m away from others, keep their masks on, don't try to sit on any of the chairs and tables or resting spaces (these have all been cordoned off anyway), and follow the library's usual golden rules, pandemic or not: No running and playing and no shouting.
The last five minutes were left for borrowing the books (35 books take a while to scan), and we made it in the nick of time, when the chime came over the PA system that our session was over. Phew. Stressful? Mildly. But we had our 35 books, and we were ready for another four months in... Just Kidding.
FYI, any books you borrow now will only be due in six weeks instead of the usual three weeks. If you're heading to the library, take note of the shorter opening hours, 11am to 7pm, and that you can only go in to borrow and return books, and not to read, sit or study. All programmes such as reading sessions have been suspended. You can check the crowd capacity in real time at go.gov.sg/library-visit-crowd.
Hope this helps anyone looking to head to the library. Just remember — you can't just turn up and expect to be let in. As with many things in the New Normal, planning ahead and making reservations is essential, or you risk being turned away or having to wait.
Happy reading! More info at https://www.nlb.gov.sg.
(Main pic of Bedok Public Library courtesy of NLB)