Never Without A Book: Long-Time Librarian And Reading Advocate

Throughout her 40 years as a librarian, Mrs Kiang-Koh Lai Lin has been a stalwart figure in advocating reading.

As a child, Mrs Kiang-Koh Lai Lin was never found without a book. She would stay in her room to read instead of playing outside with her cousins. After graduating from the then Nanyang University in 1973, she felt it was a natural move to become a librarian and make it her mission to promote reading.

She made an impact on children early on, starting youth reading clubs at the library. As the former Director of Reading Initiatives at the National Library Board (NLB), she launched national reading campaigns such as the kidsREAD programme in 2004 for children aged four to eight from low-income families. A year later, she started the Read! Singapore initiative to promote a culture of reading fiction among teens and older readers, including senior citizens.

Mrs Kiang-Koh feels strongly for these campaigns, because reading “provides equal opportunities to acquire knowledge for all”.

In 2005, she set up a reading club for taxi drivers to discuss Chinese-language books. She has even gone to extreme lengths, getting haircuts every three weeks just to encourage hairdressers to read widely. “Everyone needs exposure to books,” she says.

The 64-year-old is affectionately known as Singapore’s reading ambassador among librarians. At the 2011 kidsREAD Volunteers Appreciation Day, the emcee recognised Mrs Kiang-Koh and told the audience that she “used to tell stories to him as a little boy” at the Bukit Merah Public Library.

Mrs Kiang-Koh retired from the NLB in 2014, but continues to promote reading and storytelling. She is now a consultant at the National Archives of Singapore, helping to document the oral histories of grassroots leaders and public officers.

    Jul 1, 2015
    Janice Tan
    Norman Ng
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