Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Molly", the NLB Mobile Library Bus

Meet "Molly", NLB's Mobile Library Bus. Conceived about two years ago and launched today, on 3 Apr 2008.
Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly the Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus

Check out this time-lapse video of Molly's refurbishment (it's a 14-year old public transport bus from SBS, given a fresh lease of life):

Singapore had a mobile library service in the 1960s. At that time, there were only three library branches in the system (two public libraries and one National Library). The mobile library service of the 1960s was a means to bring library materials to more Singaporeans throughout the island. The mobile library service was retired around the late 1970s or early 1980s early 1990s, when more library branches were constructed in the HDB heartlands.

Today, the mobile library service is back again. Specifically, its aim is to reach the under-served (e.g. children's homes, orphanages, special needs schools), who for various reasons are unable to make their way to the 20 plus library branches that we have today.

Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus

Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus

Inside the bus:
  • Books (3,000 items)
  • One Borrowing Station
  • Two service counters
  • One e-Kiosk
Molly the Mobile Library Bus

Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus

Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus

Its wireless-enabled systems allow library transactions to be carried out where the bus goes. For most of Molly's outreach events, librarians would tag along to provide storytelling sessions, skits, arts and crafts activities, an onsite Advisory service etc.

The Pathlight School was chosen as the launch site for Molly.
Molly - Mobile Library Bus

The school is the "first autism-focused school in Singapore that offers the mainstream academic curriculum, together with life readiness skills". More about the school, here.

In conjunction with the Molly's launch, an art competition was held for Pathlight students:
Molly - Mobile Library Bus

Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus Molly - Mobile Library Bus

This was a winner for the Upper Primary category. My colleagues and I had a laugh when we took a closer look at the drawing. It says, "I like to draw on the books". Not library books, we hope! LOL
Molly - Mobile Library Bus

This piece proudly says, "I love Science Fiction".
Molly the Mobile Library Bus

Yeah, my kind of reader!

The NLB project team also produced a build-your-own Molly paper cut-out kit.
Molly the Mobile Library Bus

The completed paper kit:
Molly - Mobile Library Bus

Pretty good resemblance, I think :)
Molly - Mobile Library Bus

[UPDATE: More posts about Molly from OLKGAL, here and here]

Additional details about Molly, from the NLB Media Release:
NLB launches prototype mobile library service to offer a taste of what its libraries can offer to underserved groups. Public will be able to sample the library experience with targeted collections of over 3,000 books, electronic transaction facilities and library programmes.

SINGAPORE, 3 April 2008 – The National Library Board (NLB) today launched a prototype mobile library service that brings the library experience to the underserved to encourage them to become active users of the public libraries. The prototype mobile library comes in the form of a bus named “Molly, the Mobile Library”. Institutions and organisations such as children’s homes, orphanages, special education schools and selected primary schools are some of the places Molly will visit to promote reading and lifelong learning.

“With the support of our partners, The Enterprise Challenge, SBS Transit Ltd, NEC Asia Pte Ltd, Advance Interactive Technologies Pte Ltd and Wavex Technologies Pte Ltd, we hope that Singaporeans who have so far been unable to use our public libraries will now be able to develop a passion for reading through Molly,” said Dr N. Varaprasad, Chief Executive, National Library Board.

The service reaches out to underserved groups with over 3,000 customised books during each visit, based on the user profile of the target audience at the destination. While onboard, patrons can perform electronic transactions such as the borrowing of books, checking of personal loan information and payment of fees and charges via Ez-link. Where space is available on-site, a variety of programmes typically offered at public libraries will also be included in Molly’s visit to allow patrons to sample the library experience. These could consist of activity-based workshops such as art workshops and/or performance and edu-tainment such as magic shows and music performances.

In the sixties, mobile library services were introduced to help ease the overwhelming demand for the services at the main building in Stamford Road. Now, Molly, the Mobile Library, returns to deliver library books, facilities and programmes to entice potential users and attract underserved groups NLB’s network of 22 public libraries around the island for their lifelong learning needs.

Institutions or organisations interested for Molly to visit them can email their request to NLB at


  1. "It says, "I like to draw on the books". Not library books, we hope! LOL"
    Ivan, I know you were mostly joking about hoping the child didn't draw in the book, but I think there is a librarian kernel of truth to that statement, which is something that also popped up in Gleeson Gleanings recently. What is the reasoning behind the steadfast rule of not allowing patrons to write in books? What if instead of downright refusal there was some leeway in what a patron could do with a book? For example, what if there was a special pencil that could be erased easily when the book was returned?

    I know that one of the reasons I often buy books instead of checking them out is that I prefer to write in the book. This may be specific to academic materials, but as students become more comfortable in online spaces (which encourage "writing in the margins" by contributing to the conversation) it may be harder and harder to explain to them why the same is not allowed for print materials.

    To continue my critique of the rule, I think it creates a hierarchy between the author and the reader that shouldn't necessarily exist. Who are we (or who is the library) to say that the reader doesn't have something valuable to contribute to what the author wrote? Maybe instead of worrying about erasing notes from the margins we should work on building in margins that allow for collective authorship. Not to shake up the library too much... :-)

  2. this is just lovely! we're jealous!

  3. @Sharon/ bibliobibuli: Thanks. But don't be!

    @Sara: I like your idea of allowing the reader to "contribute" to the book. But not on current print copies. The rule exists because the book is public property and not all readers enjoy reading scribblings of others. I mean, people who spray grafitti may say it's a legitimate form of expression but others might say it's vandalism (even if the art is nice). The library rule seems more as a result of the limitation of Print, rather than libraries insisting on adherance to the rule. Perhaps eBooks/ eReaders may offer the solution to your idea.

  4. Anonymous11:27 pm


    congratulations to you and your colleagues ivan for the launch of the mobile library. what an inspiration. what a treat for singaporeans.

    btw, i love the build-your-own molly paper cut-out kit.

  5. Anonymous12:32 am

    What an incredible project. The design is great - a combination of friendly appeal and high tech coolness.

    Also, I seriously want one of those paper cut-outs of the Molly bus. My name is Molly! And I'm a librarian! Maybe you can save one for me, for when I come visit in July?

  6. @Molly: Hey, I'm looking forward to meeting you in Singapore (Jude told me about you). I'll give you the paper cut-outs. And it's possible to give you a tour of the bus if you wish, as well as meet my colleagues behind the project.

  7. Actually, the last stops for the mobile library bus were shut down in 14 Jan 1991.

    You should see what stuff kids can make out with the Molly paper model.

  8. Anonymous12:05 pm

    This is really cool - check out this link as reported in the Singapore media (in Mandarin):

  9. Just read about Molly today. I can imagine how excited the kids must be whenever they board it. Definitely something any public library should offer. How we envy Singapore NLB!

  10. Hey Jewelle, Molly just celebrated her first birthday recently. :)


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