Friday, January 17, 2014

It's a sign

I'm a huge fan of the signs found inside the lifts of big shopping malls. They are always handy when you're rushing to a movie and you enter the mall with no idea whatsoever about where the theatre is. Instead of spending precious seconds/minutes (that are threatening to come between you and the trailers) to find the mall directory, you just rush into the nearest lift and there you have it - the sign that tells you which button to press to go the theatre.

I'm also a huge fan of Singapore's free public library system, and am a regular at the Marine Parade public library. I may not have used it much in my pre-Xena days, but it's such a blessing now. Raising a TV-free and iPad-free child means that you need books - lots and lots of books. Books that you can simply return when you're done, instead of buying and hoarding them. Books that you can simply borrow again if your child suddenly misses them and wants them back (happens a lot more than I'd expected!). I make a visit to the library every fortnight and come back armed with about a dozen books.

The Marine Parade library is a relatively small one, with just one lift catering to the four floors. There's a sign outside the lift telling you which level has which type of books, but it is often blocked by the hordes of people waiting to get into the solitary tiny lift. Since I'm a regular and I only go to the children's section at the moment, I know where my destination is. But I have often noticed that many people rush into the lift without noticing the sign outside, and then looking a bit lost inside as to which button to press. It does not help that one of the buttons, the one between levels 1 and 2, simply says 'M'. (I believe it's some kind of 'Middle floor', constructed later to hold books for young people.)

I wondered how cool it would be if just like the shopping malls, the library lift also had a sign inside. So on a whim, I went to the main library's website and wrote in my tiny suggestion to install a sign inside the lift as well. I wrote to the very generic email address they have under 'Contact us', not really expecting anything. Instantly, I received an automated email to tell me that they would respond to me within three working days.

I'd sent my email on 15th January at 9:16 am and on the same day at 10:24 am, I received a reply... from a person! Wow. Of course, he only told me that they would share my feedback with the library manager. So that was that. Honestly, I didn't have any other expectations. I was just thrilled that there was a human being behind the generic email address! I didn't have any high hopes of my tiny piece of feedback making it anywhere. The library surely had more important matters to discuss in its meetings, such as 'Oh no! This generation does not read!', or 'We started lending DVDs to make more people come to the library and be exposed to books, and now they're only borrowing the DVDs!', or 'Should we tear the library down and build yet another shopping mall?' Even if my input made its way into the AOB section of their meetings under 'Extremely trivial matters', they would probably have to consult the other 25 branches to see if they all agreed. What if some of the libraries didn't have the space in their lifts for the sign because of all the posters? Would they dare to be inconsistent?

Clearly, I was thinking too much. So I stopped thinking.

And that's when they bowled me over.

On 16th January, at 10:18 am (just over 24 hours of receiving my feedback), they wrote to me, "We are pleased to inform you that the Library Manager at the Marine Parade Public Library has taken on board your suggestion and will be installing the signage on the inside of the lift. Thank you very much for your good idea."

Wow. Gotta love Singapore. :)



7 comments:

ioyces said...

Great idea indeed! :D And so nice to read about positive actions and outcomes!

Sri said...

Wow...Singapore seems to be such a wonderful place after so much of bureaucracy in India!

PeeV ee said...

Such a satisfying moment that must have been! :)

And 'TV-free, iPad-free' stuck out - kudos!

Arun said...


A good suggestion, quickly acted upon, now that is something the world can learn from Singapore. If only they would take the suggestion :)

But, I read a few days ago an essay by Kishore Mahbubani, where he mentions some Indian leader being dismissive, "India has nothing to learn from Singapore" type of attitude. :(

chengiz said...

Nice! Reminds me of the time I sent an email to our US library requesting a book on Indian history and they wrote back in two days saying we've ordered it and will let you know when it comes.

Prathima said...

It is probably this progressive attitude and efficiency that has made Singapore what it is today.

Nobody said...

Trying to improve the experience in a library, which is free in the first place... Wow!