When then National Library launched Singapore’s first mobile library in 1960, it was to serve residents living in the rural districts. Today, with permanent branch libraries in our housing estates, our mobile library has taken on the role of bringing our library services to the underserved communities.

In 2008, the National Library Board (successor to the National Library) relaunched the mobile library to reach out to children with special needs, those living in orphanages, and residents of senior citizens’ homes. Since then, MOLLY, as the mobile library is called today, has gone through a few upgrading with the latest—launched just this September—being equipped with a wheelchair lift to better serve the users that she visits.

MOLLY runs seven days a week, and travels to each stop on a tri-weekly cycle to coincide with the library’s loan period for its materials. Here, we follow the mobile library to Eden School at Bukit Batok, which caters to children with autism.

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At 9.30 am, MOLLY arrives at Eden School. The bus, which stores up to 3,000 books, is so massive that it takes 10 minutes of precise maneuvering to park it along the kerb so that visitors can conveniently hop on and off. 
 
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Before receiving the students, driver Koh Poh Hong cleans up the library, while part-time library officer, Chia Tai Hoon, adds more picture books to the shelves. The Eden School students who will visit MOLLY today prefer books with many pictures as they help them follow the story.
 
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Class by class, the students hop on to MOLLY. Almost every single one of them heads straight for the books, picking out the one that appeals to them most. In the next 10 minutes or so, they read silently to themselves. Teachers are within earshot to help fill in the words that they don't know.
 
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It happens quite often that two kids want to read the same book – an opportunity for their teachers to encourage sharing.
 
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The students get to pick whatever books they want to borrow, regardless of difficulty. Some picks include, Places: Stories from the eastern part of Singapore and a cupcake recipe book, which are actually intended for the teachers and parents
 
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MOLLY is equipped with an internal bookdrop and borrowing stations, customised to the average height of children. Students can borrow books with their library card, just like how they would do it in the public libraries, and return them when MOLLY next visits or at any public library.
 
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Sometimes, the students need help remembering the books that they have borrowed. Their teachers will send a picture of the checkout receipts to parents, who will then keep a look out for the books at home, and remind them to return on time.
 
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Student, Chong Yong Jun, wants to borrow a book but he forgot his library card. He gets upset and mutters, "I want library card. I want borrow book." His teacher, Rose Therese Pollescas, assures him that she will send a picture of the book to his mum so they can borrow it from the public library later. “Sad,” he says. "I know Yong Jun is sad," Rose replies.
 
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When Yong Jun seems to have cheered up a little, Rose asks, "Did we fix the problem or not?" "It's not a problem," he exclaims, before flashing a smile.
 
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After being prompted by his teachers to draw on the whiteboard, Jaylen Lai (left), who is nine and loves big vehicles, draws his version of MOLLY. He even recites its vehicle plate number. Fellow classmate, Wong Yu Xuan (right), also nine, likes the Peppa Pig cartoon so much that she can draw out the characters without referring to any pictures. The whiteboard, a new feature in this latest version of MOLLY, is designed to spark children's creativity.
 
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Like the public libraries, MOLLY holds programmes such as storytelling for its young visitors. MOLLY librarian, Lee Siew Ting, reads from The Gruffalo, a book about a mouse who invents a monster friend to scare off his predators. This monster, the mouse imagines, has "terrible claws", which the students try to mimic. According to their teacher, acting out the words helps them understand the meanings better. To help keep the students engaged, Siew Ting also peppers them with many questions while reading— “Are you afraid of monsters?”; "What sound does an owl make?"
 
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More often than not, students do not return the books to their original spot, so it’s left to Tai Hoon to sort them for the next class. Between 9.30 am and 4.30 pm, MOLLY receives 12 classes and about 120 students. 

No two classes are the same for our MOLLY librarians, just like no two students ever read the “same book”. The same book can mean different things to different people, as we all bring our own experiences and knowledge to the books we read, and take away new ideas each time we read it. But one thing remains constant for MOLLY and our librarians - making our library services inclusive, and spreading the joy of reading to different communities.