Penang’s marvelous ‘library in a park’


GEORGE TOWN: You’ve probably not been to Penang for some time if you think “digital library” means nothing more than an “online database of text and digital objects”. To proud Penangites, the term refers to an actual brick, mortar, glass and metal facility to which you go in order to get some reading done.

But unlike in traditional physical libraries, there is not a single shelf of books and no stern-looking librarian sitting at a desk to say “Shh” if you sneeze or speak above a whisper. Instead, you go there to read ebooks on tablet computers that you can rent or on your own devices.

The Penang Digital Library has been around for a couple of years, but its Phase 2 was launched at the end of last month. It vastly improves on Phase 1, a double-story building that was previously the residence of the Penang Free School’s headmaster.

The Phase 1 building could hardly accommodate 80 people and was always crowded. That was why former chief minister Lim Guan Eng came up with the idea for Phase 2, which has seating for more than 500 people. The new phase was achieved by restoring another bungalow situated just across from the erstwhile headmaster’s residence.