Frustration & (shameful) fuss-freakout at Lee Kong Chian Ref Library

The Lee Kong Chian Ref Library is my new most disliked spot in town/in Singapore/in the library world.

Which is tragic, because it’s a really lovely place to read & work in. I’m talking about Level 11, where the Singapore/SEA stuff is stored. Big picture windows with a view of the city skyline without the city heat & traffic, beautifully hushed atmosphere of adult readers (students don’t seem to have discovered it yet) & air-con that’s not too cold.

And I fell in love with the place, I must say, when I found out they had microfilm copies of my early early early published work–even the old short stories like ‘Inner Strength’ (contemporary med student with ancient Chinese healing powers) & ‘Dragons’ (reptile metamorphoses in the English Dept) & ‘Alicia Andiporta’ & ‘Leaving Big Mouse Island’ & ‘Fury Signifying Nothing’… & many many more I had forgotten I’d written… & donated the manuscripts to the Nat Lib on request. Who’d have thought they would keep them? & so well? In those days I was writing on a typewriter & sending out my one presentable draft–figuring if it wasn’t accepted it wasn’t worth keeping.

And I thought, maybe I’ll go get copies & see whether I can get a book of short stories published… after all ‘A Dream of China’ is in a textbook somewhere & ‘Kimmy’ got published in India (!) & these are all of the same era.

But wait, I was writing about my gripe (& bad behaviour) today.

I spent the morning in hospital–waiting, talking, waiting, explaining, waiting…
Good results actually. And I completely ‘off’ my most resented medication.

Apparently the good doc who last month threatened to write on my case file ‘Obstinate, refuses to listen to good advice’ actually wrote ‘Keen to get off medication’ & recommended observation & not being alone (guess that means I do my solitary writing in crowded cafes!)

And my blood levels are lower than they’d like (maybe that accounts for the blurry vision?) so other medication is up .5 mg a day… which means slicing tablets again.

But I’m glad, so very glad all’s well!

So I treated myself to an outing to the Lee Kong Chian Ref Library.
But while it only took me about 10 min to track down the microfilm & select what I wanted to copy today…

(I decided to start small & learn the process. I had a sequence of 5 stories to copy on a roll of film & planned to ask the operator–you’re not allowed to d-i-y–to scroll to the end & then copy about 25 pages)

Sounds easy right?

But what happened was, I got in at about 2.50pm. There was a guy there explaining how he wanted his newspaper copied. “everything” he said “on A3”

But the Operator was going “You sure A3?” and “This dark enough or not”
“I think it’s okay,”
“You see like that the same page how?”
“Okay this is better”
“I print once more let you see,”

& this continued… through through the whole paper with variations into

“This page advertisements also you want?”
“Yes, the whole paper I want”

Okay, well & good. He takes pains, I thought. So I stood there & waited for one hour and 5 minutes because the operator is painstaking & doesn’t issue queue numbers.

About 5 minutes before they finished, a couple of kids came in–students, looked like.

“Wah, got to wait ah?” the girl said.

And when the first newspaper boy had gone, the Operator asked how many pages I had–I indicated the numbers on the microfilm box & said “from here to the end”

“Wah. So many.” to the new girl (who, remember, had been there for under 5 minutes compared to my one hour & five minutes) “You got how many?”

“Huh? Oh” giggle “only about seven,”
So he says to me. “You got so many I do for her first ah,”

And he did. Even though her 7 pages were from 7 different microfilms, each necessitating scrolling through & locating & then framing a specific piece & zooming & focusing to fit because she wanted it on A4 paper…

Hey, I told you mine was all same size, taken off one reel & in sequence!

Anyway (sulk, whinge) I was standing there for over an hour waiting!

Which brings us to my bad behaviour–I left after about 20 minutes (when they’d only got through 3 pages) & returned the microfilms & said I wanted my original manuscripts back.

Because even though I asked to see them (original request–to photocopy the manuscripts myself) they told me they were not for public access.
That’s even if you read them/copy them on the premises.
That’s why I made do with the microfilm.

And I know they probably have their reasons as a library for not giving people access to their materials but sorry, I had a tough morning (even though I love my doctors who are working so much harder than I am) and it was the final straw.

I did the whole diva freak out with trembling voice & tearful countenance–shit, so much for practicing zazen…

& I’d tried to. While waiting I mean. I did breathing. I did focusing. I did stretches. But one & a half hours with no chair & the prospect of that stretching into two & a half hours is bloody breaking.

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks people (& hi, Crown) for your sympathy & support.

    To be fair to microfilm operator, it was only so slow because he was so painstaking, which is a good thing, in library service, I guess.

    After getting home I was more upset with myself (for letting it get to me) than with them.
    & I understood the Christ/God saying “Against me only you have sinned” because in practical terms it wasn’t terrible for the library people (being library-trained I was careful to freak out in hushed tones) & it was not terrible for me; the counter people where I returned the microfilm were really very sweet… but someone who is trying to live expressing full power of the holy spirit in a body full of yoga… that’s the ‘sin’ that made me feel bad after.

    Plus I didn’t do any writing yesterday.

    I would have liked the manuscripts photocopied–I think they just don’t have the time & you have to get a verified project or permission & I only had a ‘I want to read them again & see whether I can get a book’ so I don’t think that counts!

  2. It’s good to hear about the doctor’s prognosis.

    My sympathies with the experience at the library. The library assistants still have a long way to learn about customer service.

  3. please launch a complaint. waiting for that long a time is terrible for any library, let alone a reputable one like lee kong chian. tsk to them.

  4. Yay! Glad your visit to the doctor went well.

    Incredibly bad customer service to skip you, no matter how many pages you wanted copied. Am curious what the response to your freak-out was, though. They should have just photocopied the manuscripts for you in the first place, if they’re not public access.

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