We tend to picture libraries as tranquil, cosy sanctuaries – so the last place you’d expect to find one is in an old kampung house in the middle of a Chinese village. Opened in late 2017, the Little Giraffe Book Club at Batu 11 Cheras is anything but your average ‘library’. Formerly a dilapidated home, the space was given a new lease of life by curator Lee Soon Yong and a group of passionate architecture students, who envisioned a communal space that would also benefit the community.
Originally, the Little Giraffe Book Club was a community initiative started by a group of kindergarten teachers with the aim of educating children in the village. Back then, the library was housed in a mobile container. Seeing the need for a proper place and with support from the locals, Lee, a former architecture student who grew up in the village, embarked on the project after returning from his studies in Taiwan.
Much of the building’s old exterior has been retained – from the pink and green wooden panels to the traditional windows and grates, zinc roofing and shaded veranda. Like many village homes, the compound is not gated, and there are benches and seats for visitors to rest on.
The interior has been remodeled into a library-cum-cafe space, with open, lofty ceilings. One side of the space also features floor to ceiling windows, so the result is a bright, cheerful space with plenty of sunshine to filter in.
The library corner, which sits on an elevated section, carries a large selection of children’s books in various languages. The layout of wooden shelves and steps makes it more fun and interactive for the children, who sit cross legged on the floor to read their books or play with toys. To be frank, this is the noisiest ‘library’ I’ve been in – but I’m sure it works well for the kids, because most of them learn through stimulation and play.
So why a giraffe? Lee says it’s because children like animals, and a giraffe is far sighted – just like their vision to improve the community through educating the next generation. “You can’t force adults to read, but you can encourage reading habits from a young age,” Lee explains.
The space is not only a library – it also runs as a cafe, which is how they support the book club. Their specialty is rojak – (for the non-Malaysians reading this, it’s a type of salad. But definitely not the healthy kind lol), since one of the people running the place is the son of the couple who run the famous Rojak Wan stall in TTDI! I never used to like rojak until I had Rojak Wan’s – the beautiful combination of fresh fruits and veggies, tossed in a thick shrimp paste sauce and topped with crunchy crackers, fried Chinese crullers and ground nuts – is simply divine.
Aside from rojak, they offer coffee and simple fare such as burgers and rice dishes. Expect a long wait if the place is crowded, however.
Due to the zinc roofing and its lack of air conditioning, the space can get very warm in the afternoons. It’s best to come in the mornings or evenings, and if you have an off day on the weekday, come then to avoid the weekend crowds.
LITTLE GIRAFFE BOOK CLUB
114, Jalan 15, Batu 11 Cheras, Selangor
Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 1pm to 10pm