The concept of a tiny house, such as a birdhouse, is interesting and unique when it is materialised in the form of the Little Free Library (LFL). The Islamic Science University of Malaysia (USIM) Library took that approach in 2015 when its Senior Deputy Chief Librarian, Pn. Nor Azzah Momin introduced LFL in the USIM campus as part of an effort to cultivate the reading culture (Iqra’) in the daily lives of USIM members.

The concept is very simple, “Take a book, return a book”. The LFL is erected in an easily accessible location and filled with free reading materials for the public. The upkeep is also not too challenging but requires a commitment to always update and maintain the LFL.

The USIM LFL is registered with the Little Free Library Organisation (LFL) headquartered in Hudson, New York. The University Management also supports the expansion of this project. If given wider attention, it can create a harmonious atmosphere to foster reading especially to the younger generation. Take a look at the following interview.

Q1 How did the idea of building the USIM LFL come about?

The original idea of establishing an LFL in USIM came to pass when I shared about the Nilai Impian LFL during the USIM Library Committee Meeting which was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor. The idea was then brought to the University Management Meeting in the form of a proposal where it was approved.

Q2 What is the latest development of the USIM LFL?What is the latest development of the USIM LFL?

For the moment, there are seven USIM LFL erected around the campus for the casual reading need of USIM members and visitors.

1. Library Building Lobby
2. FPQS/Tamhidi Bus Stop
3. Residential College One
4. In front of the Student Representative Council Office at the Student Affairs Building
5. Chancellery Building Lobby (built with Chancellery Department fund)
6. University Health Centre (erected by the University Health Centre itself with advice and reading materials from the Library)
7. Pavilion Building and Sports Centre (built with Sports Centre fund).

All the USIM LFLs are managed by USIM LFL volunteers who are USIM staffs and students headed by myself.

Q3 Currently, how big is the reading material collection and how is it obtained?

So far, we have received about 3000 reading materials in the form of books, magazines and journals.

The USIM LFL reading materials were obtained from public donation, both from within and outside USIM. We have advertised the request for donation through social media, USIM Little Free Library Facebook, USIM Library Facebook, LFL volunteers’ WhatsApp groups and USIM Library website.

Q4 It is public knowledge that you also have an LFL at your house in Nilai Impian. What piques your interest in creating this special reading corner?

Yes, we have a private library at home consisting of reading materials that we have collected since getting married. Our private library holds my family’s private collection from various subject and genres.

The numbers have increased to over 3000 copies including some reading materials which we have more than one copy. These are either accidentally bought twice or gifts from someone. There are also some children’s books which my children have grown out of. Thus, we started thinking about sharing our reading materials with other people.

This became the starting point to create an LFL in our home. Our LFL was built before USIM’s. There was a newspaper article in The Star in 2014 about an LFL in Wisconsin, USA. From there, we agreed to build one in our home with the name “Little Free Library Nilai Impian” (Nilai Impian LFL).

We formally registered our LFL with the (registration number #22925) and listed the information of our LFL in the LFL World Map.

We started a page on Facebook to promote Nilai Impian LFL and related activities. At the same time, we also started a Facebook page for “Home Library Nilai Impian”. Both pages were created to persuade the community to cultivate interests together in reading, as enjoined in Islam.

Q5 What is your hope for the LFL in educational institutions and the community?

Personally, I dreamt of more individuals taking the initiative to build their own private library at home for their own family reading and reference. I also hope that more LFLs would be built in the neighbourhoods of housing areas and villages. This will strengthen the ties among neighbours as well as promote healthy culture and practice among the community.

The USIM Library also plan to build more LFLs both inside and outside the campus to further spur the reading culture in the community. We welcome the cooperation of any interested party.

Moreover, the USIM Library also offer guidance and advice to anyone interested in setting up an LFL either at home at an educational institution for free.