KOTA KINABALU, Friday 19th August – Local heritage advocator Richard Nelson Sokial believes that the city would benefit from having two libraries instead of one new centralized building.
His statement is a response to the public outcry by a group of civic activists who launched a signature campaign against plans by the State Library to move the Kota Kinabalu Regional Library out from its current 35-year-old building located behind the City Hall premises here. The new city library is scheduled to be built in Tanjung Aru.
Sokial who visited the forementioned library building stated that he was prior informed by Sabah State Library staff regarding the plans to demolish the building, but he did not know what would be built in its place.
However, he expressed his doubts over whether it was wise to entirely relocate the city library to a new site in Tg. Aru. “Instead, it may be a good idea to have two separate libraries – both at Tg. Aru and on its existing location in the city, because by moving everything to Tg. Aru, the traffic congestion problem that currently exists at Tg. Aru there will become even worse”.
When asked on whether the existing library should be preserved, Sokial stated that “it would be wonderful if we could not only save the city library building but also restore it to its original design”. Sokial stated that the past renovations made did not do any justice to the original architectural design of the city library building built in the 1970s.
“I have fond memories of the city library because as it was this very building that instilled in me, the love of books and knowledge. As a child, the staircase to the adult reference section, as I recall, used to have a central skylight that allowed natural sunlight into the building. The landscaped garden, the open circulation of the library sections made learning such an enjoyable experience. They don’t design buildings like this in KK anymore”
He went so far as to compare that the design of the 2-storey existing city library to be even better than the Sabah State Library Headquarters building located off Jalan Penampang. “Of course, the Sabah State Library building does serve its function well, but the architecture of the city library has always been more welcoming and conducive for general public reading and even as a meeting place for students and city dwellers. It would be a pity to see it gone”.
“The city library has a strategic location with views overlooking towards Gaya Street and across to the Town Padang. Its external circulation areas, shaded by greenery, make it enjoyable for pedestrians who visit the library.”
However, having inspected the building recently, he pointed out that there were some serious cracks on some of the beams and internal pillars of the existing city library, and suggested that if the civic group wanted to save the building, it would be advisable to first conduct a structural assessment and dilapidation study on whether the current structure was salvagable.
“Depending on how serious the structural damage is, we can only then determine whether or not the building can be saved. In some cases, the damage may be too great.”
On whether or not he agreed with a new library building, Sokial said “in the context and interest of the city, it is imperative that whatever built - or retained - at this particular site must still be used to serve the public and not for the benefit of a few selected individuals.
“If a new library is built, the low-rise scale and architecture of the new building should be designed in the spirit of the original library, complimentary for the needs of the city folk. If the existing library can be saved, it needs to be upgraded because it is currently quite run-down“.
“But if demolishing the city library is an excuse to build yet another commercial building in mall-saturated Kota Kinabalu, I would disagree wholeheartedly”, he said citing the situation of the yet unresolved case of the 16-storey shopping mall next to the Atkinson Clock Tower, KK city’s oldest landmark.