Friday, April 06, 2012

Indecent Exposure?

What’s happening to the ‘guardians’ of our public libraries and archives? While my friend was chided for ‘inappropriate dress’ when she visited a public library in Sarawak, the lady at the counter of the archives in KK didn’t agree that I should take my small bag into the research/reading area.

Susan was anything but indecent. She had worn a blouse with sleeves that almost reached her elbows! If that was considered ‘inappropriate’ we could only wonder ‘what next?’

Sometimes security officials go nit-picking and concentrate on the unimportant things. You may not agree with me but I feel how a person dresses when she goes to the library should be her own business. As long as she doesn’t go like she’s dressed for a fun day at the beach, as long as there are no unmentionables hanging out (to pose as distractions for other library users,) I feel we shouldn’t be too fanatical on the dress code. This IS Malaysian Borneo after all where, just two generations ago, our married female ancestors went topless—not because it was ‘fashionable’ but because it was traditional. Therefore, what may seem indecent exposure to others may be the norm by my mother’s yardstick.

There are more worthwhile issues to police at the library such as loud talk/tearing off pages of books/defacing books/cutting pictures off, etc.

If the library I go to had the same dress code as Susan’s, I know I’d never be allowed to enter. I’m lucky that the Penampang library is the best in the world. I could go in my short-sleeved tee-shirt and I could bring my ‘library-books bag’ too without any security personnel lifting an eyebrow.  

My experiences with the staff at the State Archives have been excellent, too. I cannot ask for better service. It’s like having my own fetcher-of-things because I just need to fill in a form and the things come to me. No questions asked. No grumpy faces. Until recently, I could even bring in a small bag to hold all my odds and ends.

However, a new lady was manning the counter one morning and she said I was disallowed from bringing this bag. I have been going to the archives on and off for five years and this was the first time I heard of such a rule. Naturally, I was shocked. Was it possible to snitch something and hide it in my little bag? Like a folder… a docket…a book? What’s the point in installing a CCTV if that isn't an adequate deterrent from stealing?
The red bag couldn't be brought into the reading room.

Of course I was annoyed at this ‘new’ rule. Wouldn’t you have felt the same? But a rule is still a rule, however ridiculous, so I took out all the stuff from my bag and placed them on the counter:

Purse containing my IC, driver’s license and credit cards (I can’t hold other people responsible should they get lost.)
Note paper
Tissue paper in case I sneeze or cough
Phone (in case there’s an emergency at home, palis-palis, like Mr. Hubby can’t get his own lunch.)
Car key

My empty red bag went into the locker while I clutched all the things to my chest and went into the room with the CCTV. Next time I’m going to bring a transparent zip-lock plastic bag from my kitchen.

What’s the point in having impressive public libraries and archives (and spending millions on their upkeep) if the rules discourage the public from visiting?


  1. I feel you, Tina. What ridiculous rules! To these days, I still cannot understand why people are so focus on feeling upset about what others are wearing. What a waste of energy!

    Reading this makes me feel so lucky having such a great service in our library here in Australia. I can bring any bags I want and I can wear whatever I like. I can even wear just my skin if I want to, but how am I going to face those 'admiring' eyes, that's another story!

    BTW, how are you, Tina? I've so much to tell you, I'll pm you on Facebook. Have a great weekend ya!

  2. Agreed! I feel the same way too Tina. That's why I prefer to visit Times or Harris and buy the latest books. If I dont want to buy, I still can read the books in the bookstore (lol). But in Tuaran, the public library is still a very convenient place to visit. The staff are friendly too.

  3. So, the million ringgit question in the end,

    What’s the point in having impressive public libraries and archives (and spending millions on their upkeep) if the rules discourage the public from visiting?

    I was hoping this new lady and the library admins would read the soalan mahal above.....

    Btw, I frequently went to Penampang library too but I wonder why we never bump into each other? Haha. And sometimes when I go there, kalau terrrjumpa teacher, I wonder if you still recognize me, your ex-student 8 years ago hehe

    Good day! :)

  4. Thank you all for visiting and taking the trouble to leave comments!

    Gunaqz, you're lucky, you can wear what you like and carry a bag into the library too! I can bring my bag too! Btw, I noticed your Fb acc is 'diactivated'? What happened? I can't wait to hear your stories. (I was hoping to meet you before you went back.)

    Raynold, it's a pleasure to visit the public library when the librarians are nice and friendly! I like going to Times (Suria) too. I haven't been to the KK library since it moved to Suria.

    Glen, which 'new lady' are you referring to? At the Donggongon library? I guess we don't bump into each other because we go different times! I think I'll recognise you. Maybe you won't kenal me! Is it eight years only?