A History of the V.I. Library

ack in 1925, there was no official school library. There were separate private libraries scattered about the old V.I. in High Street (now Jalan Tun H.S. Lee) - a prefects' library, a seniors' library under the charge of Mr. J. B. Carr, a junior library under the charge of Mr. Ponniah and the private collections of the Headmaster, Mr.Tay Lian Hee and Mr. E. S. Redfearn. Officially, the V.I. Library was started in 1929 under the supervision of Mr. H.C. Chan and Mr. S. Tambiah. The library was open from 7.30 a.m. till 4.00 p.m. on weekdays and 7.30 a.m. till 12.00 p.m. on Saturdays. In 1930, the school library was located on the first floor of the Science Wing. The librarian - Mr Ganga Singh - was a teacher at that time, and issued books on Tuesdays and Fridays during the recess. At that time, there were about 600 books which were kept in large book cases.

In 1931, a Form Five library was set up. Newspapers and periodicals were auctioned at the end of each term to raise money for the library fund. Books and articles were donated by teachers and students. In 1934, a new system of issuing books was introduced. Library assistants were selected from the Cambridge classes to be in charge of various library sections and to issue books from 11.05 a.m. till 11.25 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Pupils used slips to apply for books to be borrowed. New library rules were implemented and new index numbers were introduced by Chan Toh Thong and Tan Chin Guan for the classification of the books. In December 1935, Mr. Thambiah took over temporarily from Mr. Ganga Singh who left on leave for India.

Library in 1941

On Mr Ganga Singh's return in 1936, another new system of issuing books was started. Pupils now had to use cards to borrow books, with the library assistants initialling them when books were borrowed and returned. A copy of rules was given to every pupil who applied for a borrower's card. These cards were printed at the V.I.'s own printing press! The first assistant librarian appointed was Tan Keat Chye in 1936, an office formerly held by a teacher. A reading room was set up in 1937 right under the school library and was open from 7.00 a.m. till 5.00 p.m. In 1938, K. Kanadiah and Bun Pak Sun were the assistant librarians under Mr Ganga Singh, while the number of assistants was also increased. Due to persistent untidiness and carelessness in using the reading room, a set of rules was implemented and an assistant librarian was appointed in charge of the reading room. A prefect on duty maintained order in the reading room during recess.

In 1939, the reading room was converted into a classroom. The library assistants were also made responsible for opening and closing the library daily. Later, in 1941, the library assistants took over the assistant librarian's job of accepting returns of books. The assistants also helped the librarian in maintaining order in the library and in inspecting borrowers' cards. K. Kanadiah took over from Mr. Ganga Singh once again in December 1941 when the latter went on leave to India. During the Second World War, most of the books were either lost or destroyed.

After the war, the Headmaster, Mr. F. Daniel, took a keen interest in reviving the library and found an ideal site for a new library on the ground floor of the Science Wing. The new library was officially opened by Mr Anthony Eden on March 17, 1949, who also unveiled the War Memorial which can be seen in the present study room. Mr Eden (later Sir Anthony) was at that time the deputy leader of the Conservative Party and later became British Prime Minister in 1955. The new library was built to accommodate about 10,000 books and a seating capacity for about 80 students. Donations were sought for the purchase of books. Twenty-five volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica donated by Messrs Shaw Brothers Ltd helped make up the initial total of 1,500 books. At first, all school sports trophies and honour boards were housed in the library but in 1957, the Honour Boards were moved to the school hall while the trophies were moved to the gallery at the back.

In 1951, an exhibition of textbooks by a major publisher was held under the supervision of the Selangor Library Committee. Mr. Harry Lau served as the librarian from 1949-1952. Mr. G. F. Jackson, Mr. T. Navaratnam together with some schoolboys helped in classification and issuing of books. In 1950, when the first Form Six classes were started, the library became a very important place for reference. Mr. J. A. McCumiskey was the librarian in 1953. Finally in 1955, Law Wei Min was appointed as the first school boy librarian, with seven thousand volumes in his care. By the time Dr. G. E. D.Lewis took over as the headmaster in 1956, it was found that the library was still Library in 1954 inadequate for the needs of the sixth formers. The task of renovating and restocking began and by the beginning of 1957, the Victoria Institution library became the first ever school library in Malaya to be air-conditioned.

In 1959, there were some changes in the administration. There were 2 library supervisors, Messrs Lam Kok Hon and John Doraisamy. The Head Librarian was Haji Mohd. Ariffin b. Haji Mohamed. There was also one Chief Assistant Librarian, 20 assistant librarians and a library office boy named Kamaruddin. During the years 1958 and 1959, the Colombo Plan and the Asia Foundation donated a good number of books and all were classified according to the Cheltenham's Library Classification System and arranged under different subject headings.

All students as well as the members of the school staff were allowed to borrow books from the library for 2 weeks. Pupils of the Sixth Forms and members of the school staff could borrow 4 books at a time while the other pupils could borrow 2 books at a time. Students from Forms 1 to 5 were allowed to borrow books on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., and from 12.00 p.m. to 1.00 p.m. on Fridays. On week days, the library was open from 7.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and 2.00 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. On Saturdays, it was open from 8.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. Sixth Formers were allowed to use the library any time it was open. Pupils from Form 3 and below could only use the library on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. The library was closed for cleaning at 10.30 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month. Every pupil who took out books for reading had to enter the titles of the books in a record book at the counter.

By 1960 the number of books stood at 12,000. The Australian Government presented a set of Australian Encyclopaedias. A new '2 card system' was introduced in that year under which Library in 1957 details of each book were recorded; one card had the author's name on the top left hand corner while the other card recorded the section where the book can be found. In the same year, a new air-conditioned reading room was built behind the school hall. In 1962, a new air-conditioned study room was built adjoining the school library, on the site of the boys' toilet. The replacement toilet is the present one beside the canteen.

The books of the Junior Section were transferred to the Junior Library to serve pupils from the Lower Forms (1 to 3) in 1961. Assistant librarians were provided with the special assistant librarian badges from 1960 onwards. The librarian and the assistants were appointed by the library supervisors at the beginning of each academic year.

From the 1960s, a counter boy was employed to be on duty when the assistants were not around. In December 1963, the reclassification of books under the new Dewey Decimal System was instituted by the Headmaster, Mr. A. D. Baker. It was completed in March 1964 under the supervision of Miss Alice M. Lage, an U.S. Peace Corps Librarian. With the introduction of new blue borrowers' cards, a maximum of 3 books was allowed to be taken out. Shelf list cards were introduced in 1967. In that year, too, the system of appointing assistant librarians was changed. Instead of being nominated, interested students could apply for the positions. In 1969, the system of RS (Red Spotted) books was implemented and catalogue cards of RS books were also prepared. From 1971, borrowers' cards (2 blue and 1 red) were issued to any student who applied for them. A School library conference was held on April 18, 1969, in the school lecture hall.

Catalogue cards were reorganized once more in 1972 when author cards and the title cards were placed separately. Bahasa Melayu catalogue cards were introduced in 1975. The present counter was constructed in this year. The first assistant librarians who sat on duty on August 5 at the counter were Yong Lee Ming and Ho Soon Choy. The counter boy from 1970-1975 was Encik Jaafar bin Hashim. Encik. Rosli and later Encik Bakar took over in 1976. A suggestion box was put up in the main library in 1979. Curtains, ceiling fans and fire extinguishers were installed in December 1981.

Daily cleaning duties were begun in 1980. From January 1982, the staff of the school had to apply for library cards as well. They were given 3 cards each like the pupils. A new Toshiba air-conditioner was installed in the study room. Encik Zulkarnain joined as library attendant in February 1984 and left in early 1985, and was replaced by Mohd. Zafrullah in September 1986.

On October 25, 1989, the Junior Library and the Senior Library were merged into the Victoria Institution Library. The Junior Library was to be used as a study room but later that year when it was found to be unsuitable, it was converted to the Bilik Bimbingan dan Kaunseling. The reading room was converted to the Bilik Sumber under the Lembaga Pusat Sumber Alat Pandang Dengar.

The fourth library conference was held on January 18, 1994 and involved 20 schools from all over Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with the forty-fifth anniversary of the V.I. Library. A reunion of old and present members of the Library Board was held at Concorde Hotel on the February 5, 1994.

During the tenure of the 1994/1995 board, among the projects implemented was the Inter School Library games held during the May holidays in 1995. The V.I.L.B. which joined forces with the Library Board from Sekolah Aminuddin Baki emerged champions ending 20 years of monopoly by Cochrane Road School.

In the same month, the Library was closed for temporary renovation. Plans for the renovation of the V.I. Library had been first mooted in 1993. There was an air of excitement as the librarians eagerly began to transfer the stock of books to the Sixth Form Block. Unfortunately, their hopes were dashed when plans for the renovation fell through. The arduous task of moving the books back to the old library was shouldered by the Library Board of 1993/1994. To their delight the school announced in 1995 that the renovation of the Library would be carried out after all, thanks to a generous donation by Resorts World Berhad, through the generosity of its chairman, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong. The librarians' dream had come true.

The renovation took almost six months. The partition wall between the main library and the study room was demolished expanding the library space considerably. A new room for the archives section was also built. In September 1995, the renovation was completed and the library was reopened in October 1995, a moment looked forward to by many.

Furnished with new wooden chairs and tables, the library now has a seating capacity of 100. A new counter has been constructed. The old wooden racks have been replaced by Library in 1999 stronger and more durable steel racks. A new rack holds a title display tray so that users can find the books they want. To add to the comfort of the library users, a new air-conditioner unit has been installed and the lighting has also been vastly improved. In addition, efforts have also been made to enhance the interior décor of the library. Soothing light blue blinds have been put up at the windows, while matching blue floor tiles have replaced the old chequered tiles. The entrance of the library is more impressive because the old doors have been replaced by new solid timber doors.

In February 1999, the V.I.L.B. was renamed the Victoria Institution Resources Centre Board taking over the roles and functions of the Lembaga Alat Pandang Dengar which is now known as the Lembaga Pusat Sumber Alat Pandang Dengar. Under the new head teacher advisor, Mrs. Tan Ki Kan, the library has changed a lot especially in the system of issuing and lending of books and of library management.

In order to instill the spirit of commitment and loyalty in assistant librarians, a library history corner has been set up. It is hoped that the stories of the efforts of the dedicated librarians who have contributed to the success of the library will inspire present and future assistant librarians to emulate them. The library board hopes that the teachers and students of the V.I. will fully utilize the facilities of the library so that the teaching and learning processes can be more effective and enjoyable.

Prepared by the V.I. Library Archives Section, with contributions from the following:
  • Chiang Se Sheng & Lai Chee Ming (1998/1999)
  • Ho Yee Khong (1996/1997)
  • Lok Kin Hing (1993/1994)
  • Chen Khiam Hyong (1984/1985)

VI The V.I. Web Page

Created on 20 March 1999.
Last updated on 6 September 2002.

PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng