Former Malaysian gymnast inspires the joy of reading through a street library

by Matthew Escosia
SEA Wave - Carol Low - Street Library Malaysia
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Carol Low has a clear mission when she decided to build a small street library in Kemuning Utama, Malaysia: giving used books a new life of their own for more people to enjoy.

Street libraries are nothing new. The concept of lending and giving books for free continues to shine during the pandemic along with installations of community pantries. The Street Library in Australia became a go-to organization to help individuals in creating a simple library for their neighborhood, while The Happy LibLarry in the Philippines is offering locals a chance to share stories and even food donations to those in need.

SEA Wave - The Joy of Books Malaysia SEAtizens

Photo from The Joy of Books Facebook page

Low’s mini street library, our highlight in this edition of #SEAtizens, is also an equally simple and humble initiative built by her own book rental shop Joy Of Books to create that bridge among different readers, especially since not everyone has the luxury of owning books.

In her Facebook post, Low explained that their street library is “not just a book rental shop. We believe in community empowerment by encouraging more people to read to broaden their minds and perspectives. Our maiden CSR project is to set up a street library that caters to the readers within my neighborhood. Given the opportunity, we would love to be able to do more for other communities out there, or at least to encourage others to do the same for their neighborhoods.”


Prior to her current advocacy, Low won a gold medal in the Manila SEA Games 1991 as a rhythmic gymnast. She later became a businesswoman before finally starting her own book rental shop  called “The Joy of Books” and spearheading meaningful projects such as the street library.

The street library, which only measures 1 meter by 0.76 meters and can fill up to 60 books and is located at Section 3 in Kemuning Utama, Malaysia. It currently houses a variety of genres including children’s stories, business, religion, self-help, and health. Low has not only shared books from her personal collection, but other individuals like friends, people from the neighborhood and companies like Red Shield Industries continue to donate to the library.

With the library now attracting more readers, she hopes that more people will be inspired to create similar initiatives in their own communities.

“I think it takes a success story to encourage others to do the same. When people learn that this is doable and users appreciate and respect such initiatives, they might be inspired to set up something in their own neighborhood,” Low shared in an interview with The Star. “I’ve always held on to author C. S. Lewis’ quote: ‘Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.’ And what better way for the children in our community to learn integrity than this,” Low added.

SEA Wave magazine’s SEAtizens initiative is a series of inspiring stories of people in Southeast Asia who champion the human spirit by demonstrating courage, ingenuity, generosity, and selflessness.

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