Public Libraries in Penang - Past, Present and Future



Beginnings - The Founding and Early History of the Penang Library by Marcus Langdon

Malaysia’s first English-language public library was established in 1816 in Penang, or Prince of Wales Island as it was then officially known. Although touted as being ‘public’, the Prince of Wales Island Library operated for many years much like a club, with access limited to its members and their guests. But despite financial struggles and the want of a permanent home, the library slowly acquired a vast collection of valuable books, journals, newspapers and other reading matter unrivalled in the Malay Peninsular. So why is the Penang Library not the preeminent library in Malaysia today?

In Part 1 of this talk, Marcus Langdon will explain how the library first came to be and introduce the personalities involved. He will reveal its first location, as well as successive locations in George Town. Marcus will also outline some of the difficulties and adversities encountered on its path to becoming a true Public Library.

Developments over the last century and Challenges for the Future

Public libraries have played transformational roles in civilisations. The lecture will share the Penang experience, the interesting history of various libraries and vibrant learning centres in the state and particularly the pioneering role of the Penang Library as a community place. Ideas for the future of Penang as a knowledge hub will be shared.

Speakers Profile

Dato’ Anwar Fazal is trained in economics and education, and has been engaged over the last 50 years in diverse fields - a teacher at the Royal Military College, a civil servant with the City Council of George Town, Private Secretary to Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu(1969-72 ) and head of a urban governance initiative for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations. He has a life long history of public interest activism beginning with the presidency of the University of Malaya Students Union in 1962, the founding of the Consumer Association of Penang, Transparency International Malaysia and a dozen other local and global civil society organisations including the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. He is an avid book lover and library advocate. He started the first library of the Students Union in 1962 and has pioneered special libraries in every major civil society organisation he served. He was the Honorary Supervisor of the Penang Library from 1965 to 1971 and served in the Committee of the Malayan Library Association. He developed rapid appraisal tools of organisations - it was called The Two "L" test, standing for "library” and the "Loo" ; a quick visit to both will be a rapid assessment how both ends of the organisation worked! Anwar is the recipient of several awards for his work as an environmental, consumer and health advocate including the Right Livelihood Award, popularly known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize”. He is currently Director of the Right Livelihood College and Chairperson of Think City.

Over the past 15 years, Marcus Langdon has researched the early years of Penang’s history under the East India Company in more detail than perhaps anyone else has done before. Sourcing information from original documents, he has meticulously pieced together many long-forgotten stories of the growth and development of the island.

His published works include Penang: The Fourth Presidency of India 1805–1830, Volumes 1, Ships, Men and Mansions & 2, Fire, Spice and Edifice; Biographical Dictionary of Mercantile Personalities of Penang (contributing editor) and George Town’s Historic Commercial and Civic Precincts (researcher/writer for George Town World Heritage Incorporated). Living in Penang for the past 5 years, he has imparted his historical knowledge to innumerable projects and is a director of Entrepot Publishing Sdn Bhd.

Mon Nov 23, 2015
9:30 AM - 12:30 PM MYT
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Auditorium, Penang Public Library Corporation, JKR 2118, Jalan Perpustakaan, Seberang Jaya, 13700 Pulau Pinang
Free of Charge (FOC) FULL
Venue Address
Perbadanan Perpustakaan Awam Pulau Pinang Malaysia

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