Standing outside an unassuming industrial unit along Jalan Pemimpin, you wouldn't expect much. Inside, however, lies a literary haven. Welcome to The Book Barracks, a 'weekend bookxhibition' run by Books Beyond Borders. It's a cosy space, filled with mood lighting, plants, fairy lights, and shelves full of preloved books – spanning various authors from Hemmingway to Austen, Zadie Smith and even Robert Kiyosaki. But that's not all, literary lovers would be thrilled to know that the prices of books here start from $1, and 100 per cent of net profits go to a good cause.
A welcoming face greets every visitor who comes in, explaining how the system at The Book Barracks work and what each sticker means. It's none other than founder Randall Chong, who singlehandedly started the initiative in 2017 after a solo backpacking trip to Nepal.
"I was on my way to Everest Base camp and I saw kids walk out of school. One thing led to another and I was invited to visit a primary school and I saw kids walking to school empty-handed. The school didn't look like a school. They had blank walls, teachers were not motivated and they just had no books to read"
Upon returning to Singapore, Randall dedicated one year to raising money to help fund the schools in Nepal, selling secondhand books on Carousell. He would stand outside MRT stations selling books and raise $25 a week. He then realised it wasn't sustainable, scraped the idea and started running fundraising campaigns instead. However, when Covid-19 went down, Randall changed his strategy again and decided to go back to his initial idea of selling books – this time, thousands of books.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing either. He started in his grandfather's bedroom for six months before moving to his aunt's office. It was only three to four months ago where he decided to get his own space.
Now, The Book Barracks is a weekend bookfair slash exhibition, where visitors book a slot online before heading down to meet other like-minded book lovers. Randall's created a community around it, with some coming every single week to spend some time in the space. It is the experience, after all, that he aims to create. "I hope when people come in here, they don't just leave with a bunch of good books. Besides the good books and good prices, it was a great experience and I want to tell my friends about this experience."
Join Randall in his mission and head down to The Book Barracks yourself to immerse yourself in the literary world while helping to sustain a circular economy and raise money to help fund schools in Nepal. Just remember to RSVP here.