Filipinos use to read books but years of failed educational policies have contributed to Filipinos losing access to the most basic learning material. Books. I feel that the youth gave up on books. Everything is read on line these days. Books are largely ignored and the only people interested in them are the older generation and students completing projects.
I was reading an article this morning by Neni Sta. Romana Cruz entitled “Libraries are not made, they grow” and was reminded that reading initiatives also plays a critical role. She recently visited Singapore’s National Library and was amazed at what she saw. I myself could not believe that the “sleek and modern 10-story structure” is a library when I first saw it in 2009.
Our library back home has seen better days. I use to frequent it during my high school and even in the past few years when I do research. It’s still a gold mine of historical data. And I’m glad that it still stands. But its behind in its development. It’s unfair to compare it with Singapore’s NLB but we have to admit that we can do more to improve it. Every August it celebrates its founding day. The 22nd of this month would be its 125th year of existence.
Last, July 3, Queen Sophia visited the library and was shown some of the more important literature we have in store. They have a keen interest in the National Library (and the adjacent National Archives) because these institutions were established during their rule in the islands. The Spanish Queen was able to browse the literature in exhibit as they were written by Filipinos in Spanish. As Spain struggles to keep their economy afloat, I can’t help but admire their dedication to help us improve education (and that Esuela Taller in Intramuros, what a great project!). The visit highlights some of the treasures we have in our national library – one could just imagine what more this institution can achieve provided that they’re given the funds and support they need.
As impressed as Nini was with NLB, she believes that its still the programs that creates interest in reading. She cites “It’s a significant reminder for us who are bereft of adequate public libraries, but know only too well that rather than merely lament our state of deprivation, we have to explore other ways. There is no time to waste as far as the reading habit is concerned for both young and old. A memorable quote in the library premises comes from its pioneer librarian, Hedwig Anuar: “Reading anything is better than reading nothing.” The inquirer columnist fondly recalls what the woman in charge of reading initiatives in Singapore has accomplished and wrote about the Singaporean’s “reading programs geared for taxi drivers and another one for beauty salon workers, and the NLB’s continuing attempt to reach out to readers in their own homes and work places”. These programs are impressive to say the lease. But what I admire the most about Singapore’s NLB is how they branched out to towns like a fast food chain. Allowing access to books and journals through what they call community libraries. Add to this is the convenience borrowing a book in any of these library and when you’re done reading, you can drop it at any of the community libraries. The ID card for foreigners (cost under a 100SGD) is not expensive and its all worth it considering the access and convenience the NLB provides.
I believe that reading is the most important skill a human being will ever learn. Reading really makes a difference. We can fund our libraries but if reading books haven’t caught up with the youth then what’s the use of asking for a good library?
The Inquirer reporter ends his column with a good reason to keep promoting reading initiatives: “It’s a significant reminder for us who are bereft of adequate public libraries, but know only too well that rather than merely lament our state of deprivation, we have to explore other ways. There is no time to waste as far as the reading habit is concerned for both young and old.