Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lamentations Over the Death of a Public Library

For somebody who looks upon the public library as a community's intellectual lifeline and an agent of social inclusion, the death of the Cebu City Public Library is indeed a blow to Philippine public librarianship with the strength equivalent to a million Manny Pacquiao punches! It does not make any sense at all to justify the death of a public library with the birth of a museum. Both institutions should co-exist in a community. While public libraries and museums are both learning spaces serving the same community, they offer rather different goods, and serve different purposes. To the intellectually starved, especially those coming from weak economic backgrounds who are unable or cannot afford to access information in schools and cyberspace, the public library is a sanctuary, a last bastion of hope. To declare a public library dead, therefore, is like cutting off the intellectual lifeline that binds a significant percentage of the (marginalized) populace to the information it needs to equip itself in order to better navigate this rapidly-changing world.

And so, I am one with those who lament the death of the Cebu City Public Library.

I lament the utter disregard for Philippine laws, in particular, R.A. 7743, which mandates local government units to establish congressional, provincial, city, municipal libraries and reading centers at the barangay (village) level. In Southern Mindanao where I come from, we are lobbying hard for the LGUs compliance to this 15-year old mandate. We are groundworking (and groundworking religiously) to mainstreaming public libraries, and bringing them back to the consciousness of Southern Mindanaoans.

I lament the sheer insensitivity on the part of the proponents (Education Consultant and the LGU at that!) to decide unilaterally over a matter that requires intensive public consultations. There is no word to describe the wanton disregard by the proponent for the community that the Cebu City Public Library served amidst its dwindling resources and lack of government support.

I lament the fact that few seem to understand that a public library can be many things to many people -- source of information, learning and collaboration space, experience.
All of these, therefore, die unjustly with the closure of a public library.

I lament the fact that few seem to understand that Library Hubs are not libraries. They are transitory depositories of books to be "loaned" to what they call the satellite libraries in public elementary schools. Therefore, a Library Hub (or two library hubs for that matter) cannot replace one public library that already served thousands in its 69-year existence. Satellite libraries cater primarily to its own constitutuents. The notion of "attachment" connotes ownership, boundaries or parameters that automatically deter other community members who are not in school, or are elderly from using this facility. Satellite libraries are simply are not as socially-inclusive a learning space as public libraries are.

It is sad that just as our neighboring Southeast Asian countries are scrounging for funds to build public libraries, we are doing otherwise. Talk about governance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mindanao Librarian to Conquer Hanoi, Vietnam

14 January 2009, I received notification that the abstract I submitted for the 14th Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians (CONSAL XIV) was among those selected for this prestigious conference of librarians/information professionals. I am both excited and challenged to take with me to a wider audience issues such as community librarianship, social inclusion and forging multi-stakeholder partnerships. Writing the full paper has not yet commenced, but ideas are flowing, even if they are just in my head at the moment.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Of Christmas, 2008 and 2009

I must say that 2008 ended with dreams waiting and wanting to come true. And I welcome 2009 in the same light. I sealed 2008 with wishes for myself and my family, my work and my advocacy. While I am not comfortable disclosing these wishes in cyberspace, suffice it to say that these were wishes & hopes for better days ahead for all of us.

I visited home in Tacurong on the first day of 2009. The house used to be a seat of laughter and fun when I was a child. An aging aunt and mother now calls it home. I missed my Papang and little brother Francis as I smelled and savored the old stuff that remain so familiar and close to my heart. I saw (albeit only in imagination) my father tending his backyard garden and relished the thought of being able to talk to him again, about Christmas, about things I wish for. I saw Francis merry-making with his self-made tambol humming his self-composed tune in a world only he knows and understands. My brother loved this Season so much! Then it came to me I was just imagining people and things. And I begin to feel a huge sense of loss.

Christmas to me now has become more of remembering or going back to the past -- to the child's world I used to know. It also has become a reminder of Christmases past, and the many years I saw Christmas unveil its different faces. It is too profound to dig deeper into the abyss of my emotions that come with this Season. What I am most sure of is that there is something so spiritual about Christmas that hardly surfaces against this very flimsy and material world.

I thank 2008 for the days I saw my family finding simple joys -- Papee immersed exposing his thougths on cyberspace via his blog, my son Ivan Anakin in his make-believe war while I am just whiling time away either reading or watching The Buzz and Showbiz Central.

I thank 2008 for the occasional visits of my mother, my brother Dino and his family, for occasions that allow me to see my other brother Geoffrey and his kids, for visits to my in-laws.

I thank 2008 for the many times we've conquered stressful situations -- of family members getting sick or problematic, of complicated people in the workplace, of frustrations that come with not getting what we wish or hope for.

In many ways, I am grateful for everything about 2008. I welcome 2009 just as grateful as I was in 2008. I hope this year will be kind.

Happy New Year!