Expanding the Power of Public Libraries Across the Philippines
November 18, 2009
The National Library of the Philippines stands in the center of Manila as a grand monument and national resource center to the country’s hero José Rizal, a doctor, writer, reformist, and proclaimed hero of the Philippine Revolution. Formally observed as the National Library in 1901, the library moved into its existing building, inaugurated by President Ramon Magsaysay’s successor, Carlos P. Garcia, on Rizal’s 100th birthday 60 years later.
From its humble beginning over 100 years ago, The National Library has grown to become a dedicated institution, tasked to manage 1,238 affiliated public libraries across the Philippines composed of one regional public library and four congressional, 49 provincial, 101 city, 577 municipal, and 506 Barangay or public community libraries throughout the country. All these libraries rely mostly on private donations and on various organizations for diversifying and increasing their collections. Unfortunately, many public libraries in the Philippines face severe shortages in reading materials, trained librarians, and little support from local governments. This has affected the quality of the public libraries, including the National Library.
In an effort to try to improve them and to support activities that promote education and promote literacy, the National Library invited librarians from across the Philippines to participate in its annual National Seminar of Public Librarians.
At this year’s seminar in early November, when The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program representatives arrived, a crowd of 600 started cheering and yelling in excitement. They were there to donate 18,000 new books to representatives of 460 libraries across the country as well as to the National Library collection in an effort to expand and improve access to educational materials.
One city librarian who attended, Ms. Samuela Oceña from Pagadian City remarked that: “We are overwhelmed for the books we have received from The Asia Foundation. The books are very useful to our poor communities especially to the students of elementary, high school and colleges who are deprived of good books.”
Since 1954, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program has distributed over 13 million books and journals to public and private institutions across the Philippines. The program works diligently to provide books to all three of the island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, addressing the resource needs from across the country. Read more.
Reynald S. Ocampo is The Asia Foundation’s Assistant Program Officer for the Foundation’s Books for Asia program in the Philippines. He can be reached at [email protected].
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