CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 45, November 2002


(News from the National Library of the Philippines)
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY AND THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM 
IN THE PHILIPPINES

By Prudenciana C. Cruz
National Library Director

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The National Library of the Philippines (NLP) is the repository of the country's printed and recorded cultural, intellectual, literary and other information materials.  To this end, it pursues the objectives of: 
 
  1. acquiring and preserving all Filipiniana materials,
  2. providing national bibliographic services,
  3. developing, in cooperation with the local government units, a system of public libraries and information centers throughout the country, 
  4. providing information, reference and research resources to the public, and
  5. promoting, establishing and maintaining national and international standards in library and information services.


The services of local public libraries to the reading public duplicate that of the mother library, the NLP, but on a smaller scale because these libraries count only on the local residents as their patrons.   Also, their collection of materials emphasize those that shed light on the historical events and developments whether social, economic, political and cultural  of the region, province, city, municipality, and barangay concerned. 

The NLP is located in the heart of Manila.  The public libraries all over the country are located in their respective localities.  For the record, public libraries statistics reveal that as of this writing, there are a total of 949 public libraries from the northern province in Batanes to the southernmost province of Tawi-Tawi.  These are divided into the following: 
 

Public Library Category Present Total
Regional library
1
Congressional library
1
Provincial library
49
City library
79
Municipal
507
Barangay
312
 Total:
 949

How does the NLP maintain its linkage with the above 949 public libraries?  How are the similarity of interests continued? 
 

Republic Act 7743

This Act is titled "An Act Providing for the Establishment of Congressional, City and Municipal Libraries and Barangay Reading Centers Throughout the Philippines, Appropriating the Necessary Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes."  It was approved by both houses of Congress on June 1, 1994 and approved by then President Fidel V. Ramos on June 17, 1994.

Of course, it did not mean that no such kind of libraries existed in the past.  In fact, many public libraries have long histories.  The law only means that each local government unit is required to put up a public library in their area.  Since the establishment of the law, the increase in the number of public libraries has grown steadily, though many local government units still have no libraries of their own.

It is very interesting to find out the rate of increase of the public libraries established.  For example, in 1997, three years after the passage of the law, city libraries totaled 47.  In 2001, 73 city libraries existed.  In the span of four years, 26 city libraries were added, quite a good feat.  As of this writing, however, city libraries total 79, which means only an addition of six since last year.  And yet, there are at present 100 cities in the Philippines; there are 29 cities remaining without libraries and that only 79% has been accomplished by the law regarding city libraries.

The case of the municipal libraries is more dismal.  At present, there are 1,509 municipalities all over the country.  Of these, only 507 have their own libraries, or a little less than 33% has been realized by the law.

The culprit, of course, is not that there is a lack of appreciation for libraries among the officials of these local government units.  It is the funding of the local government unit concerned that is needed to be able to establish a library.  Local governments must supply the funds before a library can be established.  Without the express provision of the local government, any library cannot exist.

But the trend is that many local governments without libraries are trying hard and hoping that the funds come in, or that they realize an increase in their local revenues to be able to put up a library.

For local governments with libraries, the NLP coordinates with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in the maintenance and improvement of the library concerned.  On the part of the National Library, its role includes the following:
 

  1. Continuing to upgrade the facilities of the local library by providing it with the standard set of reference books and other materials such as, but not limited to, encyclopedias, dictionaries, maps and globes and by continuing to supply it with other books, non-book materials, equipment, supplies and other appropriate and relevant reference and reading materials, taking into consideration the needs of the residents of the local community,
  2. Continuing to coordinate and organize seminars, workshops and other trainings for the professional benefit of local librarians, and
  3. Including in its annual budget proposal the amount of P1 million for each library to be established in a congressional district, the amount of P500,000 for a city library, P300,000 for a municipal library, and P200,000 for a barangay reading center.
In consonance with the spirit of RA 7743, the NLP annually provides the public libraries with book allocations.  These are funded from the budget or are taken from the donations the NLP receives from various agencies and/or exchange partners.   For the year 2001 alone, the public libraries acquired the following through the courtesy of the NLP:

From budget allocations:   8,212 books and 286 encyclopedia sets
From donations:  3,033 books and 7,485 serials

As a result, the collections of the public libraries have increased.  For 2001, the total collections of public libraries all over the Philippines have reached 1,004,707 volumes of books, 30,631 serial copies, and 49,929 other kinds of library materials.  Because of such, the number of readers using these libraries have increased to 1,214,478 while cardholders numbered 44,180.
 

The Bookmobiles

To extend library services to localities with no libraries, the NLP gave 13 bookmobiles to 13 corresponding politico-administrative regions of the country.  These bookmobiles are mini-libraries moving around remote barangays and sitios bringing to the barriofolks and barrio children books and magazines for their educational needs.  At least, these services are helpful to the remote communities not accessible by land transportation.

On the other hand, these mobile libraries are not always going the rounds daily.  Sometimes, there are snags in the schedule because of unavailability of transport funds for gasoline, or the vehicle itself has to be repaired.  In the province of Basilan, the bookmobile cannot always go as it pleases because war zones have been virtually established caused by the Abu Sayyaf hostage-taking sprees.
 

The Annual Conferences

The NLP schedules two general conferences with the public librarians yearly.  These two conferences take place in March and in November.  These two occasions which regularly last for three days constitute a kind of reunion and reestablishment of ties among co-librarians.  But the conferences in which librarians listen to speakers talk and discuss on issues that concern librarians is also a chance for them to be heard personally regarding their problems in their turf.

The March conference is more or less timed with the celebration of Public Library Day, March 9, the day when the private-sponsored American Circulating Library was turned over to the government and thus became a government entity, evolving later into the National Library.  Sometimes, this first annual conference is set on other days but still scheduled in March.  The most exciting March conference was celebrated in the year 2000, the centennial of the National Library.  On this occasion, 15 public libraries received plaques and cash as well as "Outstanding Public Libraries."   The awardees included:
 

  1. Bulacan Provincial Library
  2. Sorsogon Provincial Library
  3. Bohol Provincial Library
  4. Quezon City Library
  5. Baguio City Library
  6. Puerto Princesa City Library
  7. Zamboanga City Library
  8. Cagayan de Oro City Library
  9. Davao City Library
  10. Alaminos, Pangasinan Municipal Library
  11. Cauayan, Isabela Municipal Library
  12. Himamaylan, Negros Occidental Municipal Library
  13. Carigara, leyte Municipal Library
  14. Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte Municipal Library
  15. ARMM Regional Library, Cotabato City
Other exciting March conferences were those held in 1999 when the NLP allocated computer units and accessories to the recipient public libraries with the local government heads (governors, mayors) in attendance to receive those computers; and in 2001 when the NLP inaugurated its Internet station for use to the patrons.

The second annual conference is in November.  Last year, 2001, the public librarians had the opportunity to listen to former President Corazon Aquino as the conference's guest speaker.  The Conference also launched the book co-authored by the recently retired NLP Director, Adoracion Mendoza (formerly Bolos).  The book is a descriptive profile of the public libraries in Metro Manila and of Region 1 (consisting of four provinces, namely:  Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan).
 

The Public Libraries Information Network

Launched in 1999, this network links the National Library and the public libraries in terms of sharing information and materials through the computer.  The local library gets substantial benefit because it does not have to have the material or document requested by a patron but simply requests the local library which has it to share it through the computer link-up.  It can also be shared by recording information in diskettes, or by faxing in case a fax machine exists.

In this regard, the public librarians must be trained on use of computers and on the softwares relevant to library work.  For 2001, batches of trainings on the software Library Solution System (L.S.S.) and of TINLIB were scheduled with a number of trainees from various regions coming to the National Library.

To monitor PUBLIN developments in the regions, some librarians in the NLP conduct inspection visits.  In charge of this monitoring visits is the Bibliographic Services Division of the NLP which extends technical assistance on computer problems, both software and hardware.  Besides these, on-the-spot trainings are extended on library processes and other areas of library work such as collection development, cataloguing, and bibliographic services whenever needed by the local public library concerned. 
 

Towards Contributing to the Educational and Cultural Growth of the Community

The public libraries support the educational and cultural goals of the Philippine government.  As an educational agency, the NLP and the public libraries caters to the information needs of patrons.  Through the books, newspapers, magazines, and documents in the libraries, patrons broaden their knowledge on history both national and local, of famous Filipinos, developing in them a sense of national pride and love of country.  Their reading and visits to the libraries also develop in the patrons interest for reading and stimulate in them a desire for knowledge.  In the process, their research skills are also developed, as patrons go through the tasks of looking for the entries at the OPAC machine, or in guides and checklists which the librarians come up as service to the reading public. 

Not only Philippine life and culture is up for viewing but public libraries also display exhibits to expose the public to life in other countries so that Filipinos in every community will gain additional knowledge on other countries as well.

Public libraries are also in the forefront of whatever cultural activity is launched and implemented by the local government.  They put up exhibits and accommodate exhibits of other government agencies.  They construct booths for this purpose where the different facets of Philippine life and culture, its customs and traditions, material or spiritual, are displayed to the interested viewers.  Public libraries are required to enhance library consciousness of the public by not only putting up exhibits and booths but also conducting programs and other activities to commemorate National Book Week, and other such events related to the love for reading and the libraries.

In other words, the NLP and the public libraries are not just repositories of collections; they are also involved actively in the nurturance and enhancement of the educational and cultural development of the Filipino people.

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