Speech of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon
Philippine Librarians Association Inc. National Congress
Century Park Hotel, Manila
November 26, 2014
ADDRESSING CHALLENGES, SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES
First let me greet Dr. Marilou Tadlip, Head of the National Committee on Library and Information Services; the President of the Philippine Librarian Association Incorporated, Mrs. Elizabeth Peralejo; the Executive Vice President and Conference Chair of the Philippines, Mr. Michael Pinto; Prof. Rhea Ravena Apolinario, our emcee; friends, ladies and gentlemen good morning.
As I join you in celebrating the Library and Information Services Month, let me offer my warmest and sincerest wishes to you, my dear librarians.
An English novelist, Virginia Woolf, once said and I quote: “I ransack public libraries, and find them full of sunk treasure.”
I completely agree with Madame Woolf. When I was a young boy in Iloilo, the books that I borrowed from the school library and the public library gave me marvelous adventures. I remember that the public library in Iloilo was then called United States Information Service. The older ones here who are of my age will probably remember, the younger ones will not. We used to have in the 50’s and 60’s all over the country a United States Information Service where you read about figures like Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and about the American presidents. I really immersed myself in those series. It enabled me to acquire a vivid and powerful imagination at the time when internet, cell phone and cable television were unheard of. The books, which often kept me company even until the wee hours of the morning, opened my mind to a world that offers endless possibilities and enabled me to think creatively.
I am blessed to be surrounded with good books at a young age. I particularly love history and philosophy books, as well as biographies of people who have made a difference during their lifetime. By reading about their life story, I had the privilege to peek into their minds, and vicariously walk in their shoes. Their insights on leadership, human relations and empathy are truly helpful in my life as a lawyer, politician and public servant.
From the countless books that I have read, I gained tons of life lessons that helped me deal with challenges, conquer seemingly insurmountable difficulties, and maintain a balanced and objective world view even in the face of adversity. Needless to say, those books left an indelible mark in my life.
I give huge credit to the librarians who have patiently guided me as I went through a maze of bookshelves and helped me discover books that were a veritable gold mine of knowledge and information. It is true that the influence of books in shaping character and forming values cannot be underestimated.
However, the 21st century brings in many challenges to libraries. With the internet, E-books, google and other search engines, libraries have gradually lost their appeal.
In many parts of the world, including developed countries, community libraries are facing closure. Even school libraries are facing problems such as outdated or obsolete collection of reading materials, financial constraints and inadequately-trained professional staff.
Moreover, it has been observed that the love for books is waning among the children and youth. It is lamentable that there are more children who are hooked in computer games and who would rather hang out in the malls and arcades, than children who spend a great deal of their time reading great books. I remember, in my time, it was a badge of honor to be known as a “bookworm.” In fact, that in the library we have these cards attached at the pocket at the end of the book, and you would try to see the names and signatures of those who have read these books. But nowadays, children would rather be known as an expert of Candy Crush and other computer games.
Although I agree that times have changed, I do not agree that libraries and librarians have lost their relevance in the 21st century. Be assured that I recognize and uphold the value of libraries in schools and communities despite the internet and the accessibility to E-books. In fact, when I go abroad, one of my favorite pastimes is to go to local bookstores and just grab whatever is on top of the list.
An article discussing the future of librarians affirms that several basic library functions will continue to be needed, even where all content is electronic. These roles, believed to be more critical than ever, pertain to the functions of aggregation, curation and reference. More books and articles are being published today than at any time in history, whether printed traditionally or released digitally.
Ladies and Gentlemen, technology has opened our floodgates to unfiltered information. We drown in a sea of data, unable to distinguish between valuables and debris. This is especially true for us politicians. You can just imagine the comments we get in Twitter and Facebook. Hindi ko na po binabasa ang ilan, dahil sasama lang ang loob mo. Certainly, given such unbridled access to information, miseducation poses a real threat to the consciousness of our youth.
Hence, there is an undeniable need to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Traditionally, our librarians have taken on such function through aggregation, curation and reference. Our librarians aggregate information by keeping keep track of every new material and cataloguing each accordingly. They curate by sifting through materials in order to determine their relevance. Finally, our librarians discharge reference function by providing assistance in finding facts, figures, and other information in a stack of materials that would suit a researcher’s particular needs. With proper training and open mind, our librarians can give a fresh take on these conventional roles in order to adapt to the global changes in the area of information-dissemination.
Our librarians can also assume new roles such as facilitator, end-user trainer/educator, researcher, interface designer, knowledge manager/professional and many more. The possibilities are endless.
The 21st century librarian has a deep understanding of the users’ needs, embraces technology and finds creative and appropriate ways to use it to deliver more efficient and effective library services.
With the rise of online education, there is the question of how prepared are the librarians to deliver the needed service. I understand that managing and delivering electronic collections are intricate tasks. Hence, I encourage you to follow new trends and advancements in computers, media and publishing. You should be knowledge consultants that students and researchers can run to anytime. Always remember that the quality of the school library is an important part of a student’s academic experience.
Moreover, I firmly support the growth and development of community libraries where children and even adults can have free access to information. Community libraries can help in addressing adult illiteracy by designing and implementing a reading program. By helping illiterate adults acquire reading skills, libraries and librarians are helping them improve their chances at finding a good job and having a better quality of life.
On the other hand, I encourage libraries to forge partnerships with information service providers, as well as with libraries here and abroad.
Today’s event offers an auspicious venue to share experiences, keep abreast of new trends and practices and generate ideas to better manage libraries and to make them attractive to both adults and the youth. This is an opportune time for you to come up with a strategy or a long-term plan to address challenges and seize opportunities.
In the words of Timothy Healy, former president of the New York Public Library, I quote: “The most important asset of any library goes home at night -- the library staff."
Let me once again extend my warmest congratulations to your National Congress. Let me assure you that you can all count on my unwavering support.
Thank you very much.