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A Day at the Philippine National Library April 20, 2007

Posted by Me in Ohmygod Moments, Ramblings, Reading.
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For a special assignment, we had to troop towards the Philippine National Library today. Though I knew it would be an easy day, I wasn’t looking forward to it because of the damn heat. I like the comfort of my own cubicle… airconditioned room, internet all day, my mp3 collection…. I didn’t want to trade that in for a day in hot, smokey Manila. Yech.

We (me plus two officemates) left the office at around 10AM and got caught in a bumper-to-bumper traffic along Roxas Blvd. No surprise there. Upon arriving at the National Library we had to register and get our own library card for 50 bucks. Think of it as a donation to the Library because when you get there you’d really feel the urge to make a donation. It was a nice building, a few decades old but sturdy. What bothered me the most was the state of the materials in the library. We made our way to the Filipiniana section, up a flight of stairs to the newspaper archives. It was a sad sight. A very very very sad sight.

Our assignment was to find a few articles with certain key words, about a particular person and some key incidents. I thought it would be pretty easy but when I entered the archive section I knew it was going to be a loooooong day for all of us.

Filipiniana Section - Archives

It was very sad to find out that the one and only Philippine National Library does not have its archive on microfilm. Seeing the stacks of bundled newspapers on the shelves reminded me of my gradeschool newspaper drive! The newspapers were bundled by publication every 15 days by one of those cheap straws you buy at the wet market. If you’re going to research here you have to know which publication and which dates to look at because there’s no catalogue of any kind. If you don’t know the date or the publication, prepare yourself for a very very long day of browsing through each and every publication by day. That’s what we did. I flipped through a hundred and fifty days of Manila Bulletin and found only ONE relevant article. A fuckin waste of time.

I’m sure students have tried to flip through the newspapers long before we have which probably accounts for the state of the materials… the newspapers are already tattered and some pages were a little brittle. The heat even adds to the deterioration of the materials. The library was not airconditioned and the very few electric fans were not very helpful. Wasn’t it common knowledge that old materials need to be airconditioned or at least be kept in room temperature to preserve them? We were only looking at publications dated 1999 and they were fast becoming really brittle! Que horror!! It is also important to note that if you want a copy of the stuff you researched on then bring your own camera. The archive section does not have a copier. If these things were on microfilm then it would’ve been easy to print them but alas.. no such thing.

Being a book lover, I found it really disturbing that our National Library was in such a poor state. I can’t say that I’ve really explored the entire Library but basing on my observations on the Filipiniana archive section, I’d say they are in need of help. Desperately. They didn’t have proper airconditioning or a proper catalogue system. Why hasn’t anybody donated ONE microfilm set?!? Wouldn’t it be easier for archiving newspapers and other printed materials? The Library can even make money out of printing these out if you need them! The director of the Library, Ms. Prudenciana Cruz, boasts of the Library being a service-oriented institution and the computerization of collections but I did not experience such things when I visited the Library. If you want to boast of computerization then an electronic catalogue would be one of the very first things you should think about… just type in the key word and click to get all relevant books and articles! No such thing in the Filipiniana archives section. If you want to search for something, leaf through ALL the newspapers (and in the process, destroy some of the brittle pages). Service-oriented? I found most of the staff very irritable. Government employees may not be paid very well but if you’re in an institution that boasts of being service-oriented then a helpful and friendly staff would be something that you’d expect not someone who’d raise an eyebrow and be exasperated when you ask for directions.

I left the Library feeling icky because of the humidity and the dust and feeling a little upset that our National Library was in such a sad state. It was no wonder that not many people go to the Library… by the end of the day you’d feel like you wasted your time because we sure as hell felt that we did.

The preservation and the improvement of the Philippine National Library is a good advocacy. I hope some government official or a non-profit group recognize this and try to raise some funds even just to get the basic needs of the Library. All thoughout the ride back home I’ve been ranting about ways in raising funds for the Library… what about grants? Sponsorships? Partnerships?? When I got home I was even more bummed out… isn’t there a group out there who cares?? I googled and didn’t find anybody. 😦 Throughout my academic life if someone asks where I would be found the answer people ususally give is that they can find me in the library so it wasn’t be a surprise that I would be as bothered as I am now. Publishers and Retailers should participate in such advocacies because part of the National Library’s responsibility is to preserve the Nation’s published works for future generations! The National Library plays a pivotal role not only in the advocacy of reading but in heritage education as well. Doesn’t anybody feel the same way? No? I find that pretty disturbing.

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Comments»

1. unnamed - April 21, 2007

Ooh~

The horrors. 🙂

2. Chie Yu | Back in Time - August 1, 2009

[…] were at the Philippine National Library yesterday and I couldn’t help but take pictures of the articles I went through in 1999 and […]


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