Monday, November 7, 2005

Librarians = Missing Ingredient in the Library Hub Recipe

While I am happy to know that the Dep Ed's efforts to create Library Hubs all over the country is moving to reality, I am disappointed at the news that librarians are not directly involved (or not all, so it seems from the press releases) in the project.

Neni Cruz wrote in her article that training of "teacher-librarians" is part and parcel of the plan of action. Training has actually begun in Naga City. This bode well in the development of the library hubs. In another news item by Sandy Araneta, the library hubs are envisioned to hold 10,000 to 200,000 books since DepEd aims to bring books to public schools nationwide and make every Filipino child a reader. DepEd has, in fact, the "Every Child a Reader by Grade 3" program. These are all laudable efforts for both government agency and NGO's that support reading and literacy development.

The creation of libraries and reading centers pave the way for inculcating a genuine love for books and reading among the young. Training of teacher-librarians is important. Book collection is equally important. Access to books and reading materials is what our public school children deserve. Networking and collaborating with people, organizations and foundations are strategies that can sustain the growth of these libraries and reading centers.

However, librarians MUST be there, and MUST be visible to support and nurture these reading centers and library hubs for children to grow as readers. Teacher-librarians are not full time personnel for libraries, unless, the definition and job description of teacher-librarians in the country has changed. As far as I know, teacher-librarians are teachers with content area teaching load and part time librarians on the side. How can children access the books if the library is open only for an hour or so in the afternoon when classes are dismissed? Would the teacher-librarian prioritize the implementation of reading activities and programs when he/she is expected to teach first in the classroom? Are these teacher-librarians always present when a teacher is in need of books and learning materials for the students?

Books can come as gifts and donations by the millions but the school secretary or school custodian does not have the academic preparation to organize and maintain them specifically answering the developmental needs of learning children. Besides, book collection does not end with numbers. One poor school library may only have 10,000 but its quality may be immeasurable. Can custodians and secretaries evaluate the quality of a book collection? Can they articulate what area in the collection is weak or strong? Do we expect them to recommend titles?

Then, there is networking to consider. Nearby schools with library hubs can actually organize consortium to share the wealth of the book collection and fill up gaping needs. Aside from books, they can share ideas and expertise with each other, thereby, making the responsibility of reading development a community effort.

The Library Hub project of the DepEd is admirable. But if we want to raise readers, let's start by investing on LIBRARIANS. Create more items for public school and public libraries for librarians. Librarians can set up reading centers and libraries. Librarians can run programs and implement services for their clients. They are trained in library school to do so.

what would become of those library hubs without librarians? Have we thought about that?

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