Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The 2015 NBW Blog Event: Filipino Librarians and the Essentials of Reading Books

This write up is part of the  2015 NBW Blog Event aimed at celebrating and drumming up the 81st National Book Week happening on November 24-30, 2015. With the theme, the Filipino Reader in the Era of ASEAN Integration, guest bloggers write, share and ruminate on being a Filipino librarian and reader in this age of ASEAN Integration.
The blog is still carrying on with the topic, Filipino Librarians and the Essentials of Reading Books. Our guest blogger is Ms. Cristina Villanueva. Cristina works in a university library. During her free time she reads books, and visits bookstores for a change. Her greatest dream is to someday visit the Library of Congress and the Bodleian Library. But her more pressing dream is a functional library in every Philippine public elementary school.

Cristina in Japan last April 2015
My narrative will revolve around the theme, “Filipino Librarians and the Essentials of Reading Books,” while attempting to address the following questions: What is the perfect book?  What are the top ten best books you have read in your lifetime that have made an impact in your life? What are your recommended reads for other librarians? Offhand, allow me to say that to be effective librarians we need to be reading librarians.

Growing up, I never dreamed of landing in this profession. Just like anybody typically born into a family belonging to the lower echelon of society, all I ever wanted was make money after graduation. I never thought that my love for books and libraries would chart my future.

My passion for books started at an early age. Thanks to my elementary school’s library. You see, I was schooled in a private Catholic school. The Library was the most welcoming spot in school, ever teeming with readers during recess and lunch break. It was no bigger than a regular classroom. The shelves were neatly arranged against all four walls of the room. As early as the third grade we were required to visit the library after lunch break, undeniably the unholiest hours of learning and most probably teaching. We would form 2 lines, one for the girls and one for the boys, and silently proceed to the library. Since I was small, I was second in line thus had the advantage to first enter the library and select the best books. We had the option to borrow a book for a night and return it the following day.

I started with books on the Bobbsey Twins, Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. In grades 4 and 5, I was introduced to Nancy Drew. Hardy Boys came later in grade 6. My fascination and addiction to these mystery books forced me to read all the titles in the series. What I was not able to borrow from the library, I borrowed from classmates who were better off. In exchange for the favor, I let them copy my assignments. I was required to return borrowed books the following day, forcing me to read until the wee hours of the morning sleeping only a wink before getting ready for school at 6:30 a.m. It was thus a big let-down when I came to know later on that Carolyn Keene and Franklin Dixon simply were non-existent.

Classics were a required reading in high school since we were required to turn in book reports in English classes. I read John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Grapes of Wrath, The Good Earth, To Kill a Mockingbird, Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the World, The Greatest Secret in the World, The Greatest Miracle in the World, and George Eliot’s Silas Marner. The Diary of Anne Frank opened my eyes to the diabolical horrors of the holocaust. It was not all heavy reading though, I also got hooked on to Sweet Dreams, Mills and Boon, and Barbara Cartland books.

It was in high school that I ventured into the YMCA community library. The amiable librarian was the sister of my sister’s best friend. These social ties became my pass to enter the library and loan out books. To this day, I make it a point to donate books to the YMCA as payback for the privilege accorded and for nurturing my interest in books and reading. 

My reading preferences in college transitioned to heavier stuffs like Irving Wallace, Judith Krantz, Louis L’amour, Jeffrey Archer, Colleen McCullough, Harold Robbins, Lawrence Sanders while appreciating briefly the works of Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, and Mary Higgins Clark. The New York Times Bestseller magazine sort of became a guide for my book bucket list.

Today, I can name a good number of books that I have enjoyed and which I am sure children as well as adults will take pleasure in reading. Topping the list is E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Og Mandino’s, The Twelfth Angel, and The Gift of Acabar, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Paulo Choelo’s The Alchemist and The Fifth Mountain, Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and of course, the all too familiar J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter fantasy series.

With Cristina, librarian friends and Ryota, a Japanese friend we met in Osaka, Japan
I still read books but not as often as I would have wanted to because of the demands of my work. Authors I favor, in no particular order, are John Grisham, Sue Grafton, Dan Brown, Amy Tan, Patricia Cornwell, Emily Giffin, Nicholas Sparks, the Chicken Soup series and a whole lot more. Oftentimes, I visit bookstores to know the latest bestselling books. Just marveling and skimming through the displays has been a stress reliever. In fact, I have accumulated books faster that I can read them. Reading is such an unparalleled experience, bringing the reader to parts unknown, real and imagined. Feelings are shifted vicariously, making them so palpable you can almost hold them with your bare hands. Reading cultivates one’s ability to critically analyze, think and decide.  And this is what we need in this era of ASEAN integration, a reading population that critically thinks and who can easily compete with our literate neighbors.

Until now, there’s no greater pleasure for me than curling in a chair with a good read in hand. Looking back, I’m grateful to be in a job where I get to be paid to do what I love to do—reading.

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