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Philippines Librarians Association Inc (PLAI) Congress



Connected Actions, Collective Vision: Libraries Transforming Society, Quezon City, 20-23 November.

I was delighted to be the keynote speaker at the PLAI congress, which attracted 870 librarians from around the Philippines. The congress was opened by the President of PLAI, Michael Pinto, Mrs Prudenciana Cruz, Head of the National Commission for Culture and Arts – National Committee on Libraries and Information Services and Hon Yolanda Granda, Chairman, Professional Regulatory Board for Librarians. The Congress coincided with Library and Information Services Month in the Philippines and also National Book Week.

In my presentation I provided a global context for the congress by talking first about the United Nations 2030 Agenda and IFLA’s International Advocacy Program; and the Global Vision project which has provided a global vision for libraries. I also shared some advocacy programs from other countries to provide some ideas on how to transform libraries.

There was a presentation on the initiatives and programs of the National Library of the Philippines delivered by Dolores Carungui. She talked about the reading promotion programs that are run in conjunction with public libraries, including storytelling, puppet shows and read aloud sessions. There is an NLP Book cart that goes out to parks in Manila for reading in the parks programs and this is duplicated throughout the country in partnership with public libraries. NLP produces Braille and Talking Books for those with vision impairment and it subscribes to electronic resources and has a collection development program with an annual allocation for NLP affiliated libraries. They hold training sessions such as the recent 3-day workshop on the development of children’s book in mother tongue and also run disability awareness training. INLEI-Asean runs out of NLP; and in 2018 Butuan City Library in Butuan which is offering a package of e-government support and computer literacy services was awarded the EIFL Public Library economic wellbeing award.

Emelita Villanueva is Director of the Quezon City Library, which was announced as the outstanding library in the National Library of the Philippines Awards this year. Emelita described the programs and activities that are undertaken in the library and I was delighted to be able to visit the library and meet with the staff and see this new library in action. There are many innovative programs happening there including a very impressive children’s program, numerous outreach programs and a much needed and appreciated e-government service that helps people apply for jobs online as well as licences and other regulatory matters. I was told there is a constant queue of people waiting to use the service and it was certainly being well patronised when I was there. The library also boasts a café and an extensive local history collection.

Tom Nesmith, Associate Professor, Archival Studies, History and the University of Manitoba gave a fascinating and rather scary presentation on the future uses of Archives, which used to be a record of government but has now branched out into being mined for genealogy, medical research and genetics as well as climate change and human rights. Tom believes that librarians and archivists have an intertwined future. There is difficulty in bringing digital records under archival control at the same time as companies such as Ancestry.com are preserving genealogical records and making money out of public archives. Governments are now starting to store archives in the cloud, but who owns the cloud and who owns the information stored there. There is a wariness among archivists about cloud storage as they are concerned about what happens if these companies fail and questions about who controls the information in the cloud. Public organisations may retain some control but so does the cloud owner and if you own the cloud do you own the information too? He suggests that formally or informally giant tech companies will control the public record. He made reference throughout his talk to a book by Yural Noh Harasi called the New Human Agenda which focuses on Artificial Intelligence and big data.

It was delightful to meet so many enthusiastic and passionate colleagues and hear about the great work they are doing. There are many challenges in the Philippines, with a low knowledge and use of public libraries, especially in the regional areas. And it was also interesting to me to hear that the Philippines is one of the few countries that has a government regulated professional board to accredit librarians. To achieve professional standing in the Philippines it is necessary to pass both the University and Board examinations and there is a compulsory Continuing Professional Development scheme.

My grateful thanks to PLAI colleagues especially Elvira Lapuz, Rhea Apolinario and Michael Pinto for their warm and gracious hospitality.

Photo: at Quezon City Library


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