My exploration one day of Burnham Park to acquaint myself with the Park as an ecosystem beyond just an aesthetic decoration and recreational area (the national government has reportedly sent P25M to the city government to rehabilitate the Park and locals like me should lobby that the rehabilitation be done from an ecosystem perspective than from a pure engineering or architectural perspective) led me to the City Library, a low building at the edge of the Park across the Children’s Park and designed in the CCP/bahay kubo architecture fostered by Imelda Marcos. I thought it was a fitting culmination to an afternoon of walking around, to sit in quiet with my favorite things, books. And when I saw the signage “City Library is now a Wifi zone”, I totally forgot the exhaustion in my feet.
Inside, the first thing I discovered, on the ground floor, is the Children’s Playroom and Library. Wow. I thought then to bring along my youngest child the next time I visit. I could imagine her absorbed, just like at National Bookstore in SM Baguio where children are allowed to peruse books all day if they so desire on their special reading corner. I haven’t gotten around to saying how child-friendly the Library is to the librarian but I intend to. I haven’t been in any city or municipal libraries around the country but I think this ought to be the model.
Also on the ground floor is the Journals and Thesis Reports section. It holds innumerable journals, all the latest copies. Superb. I thought there was just one blip. How come fashion institutions such as Vogue are not classified as ‘journal’? Isn’t fashion a science too? What if there are students in fashion design and would like to utilize the City Library service? Am I joking?
At the Filipiniana section, on the second and topmost floor, I discovered there weren’t many records kept about Baguio. Sad, but this I believe is due to the destruction of the old library in the 1990 earthquake. I thought one of the books handed to me, City of Pines: The Origins of Baguio as a Colonial Hill Station and Regional Capital, looked familiar and indeed, returning home, I found I own a copy that obviously I still haven’t gotten myself to reading.
The rest of the literature are on the same floor, and these are openly displayed, according to classifications, in one corner of the hall. Users are free to get the books they need but three at a time. I found a small but a treasure trove nonetheless of hard-to-find latest editions in urban planning and management, environmental science and planning, and public administration. I had sections of the books photocopied (the library has a photocopier as books there can’t be taken out) and scanned through the rest of the sections in the hall. This is apparently cost savings on my end. I imagine each of the book to cost more than a thousand pesos but I spent only a little more than a fraction of the cost for the photocopies.
A separate section on law is in another corner. The books and records are also a treasure as many of the Library users are I discovered law students and practitioners doing research of best practices and past cases. (Incidentally, I came to a user, who’s in media, from out of town, doing research there.)
There is also a section holding fiction books or novels. If these were allowed for home reading, I’d probably top the borrower list.
The Library does not close for lunch break and users are allowed to bring snacks (but not lunch!) to tide them over the hours as the Library is not exactly surrounded by food centers. The quiet of the place is not sleepy quiet but studious quiet, it makes one sit up snappy straight. (Incidentally a far cry from my undergraduate years when the university library beckoned to me as my nap room in between classes. I think I’ve napped in all of the ten floors except the floor on religion perhaps because I had more religion then not to soil the floor with my intellectual sloth. Maybe I’ve changed since.)
In discussions in the AEA (American Evaluation Association) listserv, in which I’m taking part, a new role has emerged for libraries: an information hub during disasters and in efforts toward disaster risk reduction. During disasters, the library is converted to a virtual information hub to support operations. I think it is a role that fits the traditional capacity of libraries. In the US, librarians are undergoing trainings toward this new role. In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear event, Japanese scientists-members of the AEA listserv were asking for information about how past nuclear crises were managed in the US and they wanted (without telling it much) the information very quickly without going through the layers of bureaucratic protocol. Supposing libraries holding literature or records of these (US) events had distilled the management lessons and stored these in database, communicating the lessons to users at a critical time would only take a push of a button or a long distance call. By taking a more active role in public information management, particularly in disasters and disaster risk reduction, the library could once more renew its important role in the community.