Keynote Address delivered at Philippine Librarians Association, Inc.-Bicol Librarians Council Seminar-Workshop, Aquinas University, AQ Dome, September 28, 2007.
Prof. Corazon Nera, Chairman, Board of Librarians
[If already around] Prof. Lourdes David, Library Director, ADMU
[If already around] Mrs. Susima Gonzales, President, PLAI
[If already around] Prof. Thelma S. Kim, VP, PLAI
Members of the Board of Directors of the Bicol Librarians Council
Officers & Members of Bicol Librarians Council
Ladies and Gentlemen
A pleasant morning to us all.
Napanood n’yo ba yung opening episode sa latest season ng “Pinoy Big Brother” kung saan ang mga housemates ay nagtsika-tsika … to know one another. A lady housemate inquired about the jobs of the male housemates. One of the men replied. He said, “I have a boring job back home … abroad.” Hearing that, the lady housemate blurted, “Are you a librarian?”
That made me think if being a librarian is boring. Also, I have yet to know of a male, much more a Filipino, who is a librarian.
When the male housemate answered, he said, “No, I’m a salesman.”
There seems to be a stereotype image of librarians. They are female, hair coifed in a bun, with horn-rimmed glasses, always uptight, and ever on the lookout for library users to scold or to silence.
A library would be incomplete without the screaming “Silence” signs nailed on all available walls and posts of the hall. Young and spirited library users would feel that they can be in the library for only as long as they can hold their tongues from wagging, which, anyway, could not be held still until the last page they intend to read.
Of course, our librarians and libraries have gone a long way from the stereotypes they used to be. For one, dear librarians, you are now as chic, spick and span as anyone. Our libraries too are no longer heavily adorned with the “Silence” signs.
In many ways, our librarians have changed. Our libraries have changed too. But the number of library users has yet to register a dramatic change. How could this be?
Our University Librarian wishes to have every chair in our libraries occupied by students, every book opened and read. That is why she keeps tab of everyone who goes in. I share her wishes. But the question remains: How can we entice more students, more readers, more users to go to the library?
How do we “market” the library? In one blog site [clair.free.net.ph], i came across an item comparing libraries with Linux. It said, both have image problems. “That’s why Microsoft was getting a lot of attention at a Linux conference. And that’s why I think readers seem to patronize bookstores more than libraries”. Said the blogger.
The image problem has to be recognized and solved in order to enhance marketability. The matter of marketability can also be conveniently addressed if we consider the 5 P’s of marketing. let’s take a look at the Product libraries are selling. Are libraries “selling” books, information, research assistance? Librarians need to decide what exactly their product is.
The next P would be Price. The products are supposed to be free yet why do users instead go to the bookstores? Has this anything to do with the Dewey Decimal System? Or the “Silence” signs? Or, how about the next P, the Place? Is the library strategically located? Is it dark, dusty, cramped, poorly ventilated? Does it exude a welcoming ambiance?
There is the matter of Promotions too. These days we cannot do away with promotions if we want to sell. No one will buy something if the public does not know it exists. But how can people not know that the library exists? Have you not heard of some students proudly declaring that they graduated from school without having gone to the library?
The last P would be Positioning. Now, this is about image. We have to project an image different from that which librarians and libraries are usually portrayed. I don’t know how you would do that. In Wisconsin, USA, the Associated Press reported about how librarians posed for a sexy calendar not only to position their libraries but also to raise funds for their libraries. One blogger said, “Think what would have happened to the image of librarians if one of the four leads in Sex and the City had been a librarian. Or what if the women in Desperate Housewives were having affairs not with plumbers and gardeners, but librarians.” This matter of positioning can really be very challenging. I am not saying you have to go the extremes. I am saying that it is time to present a new image without compromising ethics. Our libraries should catch the eye, arouse interest, and entice more students and uses to come in … buy our “products.”
Libraries should not only be repositories of information. They should also be generators and broadcasters of knowledge. Information Technology now demands a change in the paradigm of library operations. We should no longer limit ourselves to the three traditional aspects of library work, which are, user services, technical services, and administrative services.
In fact, librarians nowadays have to develop computer and information system skills or you will be left behind. I understand that librarians are now applying their information management and research skills to arenas outside of libraries. They are getting into database development, reference tool development, information systems, internet coordination, marketing, web content management and design, training database users, and even publishing.
Some librarians now do not only deal with information in the format of books, magazines, newspapers, audio recordings, video recordings, maps, photographs, and other graphic materials. They are now getting into museum-quality artifacts, manuscripts, and other archival materials. And of course, there is the Internet.
Definitely, we have to deal with the increasing role of technology in the library. We are moving away from the traditional card catalogs to online public access catalogs.
The challenges may be enormous but I am happy to observe that our librarians in the Bikol Region are mightily doing everything they can to improve on their relevance and to enhance their professionalism.
Prof. Ambeth Ocampo, in his column “Looking Back” [in the March 9, 2007 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer], wrote that … a librarian is a gateway to information, and how he or she fulfills the job is a way to social change.
May this gathering be very productive.