Students and researchers can’t read books at the National Library. Here’s why

national library of the philippines
The National Library of the Philippines (Credits: http://www.ndl.go.jp/)

Doing library research is essential for any graduate student. Despite the voluminous information that can be accessed through the Internet, going to the library is still very important especially in accessing books and academic journals.

I went to the National Library of the Philippines yesterday to search for the book “Dictionary of Philippine Biography” by E. Arsenio Manuel, which was first published in 1955. Though the book is available in various libraries within the University of the Philippines Diliman, I have to look elsewhere since library services in our college will only resume once the midyear term begins next week.

So, I arrived around 11AM and much to my surprise, the National Library is still undergoing a major retrofitting. Upon entering, the guard on duty instructed me to proceed to the fourth floor, where the Filipiniana reading room is located.

Upon reaching the section, I approached a male librarian about the book I am looking for. In response, he told me that ALL books in the National Library cannot be used by students and researchers because these are now kept in vaults to protect them from getting damaged. He added that if a book has not been converted to microfilm, there’s no way I can access it.

national library of the philippines
The National Library of the Philippines (Credits: http://www.ndl.go.jp/)

To add insult to the injury, the Internet connection at the National Library is also not working because of the renovation. As a result, NLP’s online database (http://www.elib.gov.ph/) is not accessible through its own facilities. In addition, the agency’s trunklines are also not functioning while their website seems to have vanished as well.

According to NLP’s official Facebook page, the indefinite suspension of the library’s reader services began last November 2014. “This is to give way to the transfer of offices, collections, and internet wirings due to the ongoing retrofitting of the NLP building,” their announcement went.

The agency has been reposting the same announcement since then. “Should you need to visit the library for research, we recommend that you visit your institution’s library first to check if your library has partners which you can visit or head to your nearest public library for the meantime,” the newest post on the Facebook page says.

Of course, no one knows how long that “for the meantime” will last. This is not to say that the retrofitting project must be stopped. It should proceed, especially given the dire predictions made by the authorities vis-a-vis a possible strong earthquake in the near future.

However, the NLP should not discount the immediate interests of the public, regardless of the fact that a very small portion of the population uses their services. “An alternative space where researchers can work should have been part of the plan,” said Cecile Fadrigon, a former history instructor at the De La Salle University and currently a PhD student at UP Diliman. 

“It shouldn’t hurt to give their clients an idea when the construction will be finished. All construction projects, especially those government funded, have deadlines,” she added.

There’s no other way to put it: the National Library of the Philippines has been unable to do its most basic functions for the past seven months and counting, and that needs to stop.

(PS: A hard copy of the book I am looking for is available at the nearby National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The catch? Their library doesn’t have a photocopying service. I was told told by a librarian that that has been the set-up for a long time because of copyright concerns. I was like, “What the ….?”)

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About Mark Madrona 1191 Articles
Mark Madrona is a prize-winning blogger, online journalist, and educator from the Philippines. Previously a book editor, he is now teaching communication subjects for two public universities in Manila. His blog The Filipino Scribe won 3rd place in a blog competition organized by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP). In 2015, it was one of the finalists in the 2015 Lasallian Scholarum Awards for Best Online Feature Article in Youth and Education. He also won the Best Blog Award during the 2011 Population and Development Media Awards, the youngest recipient of that recognition. Know more about him here: http://www.filipinoscribe.com/about/.

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