June 28, 2008

Knowledge vs. Ignorance

The following article was first published in the Tampakan Update, the official publication of the Municipality of Tampakan. The author is a development worker since the early 1990's and currently a consultant of SMI for the DReAM Children Project.

(Photos are courtesy of CDIC-Tampakan)


by: Ariel Marco T. Oclarit

If you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance.

This was among the words of wisdom, originally quoted from renowned writer Mark Twain, which Prof. Arturo Barbosa imparted to the participants during a recently-held seminar in Tampakan. The professor, who himself is a distinguished academician-librarian in the region, was giving a lecture on Library Management; and, in sharing Twain’s wisdom, he wanted to underscore the importance of collection-building (acquisition of library materials) as among the priority activities of managers of libraries and reading centers.

The lecture was given during the Seminar-Workshop on Basic Library Skills and Management held on April 17-18, 2008 at the Municipal Conference Hall of Tampakan. The seminar was attended by some some 37 individuals – all Barangay officials and personnel of Barangay Development Information Centers (BDICs) which directly oversee the village-level reading centers all throughout Tampakan.

The holding of the activity was a concerted effort of the Local Government of Tampakan through its Municipal Library, the Community Development Information Council (CDIC), and the Sagittarius Mines, Inc (SMI).These entities, incidentally, are among the collaborators of the DReAM Children Project, a partnership-driven reader development project initiated by SMI which aims to help build libraries, school-based learning resource centers, and community reading centers within and around the company’s copper-gold project.

Need over Want

During his lecture, Prof. Barbosa, imparted guiding principles to follow in the procurement of resources (collection) for the library or reading center. “NEED over WANT; if it’s cheap and you need it, then buy it; if it’s expensive but you need it, then buy it; if it’s not needed, it be expensive or free, do not get it.”

Knowledge (or information) – with all the physical (and social) infrastructures needed to gather and manage it – indeed, does not come by cheap. Local governments are mandated to build public libraries and reading centers (R.A. 7743) but “limited or absence of funds” would normally be stated as among the reasons why these infrastructures are not prioritized by most municipalities and barangays.

In the case of Tampakan, the advocacy for the establishment and meaningful operation of its own public library system is continuing and is not without its own hardships. One thing going for it is that the advocacy was started way back and, today, Tampakan’s constituents are already beginning to reap the fruits of the labor of Sir Butch (Barroso; current Municipal Administrator and CDIC adviser) and Sir Efren (Villarina; Community Affairs Officer), among others; their labor characterized by innovativeness and perseverance.

In his inspirational address during the opening program of the seminar-workshop, Sir Butch remembered how in the early 1990s they had to wring their minds for creative ways to set up the library and put resources into it. There were virtually no funds, but to choose ignorance was out of the question. He and his colleagues initiated a “Mutya” fund-raising contest where instead of the Peso, the winner would have to raise “books”. After the contest, the Tampakan Municipal Library had its first "sacks" of books.

Tampakan knew its need for a public library. It was just a matter of thinking ways to go around the barriers.

LGU Support

Today, Tampakan is among the few, if not the only one among the municipalities of South Cotabato, which has strong, operational programs for both the Municipal Library and the barangay reading centers.

In his own opening talk during the seminar-workshop, Hon. Relly Leysa, acting Municipal Vice-Mayor, happily announced that the local government through the Sangguniang Bayan has just approved fund allocation (PhP50,000.00) for the current year for the further improvement of the municipal library.

The amount of financial support may be far from the ideal to fully cover the needs the Municipal Library much more those of the barangay reading centers; but it can already go a long way, especially in providing for the municipal library’s current identified need for more bookshelves and repainting of its interior. This amount may also be utilized as leverage for any assistance and support sought from the outside.

During the topic Cataloging and Classifying Library or Reading Center Materials, as delivered by Prof. Marissa Montaño of the Notre Dame of Marbel University (NDMU), it was noted that classification tools (e.g. Sears List of Subject-Headings, DDC System, etc) which one cannot do without in organizing the collection of libraries or reading centers, now cost no less than PhP 75,000.00 to acquire. The Municipal Library currently has none. There maybe a need to acquire one (1) set for its principal use and for the secondary use of the barangay reading centers.

Learning Spaces

Another resource person-lecturer during the seminar-workshop, Ms. Fraulein A. Oclarit, a professional librarian and a DReAM Children volunteer, also gave emphasis on the importance of looking beyond the traditional definitions of “libraries” as physical places and see their relevance based on the what their own communities need.

Ms. Oclarit pointed out that more than a space and a collection, the development of strong library-based programs for children and the creation of other learning spaces to explore knowledge other than from reading are essential components in the success of this initiative. She emphasized that the library can host programs that encourage voluntary reading (as opposed to reading as a requirement to earn credit in school), learning through play, conversation and discovery. This way, the library now becomes more children and experience-focused. She emphasized that these programs need to be attuned with the context by which these children are now living and growing.

Continuing Partnership

Besides the individual learnings from the different topics discussed during the seminar-workshop, the activity brought forth other important realizations which are themselves significant output in the continuing advocacy towards reader development. Among these is the addition of two more individual supporters from among the professional sector who have expressed willingness to extend more time and talent to help cater to the needs at the community level.

Professors Barbosa and Montaño are among the few, unfortunately, in the librarianship profession who possess the same big heart for the community as they have brilliant minds for the craft of librarianship; which all the more make their commitment more meaningful.

Barring any hitches in the schedule, there will be a second conduct of the same Seminar-Workshop on Basic Library Skills and Management in the first week of June 2008. This time, the participants will be all Principals/TICs & SLRCs-in-charge of the different elementary and high schools of Tampakan.

All current DReAM Children project partners in Tampakan – the Municipal and Barangay local governments, the Department of Education, the Municipal Library, the CDIC, the Rotary Club, and Sagittarius Mines, as well as the individual volunteers from the academe – have began a movement for literacy in Tampakan. The direction is all forward.

Between knowledge and ignorance, for these partners, the choice is clear enough.

1 comment:

  1. I've known Mr. Barbosa way back in my college days at the Mindanao State University-Tambler, General Santos City where he was then the school librarian (I'm not sure if he's still until now). I would say he was one of the best recruits the university had at the time; very unassuming and amiable, yet, quite brilliant and selflessly dedicated to his craft. He was an aberration to our typecast bespectacled old lady (my apologies to the ultra feminists) librarian who growls at the source of every audible spoken word.
    Where newspapers,magazines and books were as scarce as water in that part of the city, he would keep the students abreast of the current events by religiously writing/posting on the bulletin board, strategically positioned at the library entrance, the day's major news stories and bits of information of human interest. The method, simple and commonplace as it might seem, was very effective because the students, and even members of the faculty, were invariably drawn back to the place regularly to even at least check the latest posts.
    About eight years ago, I had the chance to visit the MSU- Tambler library at its new location, still under the auspices of Prof. Barbosa. At the very moment I stepped inside, I already knew that the manager was doing an excellent job.