Sunday, October 24, 2004

Libraries outdated?

Kinokuniya Posted by Hello

For just RM10 I am a lifetime member of the Kuantan Public Library network, I am allowed to purview their vast collection of books in their possession, check out any I like and utilize their facilities. So why am I not happy about it?

For one and I dare say many of you will agree that the Malaysian library system is way below expectations. The collection of books they have are few and outdated, the titles do not reflect current interests and the latest reads are never bought. The collection in the Kuantan library seems more like an antiquated archive than a working library, books way back to the 1920s can be found, donated or bought from second hand sources. Reference books are inadequate and often not offering the latest materials you can find at bookstores. Latest novels and bestsellers are nowhere to be found. Facilities offered such as internet services and microfilms are not working, not available or not even present.

I used to love sitting in the old wooden building and reading the hard cover Hardy Boys book there among the drone of its antiquated air conditioning. Playing chess with my friend Jeremy (sometimes I feel like we’re the only ones doing so) and waiting for the day when we could enter the Rujukan area (restricted to those under 12). The place is still segregated with males only reading section and females only reading section, oh well so much for group studying and discussion there. When I was older I noticed that the books were not getting any newer, as if the whole place has become a time capsule offering the old rehashed books without any real addition. Trying to do research there, the text and reference books are often years behind the latest editions. The novel section only holds yellow dog eared collection of romance stories and old editions of Reader’s Digest. Popular magazine subscriptions such as Science, National Geographic and TIME were not subscribed to. After that I just lost interest in going there any more.

Libraries are meant to be centers of learning, a place where people without the means to can go and obtain knowledge or relax to a good book. Sadly if these are the goals of the library system then it has failed miserably. It could be that budget for libraries are not high enough to maintain their standard and that librarians are not too well trained to carry out archival work and maintenance. But I expect at the very least priority would be given to the sourcing of new materials. It seems nowadays the modern bookstore has taken the place of the libraries. MPH, Popular and Kinokuniya offer customers the chance to read in comfort (no more wooden stiff library chairs), free reading of the books before purchase, a reading friendly atmosphere with music, air conditioning and even a diner. Books are always current and there are no shortage of supplies of materials on all topics and themes. Activities are often scheduled to offer a whole other dimension to the reading experience. In many ways bookstores are doing a better job at getting people hooked onto reading.

If Malaysians are wondering why the typical citizen is not reading more, one reason will be the lack of access to books. Books are expensive no joke and this factor has sidelined those who can’t afford to own them. Libraries are public domains and thus should serve its social obligations if we ever hope to inculcate the habit. What more about those living in the rural areas if the state capital has such a dismal offering. More allocation should be pumped into the system and maybe even promote with greater vigor schemes such as the mobile library. Libraries will have to reinvent themselves and appeal to the younger generation of readers bred on Coffees houses and MTV. Maybe like the hungry ghost festival which used skimpy dancers (wow even ghosts have different taste nowadays), the library can go towards that direction hehe. For now I’m helping to increase the Malaysian reading average, any takers in this endeavor?


hyelbaine said...

You have got this one right on the nail. I really don't know what is the government doing about our libraries. I mean even our national library here in KL has dissapointed me far too many times :P

Cheers!!! :D

Kimberlycun said...

The National Library is a joke and books are too expensive. I'd love to read more and buy more books, but sometimes to spend like >RM40 on a book it just seems more logical to buy clothes, haha. Fortunately my college library is not bad and I love going there. However, local libraries better do something about the loan system. It's so primitive!

Jeremy said...

The difference between libraries and bookshops is the same between socialism and capitalism.

Bustaman said...

Probably it is a question of money. There is simply not enough money allocated to libraries ( for books, trained librarians etc.)
Whenever you are in PJ, take a look at the PJ Community Library.They have electronic check-outs, AV section and other improvements to make us all hope of better things to come.

Kervin said...

True money always seem to be the problem, but instead of spading it out in countless after countless of reading campaigns even a fraction of it funneled into the lical library network would help. If such a basic facilities where kids go to conduct school work and read is not well equipped how do we expect them to cement an interest in reading? Well jeremy how is the library scene there in Germany? Well stocked and running? Thankfully my uni library is still top notch though again fiction section could do with some work. Now only if they site a Kinokuniya in Kk :)

bayibhyap said...

I am grateful that I am one of the luckier ones. I have a good library. I spend less on other things and more on books.

Jeremy said...

Technically, I have a university library at my doorstep,literally. However, in one of those cruel games life plays with us, it is filled with German books and little else. Not that I have anything against German books mind you. But after 4 years of such a literary diet, I have to conclude that the best books today are written in America and in English.

Due to the abovementioned restriction, and the fact that bookshops here stock English books in their "Foreign Languages" shelf as an aid to learning the language, I haven't been reading all that many books in English. The few that I have I bought off

Such is my plight.

mamat said...

Thanks load for visiting my piece as well as leaving a very good comment, which leads me here to yours, :)

There's really nothing else that we could do other than to keep on pressuring our elected officials to ensure more monies to be put aside to improve public libraries spendings in the future budget allocation.

Ah, maybe to elect new executives? :)

mamatd .. we could go on dreaming, couldn't we?

Anonymous said...

oh god.. i was planning to go kuantan state library to update myself since am having vacation now before enter uni... seem that i have to cancel my plan ald...