A very early morning. Lily picked me up at 5:30am for a 9am flight. Traffic not quite as bad at that time of the day. At the airport, Lily hands me off to staff at the National Libraries of the Philippines (NLP). About 15 NLP staff are already there. Much photo-taking ensued.
It only took at hour to get from Manila to Cebu City and then to the Elizabeth Hotel, the conference site.
I had a chance today to have some really good conversations with a number of librarians. I probably should say that I took notes and have tried to be accurate about names and titles, and details about libraries. If I get it wrong, please let me know.
I had an opportunity to talk to Dolores (Dolly) Carungui, Chief of the NLP Reference Division which includes services to special populations such as blind and print handicapped, children’s services, and international cooperation and Nona Yauder, Director of Public Library Services which is very similar to a US state library agency library development unit. Overall, the services of NLP are very similar to those of most state libraries in the United States – consulting, training, networking, services to special groups such as blind and print handicapped, a reference collection — and most important leadership for local libraries and advocacy with government agencies and officials. Nona said that there are 89 provinces (similar to US states) in the Philippines but only 59 have libraries. One of NLPs tasks is to convince municipal officials to establish a library. Their law 7743, passed in 1994, provides for the establishment of libraries but has never been funded.
On the bus to the hotel, Dolly asked me what I wanted to do in the afternoon. I asked her if she didn’t have something better to do than spend the afternoon with me she said NLP Director Tony Santos had told her that her job was to take care of me – and she did. She was my “go to” person for every aspect of my trip. The Filipinos are a model for good hospitality. So we went shopping to purchase interesting jewelry.
Dinner was 30 librarians descending on an unsuspecting restaurant which actually accommodated us fairly easily. I asked for fried fish but ended up with a baked milkfish with a superb tangy vegetable sauce; a fried fish plate with about four kinds of fish and enough to serve about four people; AND a whole, stuffed squid
Over dinner, I had a chance to talk with Ruth Chua, Director of the Cebu City Public Library. She has seven staff and she is the only professional. Ruth has a Family Literacy Program that is reaching 25 low income families. For three months they meet with the mothers and children once a week, teach the mothers how to read to their children, and help them select and check out books. After three months, the parents did not want to stop so next time they will have the program for five months. They are doing this on their own with volunteers – no special grants
I also had a discussion with Nona about a curious aspect of Philippine library law. She had asked me earlier if librarians were responsible for the books in the library. I said, yes, they are, thinking in general terms. Well it turns this has a more literal meaning in the Philippines. The librarian is personally responsible – as in they take the cost of the book out of the librarian’s salary. With that fiscal consequence, I asked why any librarian would ever lend any book. The answer – well some don’t and expensive books are held in locked cases.
Today’s cultural observation. Filipinos are very polite, respectful, yet informal. People are called by their first name. I’m Miss Nancy or just mam, pronounced as if it were “Mahm.” It makes it easy for me. In Bulgaria where I often visit and teach, it is polite to address everyone by their last name and their long, multi-syllable names defeat me. I’m always afraid I’m offending them when I default to the first name. Here, it is relief to be able to be polite with a Miss Dolly or Miss Nona or Miss Ruth.
Tomorrow the conference actually starts.