Community libraries are often empty on weekdays when children are in school. On weekends and holidays, when they are free, the libraries are closed.
In Pandacan, Manila, concerned nongovernment organizations (NGOs) decided the situation had to change. They got together and launched POL (Pandacan Open Library).
The brainchild of Antonio Santos, vice president of Samahang Sining at Kultura ng Pilipinas (SSk-Pil), POL aims to complement the Kapitan Isidro Mendoza Public Library (KIMPL) in Pandacan, Manila, that opens only on weekdays.
Space was provided by parish priest Fr. Lazaro Abaco who allowed the use of an area usually reserved for wakes. The group then linked up with Pandacan Parish Youth Council (PYC) in implementing the plan, raising funds and getting the human resources needed.
It took five months to collect the materials and turn the church area into a library, as volunteers only worked on weekends and after office hours.
Reigniting love for reading
The project got the support of the Friends of the Library (FOL), which is dedicated to helping libraries promote the love of reading and an appreciation of good books in the age of digital media.
Sixto Carlos Jr., current FOL head and a board member of SSK-Pil, contributed his group’s collection of books and journals, and involved the community in stage plays, reading sessions, film showings, exhibitions and storytelling competitions.
FOL has been promoting reading by donating books to various libraries.
In 2009, it handed over more than 500 books to KIMPL, many of them from Anamaine Asinas of the Manila-Perth Book Project.
Two desktop computers and tables were contributed by former Pandacan resident Lina Flor Carlos.
In January, FOL donated over 70 books to Manuel Roxas High School. One of the major donors, Geraldine Osias of the Denuo Center for Learning and Development, attended the event and gave an inspirational talk.
FOL gave more than 60 books in September to the Mariano Marcos Memorial High School library.
Book month observance
The launch of POL was scheduled to coincide with the observance of National Book Month in November. Neni Santa Romana-Cruz, chair of the National Book Development Board and a trustee of Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, commended the various groups and individuals who pooled their efforts and resources to develop a love of books and the culture of reading among people of all ages.
POL is open on weekends and holidays to residents and nonresidents of Pandacan. But only bonafide residents of the district can become members, who will have the privilege of borrowing books.
Carlos said the library would be unique as it would also be a venue for storytelling, puppet shows, film showings, exhibits, theater plays, craft skills training, etc.
A special corner named “All about Pandacan” features the history, cultural life, economy and political life, social and environmental problems of the district in books, journals, studies, clippings and articles, old photos, even family trees of locals.
Other heritage encounters and cultural events will also be held in the venue. On the drawing board is “Kapihan at Kwentuhan,” which will invite Pandaqueños of different generations to share their experiences in the district, telling stories of real people and developing the oral history of the district.
Other founding donors and volunteers who made POL a reality are Rene Ciria-Cruz, Fil-Americans for Environmental Solidarity, Geline Avila, community-based Teatro Balagtas, De La Salle University History Department through professor Fernando Santiago, De La Salle Filipino Department through Rowel Madula, Randy and Nina Sioson and family, Jamime and Anja Sy-quia and family, Dondi and Pinky Sy-quia and family, Diana and Nene Sy-quia and family, Mari-an Santos, Mylene Mallari and Lani Balatay, community librarian.