Over the last three years, with a hushed dedication one would expect from a librarian, Joselito Carpena Jr. has been sending out emails to potential book donors.
His patience was recently rewarded with the arrival in Manila of a 40-ton container van carrying close to 20,000 books.
The second-hand books came all the way from Kansas City, Missouri in the United States, and are set for distribution among the 34 public elementary and high schools in Taguig City, where Carpena currently serves as officer in charge of the main public library.
“As a child, I dreamed of leaving an impact before I die,” Carpena, 62, told the Inquirer in an interview earlier this week. “With these books, hope I could leave a big mark on the life of every reader.”
This dream drew closer to fulfillment as the city government started delivering the books to the different schools. In a turnover ceremony attended by the various principals and teachers late last month, Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano said the donation should “help jump-start the institution of libraries in public schools where there are none.”
“Eventually, we hope that all of our schoolchildren will have access to their own libraries at their schools,” Cayetano said.
Appointed OIC of the Taguig City Public Library (TCPL) in October 2010, Carpena noted that out of the 34 public schools in the city, only six had their own libraries when he took the job. Ninety percent of the books in TCPL, for example, came from donations, he recalled.
He had since been sending out letters to more donors, until he learned about Children International Philippines Inc. (CIPI), a nongovernment organization promoting reading among schoolchildren.
Encouraged by a colleague in the Quezon City Library who earlier received donations from CIPI, Carpena emailed the NGO in February last year, hoping to draw from its network of foreign donors particularly in the United States.
The good news came in July that same year. And in December a shipment of 19,926 books—mostly hardbound materials on math, science, English and general references—arrived at the Manila port.
The city government only had to shell out P8,500 as trucking cost from the pier to Taguig City Hall.
In response, 56 students and 20 teachers from Ricardo P. Cruz Sr. Elementary wrote letters thanking CIPI on behalf of the recipient schools. Sixth grader Ellen Grace Sefil, for example, said the books would serve as her additional reviewers for the National Achievement Test on March 13.
Their messages of gratitude must be music to the ears of Carpena, whose passion for books—and sorting out books—began in his college years in the University of Santo Tomas, where he initially took up Commerce but later shifted to Library Science.
Carpena later worked as a student library assistant in UST from 1967 to 1973, and later spent 26 years as a special librarian for Philippine National Bank. The Taguig City government plucked out him out of retirement when he was appointed OIC of the TCPL.
“I don’t get anything big in terms of material rewards in this job, but it’s about the fulfillment it gives me,” Carpena said.
And even in the age of Google, Wikipedia and quick access to reference materials on the Web, he still believes libraries and their wealth of books will never crumble into irrelevance.
“Research using the Internet is still not as comprehensive. With books, a child can learn how to make a more detailed study. The instant answers from the Internet tend to limit a student’s ability to ask more questions,” he said.
“Now the challenge is to make our libraries more attractive,” Carpena said.
And the fresh shipment from Kansas City is helping him do just that for the youth of Taguig.