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Rebuilding Libraries After Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

I still get asked if my family and I were among those severely affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Thankfully, we were spared, along with the library where I work. Others, however, were not as lucky.

The before-and-after photos above were taken from the Facebook account of the ESSU Guiuan University Library. The municipality of Guiuan, Samar, was one of the first to be savaged by the typhoon. (I have not asked for permission to reproduce the photos, but I hope no one will mind. Click on the photos above to see other before-and-after photos.)

I have not found any other photos of libraries that were destroyed (but I will add them to this post if they are brought to my attention). There is, however, a video of a library that survived the typhoon, but has now been turned into an evacuation center, and will probably also need rehabilitation later on. (See "Tacloban library turns into an evacuation center").

If you would like to help rebuild libraries destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, please consider making donations through the Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. (PLAI) or, if you would like to make a donation using your credit card, through the American Library Association, which is helping PLAI raise funds.

If you would like to send books for a specific library, the Rizal Library (of which I am the Director) is collecting books for Sacred Heart College in Tacloban, Leyte. (Although this high school was 5 kilometers away from the shore, the storm surges still reached the second floor of their building. Unfortunately, their library was on the first floor.) We are looking for for high school reference books (e.g., dictionaries, encyclopedia, atlases), recreational reading for young adults (e.g., Harry Potter, romances), and whatever you may have found useful when you were in high school. Please send an email to rizalDOTlibraryATadmuDOTeduDOTph.


Librarians' Licensure Examination 2013: Results

Congratulations to the new librarians!

The passing rate for the Librarians' Licensure Examination is 46 percent (382 out of 834), which is practically the same as the passing rate of 47 percent in 2012.

The list of the top scorers are reproduced below. The list of successful examinees may be downloaded from the official website of the Professional Regulation Commission.

The biggest LLE-related news this year, however, is that the next exam will be in April 2014, when the great majority of potential examinees will probably not have graduated yet and, hence, they will not be eligible to take the exam. This means that the 2014 examinees will mostly be repeaters (the Top 10 list will be very interesting), and that future examinees will have to wait a year before taking the exam.

Top 12


November is Book Development Month

The Rizal Library is hosting the following events in cooperation with the National Book Development Board, Ateneo de Manila University Press, Filipino ReaderCon, and Kritika Kultura:

Saturday, November 9, 8:00AM-6:00PM

Filipino ReaderCon
What Do Readers Want?
Speakers: Ramon Bautista, Gerry Alanguilan, and more!
Registration fee: P150, inclusive of snacks and certificate

Wednesday, November 13, 8:00AM-5:30PM
4th Philippine International Literary Festival
Bestsellers and the City
Speakers: Peter Swirski, Manix Abrera, and more!
Registration fee: FREE, inclusive of snacks

Monday, November 18, 4:30PM-6:00PM
Kritika Kultura Literary Reading Series
Speakers: Joseph de Luna Saguid and Allan Pastrana

Thursday, November 28, 4:30PM-6:00PM
The Ateneo de Manila University Press launches its titles for 2013.

For more information, please click on the links.


Preparing to Become a Leader

Did you assume a managerial or supervisory position recently? Or maybe you'd like to know what I did to prepare for my job as "Director, Rizal Library"? If so, you may want to read the article I wrote for The Manila Review:

So You Think You Can Be the Boss
by Vernon R. Totanes

"I am pleased to inform you that the search committee tasked to recommend the next Rizal Library director has recommended that you be appointed director beginning April 1, 2013."

This message appeared in my inbox more than a year ago, as I was finishing my dissertation in Canada. By the time you read this, I will have been Director of Ateneo de Manila University's Rizal Library for more than 90 days.



IFLA 2013: Filipino Presenters #WLIC2013

There are 75 Filipino librarians at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Singapore. The most remarkable thing, however, is that so many of us are presenting papers and posters. Since 2006, the Philippines has averaged ONE paper and ZERO posters in the annual conference program. This year, it has SEVEN papers and FOUR posters.

What happened? Perhaps the proximity of the venue (and hence, lower costs) had something to do with it. Note, however, that a similar phenomenon did not take place in 2006, when the conference was held in South Korea. I'd like to think that this is a manifestation of the growing desire of Filipino librarians not only to participate in the global discourse between librarians around the world, but also to do research and obtain PhD degrees =)

The following are the paper and poster presenters from the Philippines:


MELANIE ABAD (National Library of the Philippines)
Performance: interactive storytelling

NORA FE ALAJAR (Davao City Public Library)
Increasing demands on public libraries in hard economic times: Innovation and partnership to meet community needs at Davao City Public Library

NELIA R. BALAGAPO (Asian Development Bank)
Creating bridges to prosperity in the Asia and Pacific Region: the ADB Library Experience

IYRA S. BUENROSTRO and JOHANN FREDERICK A. CABBAB (University of the Philippines Diliman)
Reliving the Filipino classical music heritage: preservation and restoration of Philippine art music manuscripts of the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Music

LILIA F. ECHIVERRI (University of the Philippines Diliman)
Open access to official and authenticated legal information in the Philippines

VERNON R. TOTANES (Ateneo de Manila University)
Textbook case: a colonial history book's influence (or lack thereof) on the miseducation of the Filipino

ROMULO R. UBAY, JR., MARTIN JULIUS V. PEREZ, TERESITA C. MORAN (Far Eastern University) and JOANNA O. SIAPNO (De La Salle University)
Exploring Filipiniana rare books and the state of Filipiniana rare books management

CRISTINA B. VILLANUEVA (University of the Philippines Baguio)
Preserving Cordillera culture and history through the University of the Philippines Baguio Cordillera Studies Collection Library and Archives


ALICIA S. PARAISO (Goethe-Institut Manila)
The Goethe-Institut Library in Southeast Asia: your gateway to Germany; eeting the challenges and opportunities of the future

KARRYL KIM A. SAGUN (Ateneo de Manila University)
What does it meme? Using Internet memes to promote services of the Rizal Library

Far Eastern University Library: the 2012 Philippine Academic/Research Librarians, Inc. (PAARL) Outstanding Academic/Research Library

NORA FE ALAJAR (Davao City Public Library)
Community Partnership for Economic Opportunity

NOTE: Several satellite meetings were held before WLIC2013, and were not officially part of the annual conference program. I hope the Filipino librarians who presented at those meetings will forgive me for not including their names here.


The Future of Book History

I am a book historian. The biggest gathering of book historians takes place every year at the annual conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP), which was held this year at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia from 18-21 July 2013. The theme was "Geographies of the Book," which was interpreted both literally (e.g., "circulation... within cities, countries, and across continents") and figuratively (e.g., "imaginative topographies or journeys within fictional works").

In addition to presenting a paper at this year's conference, I was also invited to be one of 12 speakers at the closing plenary session. Each of us was either a PhD student or an early scholar—participants whose voices are rarely heard at plenary sessions. We were given five minutes each, but we were also instructed not to tell anyone about what we were going to do because we were supposed to listen to our colleagues' comments and share their feedback during our reports. (For photos of the closing plenary session, as well as some of the heartening reactions on Twitter to my contribution, see my Facebook post.)

Some speakers spoke extemporaneously, but like a few others, I wrote down my contribution. Here's most of what I said...

First, I will state the obvious, just to get it out of the way. Second, I will state what is not so obvious, just so you know where I'm coming from. And finally, I will state what I am currently doing to promote book history in Asia, as well as what I intend to do in the next few years, which I suspect many of you have already done in the past.

First, despite its global ambitions, it is obvious—based on my own observations, comments whispered in my ear, and tweets posted online, with someone actually using the word "angry" in my presence in relation to yesterday's supposedly global session—that SHARP remains predominantly white, Anglo-American. This reality is reflected in the sites chosen for its annual conferences, as well as the large percentage of papers presented on the book in the West.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not criticizing anyone for a state of affairs that is not unique to SHARP. I'm also not blaming anyone for not addressing questions they never sought to answer. SHARP's focus on the book in the West is not new. In 2001, Amadio Arboleda, who is based in Japan and could not make it here this year, wrote about what he called the "Gutenberg Syndrome," in which the history of the book is viewed in terms of Western principles and practices. I suspect that his sentiments were not entirely new then, and they're certainly not new now. But I suppose it's worth asking, "How much have things changed since then?" I have a suggestion to address this later.

Moving on. What is not so obvious, perhaps, is that while I am clearly representing Asia today, I am not—in many ways—entirely representative of most Asians, the great majority of whom probably have very little time to think about books because they are more concerned about finding food and work. I have been very privileged. It was as a PhD student that I was able to present papers at SHARP's annual conferences in Oxford, Helsinki, and Toronto. I received most of my travel funding from University of Toronto, but the discounted student membership and conference registration rates were very helpful, and for this I am grateful to SHARP.

I am here this year because I received a scholarship from SHARP—and for this I would like to thank the generous donors who contribute to the travel fund, as well as those who administer the fund. The scholarship I received, however, was sufficient to cover only half of my airfare from halfway across the world, so thankfully again, I am gainfully employed and privileged enough that Ateneo de Manila University has given me enough to pay for most of the other costs of going to Philadelphia.

For the final part of this short report I ran out of time to write it out, so I hope you'll pardon me for relying on bullet points to describe what I hope can be done at future conferences:
  • nice to have this year because of the theme, but can still be done next year: GIS map of book historians, book history prizes, not just place, but also over time
  • immediately: talk to someone i don't know, talk to the person sitting next to me
  • next conference: badge for "first timer"; session for first-timers; mentors for first-timers
Because of my own privileged status as the director of a university library with its own budget, I plan to do the following things to promote book history in Asia:
  • collect public school textbooks for research purposes, and if possible, publishers' archives, in addition to the documents we already collect
  • organize a book history panel for a conference in the Philippines
  • 3 to 5 years: organize a book history conference for Southeast Asia in the Philippines; participate in planning to bring annual conference to Asia, specifically Japan
  • 5 to 8 years: organize annual conference in the Philippines
Thank you very much.


UPLSAA Young Achievers Awards 2013

From left: Carina Samaniego, Reysa Alenzuela, me, Rina Diaron, Rhea Apolinario, Chito Angeles, Troy Lacsamana, representative of Joseph Yap, and Marvin Vergara. Not in photo: Marian Ramos Eclevia.
Thanks to the UP Library Science Alumni Association, I—along with nine other alumni—can now claim to be among the first ever recipients of the "Young Achievers Award." Please note that "young," in this case, is defined as "under 40 years old" =)

The awards were presented at the 63rd General Assembly and Homecoming last 25 May 2013. For more photos, see my Facebook album.


Outstanding Librarian 2013:
Nora Fe Hilojanes Alajar

Nora Fe Hilojanes Alajar
Nora Fe Hilojanes Alajar
City Librarian
Davao City Public Library

The Professional Regulation Commission conferred the Outstanding Professional Librarian of the Year Award on Nora Fe Hilojanes Alajar on 20 June 2013. The citation reads:
For her more than 40 years of untiring and relentless efforts in making the Davao City Library a beacon of hope and a benchmark of excellence for public libraries all over the country; for her innovativeness and creativeness initiating projects like Magbasa Ta aimed to bring the Davao City Library activities beyond the confines of its walls to ensure that it serves its residents with; for her dedication and commitment as a public servant working for the inclusion and approval in the City Government's Annual Budget provisions for its library activities such as Book Talks, Reading Programs and Story-Telling events and the improvement of public libraries by turning them into public access hubs for information through the inclusion of her Library in the 'Beyond Access' program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; for her dedication as an educator, she established a Children's Nook and Internet Services and fostered good relations, as an ambassador of the community, with the Embassy of the United States, by making the City Library a recipient of the American Shelf Project, an outreach program of the United States aimed to educate the public about the country, and culture and traditions; and for her selfless dedication and determination in improving the quality of education in her community serving as a brilliant example to librarians and public servants nationwide.

Thanks to Elvie Lapuz for providing the citation. The photo is from Ms. Alajar's Facebook account.

Category: Librarians—Awardees


Leadership and Librarians

Stephen Abram showed the slides above at the Forum on Planning for the Future: Developing Librarians’ Leadership Skills, which was held at the Rizal Library on 15 April 2013.


ICoASL 2013

In 2006, I wrote "SLA, Toronto, and PhD, or How a Conference Changed My Life." Now I realize that it should have been subtitled "How a Conference and Blogging Changed My Life."

I haven't won any blogging awards, but I think a lot of opportunities I've had since I started this blog in 2005 may be traced directly to the blogging I've done. For instance, I doubt that I could have become an official SLA conference blogger from 2006 to 2009 if I had not had this blog. [The only reason I stopped blogging for the annual conference was that I stopped going, largely so that I could finish my dissertation.]

So I think it's quite appropriate that I just set up a blog for what is essentially an SLA event: ICoASL 2013, or the International Conference of Asian Special Libraries, which is being held in Manila this year, 10-12 April 2013. Take a look. Tell your friends. Register for the conference =)


Libraries Need Librarians

The video below from "State of the Nation" is the latest feature on Hernando Guanlao, whose "Reading Club 2000" has been the subject of local and foreign news articles since mid-2012.

Whereas previous features have focused almost entirely on Guanlao and his "library," Jessica Soho introduces the video by alluding to Republic Act No. 7743, which provides for the establishment of "public libraries in every congressional district, city and municipality, and reading centers in every barangay throughout the Philippines." In addition, Marisol Abdurahman interviews Martin Julius Perez, a licensed librarian, and solicits his views regarding the significance of Guanlao's library.

There are many things that can be (and have been) written about Guanlao's laudable efforts and the good will he has gained, but I will focus on just one aspect that I have previously written about in "Amending the Law on Public Libraries." In her "Postscript," Soho ends by saying that more Filipinos would probably be reading books "kung wala lang tayong kakulangan sa mga pampublikong aklatan" (if only there were no shortage of public libraries).

There is, in fact, a shortage of public libraries, but an even bigger problem, to which Perez alludes in the video, is that the importance of librarians is taken for granted. While it is true that Guanlao's "Reading Club 2000" is not run by a licensed librarian, Guanlao himself may be considered a librarian. Although there are no rules in his "library," and there is no need to catalog books, he is still the one who receives books, classifies them, and puts them on the shelves. A building full of books and computers with no librarian, as I have said before, is a warehouse, not a library.

I have been critical of previous attempts to amend R.A. 7743, and even of efforts to build libraries for poor communities, because they do not include the need for librarians in their plans. I applaud the vision and generosity of those who want to improve Filipino lives through the establishment of libraries, but well-intended legislation or philanthropy that does not acknowledge the need for licensed librarians or committed volunteers (like Guanlao) will result in what many public school libraries are today: dusty and rarely opened, with new books locked away, because there are no librarians to manage them.

As Guanlao has shown, a passionate volunteer does not really need money to get Filipinos reading. And as licensed librarians I know have demonstrated, it is not necessarily the libraries with the largest budgets that make the biggest impact on readers.


Board Games, Libraries, and Breaking the Rules

Board Game Day was held at Matteo Ricci Hall of the Rizal Library last Friday. I was asked to deliver the opening remarks, which I wrote in a hurry that same morning, and literally finished at the last minute. It's not as polished as I would have hoped, but if any of you have been wondering what kind of library director I hope to be, you're going to get more than a few clues here.

Opening Remarks
Board Game Day
25 January 2012

Good morning! And thank you for joining us today for Board Game Day.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal published an article about events being held in public libraries in the United States that are designed to encourage people to check out what's new at the library. The events mentioned included Zumba classes, seminars on landscaping, and even hog-butchering, blacksmithing and fly fishing.

Some have questioned the relevance of such events to the mission of libraries. I would not be surprised if some in the Ateneo community are also wondering, "What do board games have to do with the mission of the Rizal Library?" The best answer I have for this question is to state that our mission is not limited to providing access to books, journal articles, and the Internet. We are here to facilitate learning.

We do this not only by continuing what has already been done in the past, but also by exploring newer, proven ways of enhancing the educational experience. Today, we hope to identify board games that will not only be fun to play and build community, but can also help our university achieve its mission of producing men and women for others. Now, that's a big leap in logic, but let me explain by discussing just one reason I think playing board games can help facilitate learning.

One thing common to all board games is that there are rules. And each game has its own rules. You have several choices. Most play the game according to the rules. Some try to change the rules and see if their fellow players will continue to play with them or throw them out of the game. Some choose not play at all. But you cannot play one game using the rules for another. You cannot play chess, for example, using the rules of Monopoly.

Here at Matteo Ricci and the library, we have lots of rules. For example, you can eat on the second floor, but not the first floor. Most students abide by the rules, but a few try to get away with eating their merienda or lunch, and risk getting reprimanded with a warning or even an official sanction. Some might ask, "How come we can eat on the second floor, but not the first floor?" And there is a good reason for that—ask me later—but the point I'm making is that there are different rules for different places, and different occasions. In the real world, unlike board games, some rules are written, many are not.

The same is true for Ateneo, the companies you hope to work for, the businesses you'll be setting up, Philippine society in general. But the rules are not always the same. As you very well know, sometimes the rules that are announced in public are not followed in private. You can choose to abide by the rules, break the rules, or refuse to play the game. But first you need to know the rules, and that the rules change depending on the game you're playing. I'm not sure if this makes sense, but when I started working after graduating from Ateneo, I learned that what I got used to in school is not necessarily also what happens outside. Or, as Dorothy told Toto in The Wizard of Oz, "We’re not in Kansas anymore."

This is probably getting too heavy for the opening remarks at Board Game Day, so allow me to just thank a few people, and share a little prayer. I’d like to thank:
Karryl Sagun, who organized this event,
Hans Fernandez and Adrian Manahan of Gaming Library, who provided all the games,
Diane Santos of Book Bench, who designed the poster for this event,
The various librarians and staff who helped Karryl prepare for Board Game Day, especially Manny Concepcion, who is the person in charge of Matteo Ricci Hall,
The volunteers, who will be helping you learn all the rules later, and
Mrs. Lourdes David, Director of the Rizal Library, who approved the proposal and made this day possible.

Finally, allow me to end with a familiar prayer with a few amendments…

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the rules I cannot change,
The courage to break the rules that should be broken and deal with the consequences,
And the wisdom to know the difference.


What was the first book printed in the Philippines?

Click on the photos above to learn more about each book
and/or download their digital versions.

Earlier this week, I received a text message asking if the essay mentioned by Ambeth Ocampo in his latest column was posted on my blog. Since I had no idea that any publication of mine had been cited in a newspaper recently, I checked out the column. And there it was at the very end of a discussion on "First book(s)" (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 January 2013): "For a more recent take on the old issue see Vernon Totanes’ 2009 essay 'What was the first book printed in the Philippines?'"

Since I've never actually posted a link to the journal article on my blog, I thought I'd share it now, along with the abstract, in case someone wants to read it. Click on the title to download the pdf =)

Note, however, that the title is misleading because the article is essentially an introduction to the discipline of book history, and asserts that the two books printed in the Philippines in 1593 are significant in ways that have yet to be fully appreciated.

"What was the first book printed in the Philippines?"
Vernon R. Totanes
Journal of Philippine Librarianship 28:1 (2008), 21-31.

This paper will show that the importance of the imprints lies in the fact that they effectively communicate the idea that printing in the Philippines—and Philippine history—is inextricably linked with the non-Filipino. The first books printed in the Philippines, though not strictly "Filipino," are a physical reminder of the plurality of the nature and culture of the Filipino and the Philippines.


Libraries as Buckets

At the well
Photo by zzzmarcus.

For this first post of 2013, I thought it would be good to start with a metaphor for the role of libraries in today's world. In his introduction to participants at the 5th Rizal Library International Conference (RLIC), which was held at the Ateneo de Manila University last 25-26 October 2012, Jose M. Cruz, SJ, likened knowledge to drinking water at the bottom of a well. Libraries, he says, are "the buckets that allow us to draw the water from the well."

I'd like to think that this blog, though not a library, has also served as a bucket that has helped librarians and other readers to draw knowledge from the large—and sometimes misleading or confusing—well that is the World Wide Web. It is in this spirit that I resolve to continue updating this blog at least once a week.

The full text of Fr. Joey's introduction is reprinted below with his permission. Thanks to Teng Montejo for the transcription.

Incidentally, pdfs of the presentations shown and/or papers delivered at the RLIC may now be downloaded at the conference website.

Jose M. Cruz, SJ

On behalf of the Ateneo de Manila University, I welcome you to the campus and to the conference.

You may occasionally have heard the expression "thirst for knowledge," referring to the need and desire of human beings to know more so that they and their communities can have more and be more. Libraries, archives, and museums can play a crucial role in satisfying this thirst.

Although the surface of our planet is mainly water, water for drinking and planting cannot be the salt water of the seas. There is, thus, a need to search and draw plain water, that is, water without the heavy dose of minerals and other elements that make it undrinkable.

This reality points to the task and responsibility of repositories of knowledge and culture to be selective in their holdings. We seek then drinkable water: water that is clean, fresh, nourishing and life giving. If you want an image, we find this kind of water at the well. At the bottom of the well is much of the knowledge that human beings and societies need to survive, to sustain their way of life, and to advance.

Libraries, archives, and museums are the buckets that allow us to draw the water from the well. Needless to say it is thus an absolute necessity that these be in good shape: no leaks, sufficiently large in size, and always ready to serve. For while available information is enormous, access to it is still quite limited. At this conference you have decided to look for better ways to provide access.

You honor the university by choosing it to be the venue for your conference. Know that you are welcome here. Thank you and good morning.


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