City of Santa Rosa Library hones kids’ love for book reading

by Joana Yap

Photo from the City of Santa Rosa Library Facebook page

Santa Rosa, Laguna may be known as a city rich in world-class theme parks, techno-hubs, and several housing developments, but to its locals, it is also rich in opportunities for learning.

When the government implemented Republic Act 7743, an act mandating every city to build public libraries, the city did its best to comply immediately under the late Mayor Leon Arcillas, where it was still only known as a municipal library.

Located in the Gusaling Museo building, there are a few staff in one area and a few chairs and tables in the other. It boasts of its wide-range of donated books of various genres ranging from fiction to medicine and law.

Students in the small space huddle as they read books and use library computers, disproving the notion that all children in this age do not understand the value of physical

According to City Librarian Custer C. Santos, this interest is because you can not find every material online. “Kasi sometimes, ‘di namamalayan ng mga bata basta dito ka lang sa online [hindi na] i-checheck kung ito bang resources na ito ay reliable, peer-reviewed ba ito?”

“Basta yung, kuha lang sila nang kuha ng hindi namamalayan na hindi pala reliable,” He states.

“Iyong lahat ng materials ng ating library, we evaluate that bago namin siya ipabasa.”

However, while there are children who continue to buy and read physical books, it has become rare. It is not their fault, but of the emerging society that relies heavily on technology use.

In today’s generation, it is impossible to not seek for digital copies as this is most convenient when you have your phone right in front of you. Many just do not find
physical copies appealing anymore.

In a world where everything is rushed, people will always settle for something that would make their lives easier. Simply put, the new generation just do not find the appeal in libraries or physical books anymore, unless completely necessary.

But the city library’s efforts did not stop, regardless. Upon assessing the problems that came with the pandemic, the online set-up, and its effects on learning and development, last year, they implemented a reading tutorial, Halina’t Matutong Magbasa, a collaborative project of the library and surrounding schools for selected children who have difficulty reading and understanding text. It ran everyday for two weeks.

Eventually, the reading tutorials became widespread as more people around the city reached out to the library for partnership and collaboration. According to Santos, this includes organizations and schools such as Polytechnic University of the Philippines Santa Rosa, Kiwanis Club of Roseñia, and Central II Elementary School.

The program resulted in positive outcomes as reflected in the recently concluded early graduation day of the children who participated in the tutorial.

In line with this, they also had a counterpart project, Halina’t Makinig ng Kwento, in collaboration with Santa Rosa Elementary School Central I, where 60 students participated in the activity along with their teachers.

Both activities accumulated mostly positive feedback and evaluation but parents and teachers hope for more time. “Mostly, [ang request] nila, extend time,” Santos says, because while they are under the supportive office of Vice Mayor Arnold Arcillas, they only have limited capacity, time, and budget to implement the activities in the long-term.

However, the library is actively looking for ways to implement programs to ensure that they establish the appropriate budget ahead of time.

Another project the library has recently implemented is World Book Online, a site for learning resources intended for the general public. “I-sheshare din namin sa mga librarians and teacher-in-charge sa mga libraries ng public schools natin para mas disseminate natin ang information sa kanila para may training din sila kung paano gamitin ito so everyone can use it,” Santos adds.

Santos also emphasizes that in this digital age, it is important for students to not only read, write, or understand text, they must also learn how to properly use library resources. In his words, “information literacy” where students must be able to distinguish between international books and Filipiniana, journals and magazines, and understand how to locate books they intend to use.

All of their projects have only recently been implemented and planned due to the pandemic halting their progress. Regardless, Santos hopes that in the future, it will continue to expand and reach more people.

The general populace of Santa Rosa, according to Santos, are composed of people open to learning. “Willing talaga sila mag-improve. Kasi, participative. Ang daming [nagrereach out] na “ay, kakaunti lang yung slot” syempre hindi naman natin kaya i-cater so tignan natin kung kakayanin pa natin yung mas maraming slot.” He states.

What is scarce, however, are venues for learning.

This is because one of the problems that city libraries face is their lack of visibility to the public. Had I not scrolled through the Facebook page of the City Government of Santa Rosa, I would have not known about them.

On social media, many would complain about how there is a lack of public spaces that students can use freely with a conducive environment for learning. Many would often resort to cafes and restaurants instead despite the bustling and loud chatters that
surround them.

Recent graduate Kristian Yap, who resides in Santa Rosa, wishes that he had known about the public library earlier. “I was not aware na meron. Sayang, if only I knew siguro doon ako mag-aaral madalas kaysa sa mga coffee shops, bukod sa mas makakafocus ako sa pag-aaral, laking tipid pa.” He says.

Yap’s sentiments echo the thoughts of those who are seeking a place to study all over the city who eventually graduate without prior knowledge of the library.

With libraries open to the public, people become accustomed to learning regardless of age. They grab the opportunity to learn, especially when it is right in front of them. “Hindi lang mga estudyante ang mga nandito, meron ding senior citizen na pa-minsan nagbabasa dito.” Santos shares, emphasizing that the place is for people from all walks of life.

This is why the city library is trying its best to promote their venue through social media. Their staff work tirelessly to broaden their reach and ensure that every Rosenian knows that there is a place where they can access education, law, medicine, journals, and novels for free, regardless of who they are and where they come from with the only
payment being their time and willingness to learn.

With the way the world is right now, immersing yourself in books is a great way to escape reality and create a new one. That is exactly the type of service that a library can provide to its people.

From the implementation of Republic Act 7743, the City Library of Santa Rosa has come a long way, roaring its way into proving that Santa Rosa is not merely tagged as the “Lion City of South Luzon” for nothing, because it is a city that advances the intellectual needs of its people.