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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Towards an educated citizenry, one town library at a time

“Before nationhood, the Philippines must first have an educated citizenry.” – Dr. Jose P. Rizal. Thus went the words penned by the national hero at a time when access to books and education were limited to a privileged class. The very same words a foundation now uses as its battle cry.
More than a century later, Quintin Jose Pastrana found the vision still relevant, made it his own, and is now leading the charge in getting local communities to educate their own children by building public libraries, turning them into community education centres to “help forge an interconnected archipelago of readers and leaders.”

In an age when the digital native would claim that all information can already be found on the internet and therefore the redundancy of physical public libraries, Pastrana’s Library Renewal Partnership (LRP) foundation insists on the value of the kind of library where one can experience the joy of discovering a new book on the shelves, the feel of turning an actual page, and community access to a democratic space that knows no economic or social class.
In March 2015 the LRP is set to open the doors to its 80th library on its way to at least 200 public libraries by 2020. The LRP envisions empowering 2 million citizens with these libraries collaboratively set up by communities, private groups and local governments.
LRP’s 10-year mission started in 2010 when Pastrana looked at various researches indicating that Filipino children in rural areas decide to look for jobs rather than to study to earn a living.
Pastrana looked back at his own experience, realizing how fortunate he was to have been raised in a family that could support his reading interests. He saw the reality about Filipino children who lacked reading abilities due to deprived access to learning materials and facilities.
LRP partners with local and international organizations to get local authorities to provide the infrastructure for a library and the library staff, and gets educational material from leading publishers to provide the content.

Within just five years, the organization has already built libraries in various slums and rural areas of the county including Albay, Aklan, Ilocos Norte, Kalinga, Quezon City, Tacloban and Manila. The organization also built public libraries in the conflict areas of Mindanao such as Marawi, Maguindanao, Zamboanga and South Cotabato. LRP has also built libraries for public and private organizations such as the New Bilibid prison, The Philippine Heart Center and Gawad Kalinga farms.

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