A ‘balikbayan’s’ reflections on an ‘empty’ library and a well-peopled mall

/ 03:03 AM July 16, 2014

I read with interest the article of Mari Arambulo et al. (“City libraries attract users” Talk of the Town, 5/25/14) and I am prompted to share a library experience of mine from January 2013.

I always like the library and I love spending my spare time in one. Last year I went to the National Library in Luneta to pass the time, hoping to read a newspaper and/or use the library’s Wi-Fi.


I was surprised to find out that I could not just go in. I had to pay a membership fee, which was waived after I convinced the receptionist that I was a balikbayan from Canada, and would not be staying long. I went up to the main library and, to my surprise, it was practically empty of people, except for around five others; and there were no books or any periodicals around. It was 10 a.m. but the library was not well-lighted and the electric fan was not turned on. The books were all in a separate room and I could not just get any book I liked. I should have known this because this was already the setup before I left the Philippines.

So I decided to just sit in one of the table and use my laptop. I was in for another surprise: There was no Wi-Fi. I asked one of the personnel about the Wi-Fi, only to be told that it was not working at the moment. I then asked how many patrons use the library every day and he estimated less than 200. When I asked if there was any other library around, nobody could give me any answer. I left after half an hour.


It’s been almost 40 years since I last went there, and I was expecting some changes for the better. Normally, people who do some research go to the library. The people milling outside the library building, it seemed to me, were seamen and could have made use of the library in their search for work.

At around 11 a.m. the same day I was back at Robinson Mall in Pedro Gil. At the door there was a counter; by the time I entered it already showed that 2,000 people had entered the mall.

It makes me sad seeing an empty library. But who will go to a library that is hot and dark and has no reading materials, no Wi-Fi and very few computers?

The photo in the article shows a library (it looks like a school library) with lots of young people. When old people go to that library (if this is a public library), then we can consider it “successful.”


Vancouver, Canada

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TAGS: balikbayan, Canada, Luneta, National Library, wi-fi
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