Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Libraries Not a Major Turn On

A piece in the Malay Mail on Monday reports that:
The numbers prove that the National Library is not a hot spot with city folk.Only 491,497 people visited the place last year. A quick calculation: divide the total by 365 days and the library gets only 1,347 visitors a day. ... In 2005, the number of visitors recorded painted a sadder picture at 285,688 people but the National Library had a valid reason as some sections were closed due to an overhaul of its roofing system which extended into the early months of 2006.
One of the problems mentioned in the article is accessibility - many people who would like to use the facilities just don't have the means of transport to get there.

National Library director Siti Zakiah Aman outlines plans to bring more visitors to the library including educational interactive programmes with exhibitions, games and performances by a children ’s theatre group. Outreach reading programmes will also be organised.

A related article looks at the low visitor numbers of the Raja Tun Uda Library in Shah Alam, Selangor, while another polls fifty members of the public and asks them when was the last time they used a public library. For most it was when they were still at school or studying. One of the respondents points out that the dress-code enforced in libraries (no shorts, revealing t-shirts or slippers*) is a sticking-point. Many readers prefer to buy books or find the information they read on-line.

But Deputy PM Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak seems to me a bit merajuk**when he says that there is no point in building more libraries or providing more tax relief for books if most Malaysians do not care to read.

Maybe Klang's new 13m E-library (left with Klang Municipal Council (MPK) president Abdul Bakir Zin pictured in front of it) will be more successful?

(Translations for those from elsewhere: * Local word for flip-flops/thongs; **Untranslatable Malay word, the closest meaning in English being "to sulk".)

35 comments:

Nuri said...

You're quite correct about the means of transport part. The national library is located so inconveniently, IMO. I love reading and I love libraries but sometimes it's just not worth the trouble of driving there (or getting someone to drive you there if you don't have a license).

bibliobibuli said...

maybe there's a case for building more small libraries in housing areas than big impressive buildings in hard-to reach areas?

Giant Sotong said...

Even if you had a car, the place is still a bother to get to.

Now here's an idea: bibliophiles who keep accumulating books without reading them for months should just start a library in their houses. Unread books that gather dust - I swear I sometimes hear them weep.

bibliobibuli said...

i certainly don't like to drive downtown and jalan tun razak is pretty jammed in the rush hour

agree with you re. the weeping books and mine are weeping really loudly! i have a link to "my library" in the sidebar and all my books are on library thing. if anyone wants to borrow a book from me, contact me!

Anonymous said...

Oh how sad.. only almost HALF A MILLION people visited it last year. "only" 1,347 people. It's amazing how that is, isn't it ? if a blog had 1,347 visitors a day, it would be pretty popular. A cafe with 1347 visitors a day would be wildly popular. But somehow a library with 1,347 visitors a day.. is sad. Why is that ?

bibliobibuli said...

the numbers perplex me too, anonymous

how many visitors should the national library realistically be getting? what sort of numbers do other libraries get? if there are any librarians out there, please help

yes, a blog with 1,347 hits a day would v. popular but i remember reading in the nst that paul tan gets 20,000 a day

Eliza said...

I'd throw a celebration if my blog gets that many visitors a day!

Anyway, on to libraries, I visited the Nat Library around six years back but found that it closed on Mondays (it was a Monday).

For the Shah Alam library, on my last visit around seven years back, your own books were not allowed in, not sure of laptops. I think if libraries are wi-fi-ed, then people would be attracted to come. And why not a cafe attached?

I agree that Msia needs more, smaller libraries, closer to housing areas. And yes, we do need book prices to come down!

Chet said...

Didn't they use to have mobile libraries?

The last time I visited the National Library, I remember seeing something about laptops being allowed in.

Anonymous said...

no need for mobile libraries, no need for wifi, no need for all that.

Singapore has already found the solution and has been practising it for years now.

they build libraries in very oncvenient places, close to MRT stations.

they also have libraries in SHOPPING MALLS. and this has been a great success.


The Viz And The Fury

Lydia Teh said...

I've never been to our national libary in KL. Reason : no public transport there and the area is notorious for traffic jams.

The library in Shah Alam has only itself to blame (in part). I used to take my kids there but not anymore. All their parking lots (other than staff lots) are taken up by people visiting the banks nearby. It's a hassle to find parking. They used to have a good selection of magazines from overseas - now no more, budget cut. Kids section which have activities on weekends are now rather quiet. The activity room was once used to sell cookies! And the reference section once hosted a chess tourney and primary school kids were tearing the place down. How to attract visitors, you tell me?

Subashini said...

yup. i was back in singapore this weekend (after YEARS) and stumbled upon an amazing library branch in a shopping mall located close to a residential area. i was amazed. it was small, but looked like it had every book in existence. and! a huge display of tamil-language books, which floored me. a tamil version of macbeth! readily available! right there!

a neighbouring country down south and what a world of difference... let's not even get into the actual PAVEMENTS. that people could walk on. and did.

but i digress.

bibliobibuli said...

we got all the answers!

Anonymous said...

It's not true that there's no public transport, I remember the LRT gets fairly close to it (Masjid Jamek Station IINM) -- you have to walk a bit, but it's not that far away.

Chet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chet said...

Close to what? The National Library in Jalan Tun Razak?

bibliobibuli said...

think anonymous means the kl library? that one is much more accessible

the nearest lrt station to the national library is ampang park (i think)... but it's much too far to walk. i'm not even sure if there are buses (though i suppose there must be)

pizzo said...

Irony #1: Libraries' target market is people that can't afford books, yet they expect the same group of people to have personal transport and time (which the poor rather spend working to get money) to get there.

Irony #2: How odd that literary-related event: warehouse booksales, creative writing course, book/writer's convention, litfest, reading, lit blogger breakfast, is held "away" from a library instead of at. Why?

1. Libraries hold "silence be observed at all time" policy. How to make event like that?

2. Their official website is not even working - http://www.pnm.my/

3. They don't make Raman the director.

Irony #3 Because they can't post long comments at a blog or someone's pet peeve will be activated and call someone a bloody idiot--There's no room for dialogue. Filters and censorship is everywhere. How to voice opinion like that?

bibliobibuli said...

pizzo - your ironies are ironies indeed and what you say is quite true.

the website is working there - i just checked it out

voice an opinion by writing a letter to the newspapers making exactly these points and also posting it on your blog and telling us the link!

pizzo said...

Yes, it just worked. heh heh correction.

Hmm, that is yet another couple of good irony.

1. Hundreds of reporters/columnist voiced their opinion on newspapers, three decades later, Palestine is still as it ever was, less to say about a measly letter from a mere reader. I confess, I myself is not one of those that read the letter section. I rarely even read newspapers--it became too predictable.

2. My blog is not aim for biblio-related content which is the reason why I read...your blog?

bibliobibuli said...

write a guest post for this one then.

though i retain the right to edit or chop!

pizzo said...

that's the final irony.

Anonymous said...

Pizzo, did u take too much iron lately?


VIz In The Time Of Cholera

pizzo said...

anonymous ~ well irony..err..I mean lately, I think...

Does eating a plate of lala and a couple of prawns count?

irene said...

One reason I don't borrow is because I don't read to timeframes. I usually pick up whatever I feel like reading at the moment. I could buy a book and only read it 2 years later. That's why I normally also refrain from borrowing from friends!

I have this 'thing' about wanting to own books... so although it's true that the public libraries are difficult to access etc., even if they were easily accessible I confess I might not utilise them anyway...

Anonymous said...

heheheheeheheheehe.


Honk! If You're Viz

bibliobibuli said...

irene - totally with you there. i've been a member of the BC library for over a year now and only borrowed one book! (and i went and bought a copy of it before i was done with it)

enar arshad said...

i want to read a book and call it mine.sharon, we talked about the library in my hometown the other day and today i got a phone call about it wanting to have stronger support from the community,dont know what's it all about but i do hope that it will make the library here more alive.

bibliobibuli said...

that's a v. promising sign, enar. do let me know what happens.

and like you, i also like to own books!

SecretHistory said...

Just to be off topic, "slippers" are Australian-version of thongs not the American or MTV-version of thongs, lest expatriates think Malaysians are banned to be in the libraries if they wear sexy underwear.

bibliobibuli said...

we speak the same language ... but differently! i felt i had to explain slippers as british readers would imagine folks wearing pink fluffy bedroom things on their feet!

i have had malaysian friends declare "i never wear pants" to british friends. malaysians use the american englihs term for trousers, for british english users it means "knickers". die lah!

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness you're right, I thought they meant the other one. Who'd have thought we had more than one library ? :P oh and hmm.. the previous location was more accessible.

PS. merajuk = pouty

bibliobibuli said...

pouty - yes ... but a merjuk is a bit more dignified i think. pouty is a v. female word. sulk sounds too childish ...

Anonymous said...

Okay then, how about miffed ? that's pretty close.

The Unladen Swallow said...

Who needs libraries when you can pop into any MPH/Borders/Kinokuniya and shamelessly read for free?

But on libraries, I remember my sister relating to me that she once went to this location near the Assunta hospital in PJ (I believe). Despite it being a public library, she was given a 30-minute guest pass, and when she got 'lost' (as most of us do when in libraries), they actively participated in hunting her down and exiling her.

I'd agree with nuri way at the top. Libraries have to be accessible, and in greater number to the public. Studying in Melbourne now, I find libraries a common gem, particularly those that supply me with a steady flow of comics. ;)

Anonymous said...

"Who needs libraries when you can pop into any MPH/Borders/Kinokuniya and shamelessly read for free?"


That IS true isn't it ? bookstores are libraries in this country. It's not really shameless, they don't mind. MPH Bangsar even has a readers corner with sofas and everything.