In 1990, it had 128,045 members, rising to 460,000 in 2001. The latest figure (as at July 5) puts it at 788,541.And the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal apparently said at the event that he would propose to the government that civil servants be given a book allowance, and he wants the private sector to do likewise.
Throughout the article it's rubbed in once again that Malaysians are failing miserably at becoming readers :
According to the national book policy target, germinated in 1984, the nation should have achieved reading society status in 2000. We are eight years overdue; and, it seems, nowhere near the target. ... The findings of a National Library survey, Shafie said, showed that only 13 per cent of 27 million Malaysians read books. ... Surely it is an indictment of our collective apathy and the failure of the hundreds of reading campaigns and book exhibitions.But as we've said before many times on this blog - What (hundreds of) reading campaigns? (As Kathirasen very tactfully puts it, there :
... has been an inability to sustain the momentum of campaigns.)None of my blog readers seem to know anything about them. The only thing I've personally seen to indicate a campaign going on is a single poster in the library of a single sekolah rendah. Surely the evidence of a reading campaign should be everywhere? This is pretty serious when you realise that a lot of taxpayers money is being spent. (We are probably more aware of the efforts of our southern neighbours than we are of our own. And look how much fun they make reading!)
Kathirasen goes on :
The government even declared 1988 The Year of the Reader. The campaign saw a flurry of activity, including the establishment of reading committees everywhere. What became of them?Who knew anything about these "reading committees"? What were they supposed to achieve? What is a reading committee anyway?
Ministers and directors-general ordered their underlings to set up reading corners in all federal, state and district government offices. There were calls to set up reading corners aboard trains and xpress buses, and in estates, factories and homes. What became of them?The people who are putting books into the hands of the public successfully are individuals who see it as a personal mission - people like Amir Muhammad with his great book giveaway at KLAB, the Malaysian Book Crossers who make reading free by "releasing books into the wild", Daphne Lee with her children's Reading Room in Section 17, our friend at Departure Lounge who has turned his cafe into a travel library, the teachers who have worked to make a difference in their own schools. We need more literary activists of this kind, small terrorist cells of book-lovers, making reading accessible, cheap and sexy.
Kathirasen gives some good suggestions for improving readership, but I do find it sad and depressing that hand-wringing articles like this appear in the newspapers at regular intervals. A lot of lip-service is paid, very little done that is effective.
I wish the National Library all the best with their National Reading Club, about which I cannot find any information on the internet beyond the fact of its launch. If there's anyone reading this who can enlighten us, please do get in touch and tell us about it.