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Digital Libraries to Ease Learning in the Philippines

As the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, most governments have temporarily closed all educational institutions. These nationwide closures have impacted 90 per cent of the world’s student population. Localised closures in other countries have affected millions of additional learners.

Consequently, there is an unprecedented shift toward distance learning. Institutes are rushing to move their courses online; students are flocking to e-books and e-learning, and researchers are relying heavily on electronic journals.

With the theme “National Library of the Philippines 134th Founding Anniversary: Continuing its Vision and Mission Amidst Pandemic,” the NLP aims to make its services more available and accessible to the public, while also improving its on-site facilities, as the pandemic alters the way learning materials are consumed.

Among the NLP’s key plans is to continue the enhancement of its building while also procuring the necessary equipment for the development of its online facilities, among other things, as part of its vision to focus on enhancing services and facilities that contribute to the social and cultural development of Filipino society.

The director of the National Library of the Philippines elaborated on the significance of the National Library’s anniversary, as well as the institution’s plans for moving forward to the “new normal”. NLP intends to maintain its ISO certification while elevating its human resource management system through the Programme to Institutionalise Meritocracy and Excellence in Human Resource Management as it celebrates its 134th anniversary (PRIME-HRM).

As the anniversary coincides with Buwan ng Wika, it has also made innovations in its facilities that will aid in conserving, preserving, and protecting printed and recorded cultural heritage, as well as creating resources catering to different mother tongues to promote the preservation of the Filipino language. And among other innovations planned is the International Children’s Library, a digital library initiative formed through a partnership with a community club organisation.

“The community club did not only give us the chance to widen and improve our services and facilities, but this is a clear sign that you recognise the importance of the National Library of the Philippines in shaping the minds of our youth to be the future instrument of positive transformation in our society. Further, you’ve put your trust in our institution that we will be able to fulfil this purpose,” he said.

Digital libraries combine technology and information resources to enable remote access, thereby removing physical barriers between resources. Although these resources will continue to be specialised to meet the needs of specific communities of learners, digital libraries will enable teachers and students to access a broader range of materials and communicate with people outside of the formal learning environment.

Prior to the pandemic, libraries used fewer digital technologies for fewer reasons. With the unexpected lockdown caused by COVID-19, they were forced to adapt in order to stay afloat, satisfy patron needs, and ensure continued learning during the pandemic.

Virtual libraries are at the forefront of global efforts to preserve documentary heritage. They are in a unique position to advocate for and directly engage in digital conservation. The COVID-19 crisis has served as a tipping point, highlighting the numerous advantages of digital libraries. Indeed, digital libraries have demonstrated their potential not just to enable a richer, more diverse public domain, but to promote human development itself.

Looking ahead, it is safe to predict that the use of e-libraries will continue to grow at an exponential rate. This expansion will be fuelled by immediate needs and global trends such as the explosion in smartphone penetration, the rise in ownership of ICT-based reading devices, and the now-ingrained habit of seeking information online.


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