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Saturday October 26, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday October 26, 2013 MYT 12:27:23 PM
by sheila sri priyaphotos by s.kanesan and m.azhar arif
WITH more reading materials available on the Internet and in electronic format, libraries may not be able to attract the crowd unless it stays relevant and provides modern facilities.
StarMetro visited both the National and state libraries to find out how these are doing and found that the two-year-old Selangor state public library, also known as Raja Tun Uda library, located in Shah Alam, has attracted double the number of visitors compared to the National Library.
Based on a Malaysian Reading Profile study in 2005, findings show that the average person reads only two books a year for leisure.
However, based on a similar research conducted in 2010, it was found that an average Malaysian reads between eight and 12 books.
Although this is an increase, we are still far behind compared to countries such as Japan. On an average, each Japanese reads 40 books a year.
So, what can libraries do to encourage Malaysians to read more?
The state library
The state-of-the-art Raja Tun Uda library in Shah Alam has recorded an increase in the number of visitors over the years.
The six-storey library, which opened in 2010, is modern, has up-to-date facilities and longer operational hours.
Library director Mastura Muhamad said based on records, the library saw an increase in membership.
In 2010, the library received 146,924 visitors. The figure gradually increased in 2011 to 176,505 visitors and in 2012, the library attracted an astounding 619,452 visitors.
From January to September this year, the library has attracted about 541,283 visitors.
Mastura said the increase in the number of visitors was encouraging.
The library attracts about 8,000 visitors during weekends and this is a positive sign, she said.
“A well-managed library with the necessary modern features will attract more visitors, as proven in the case of the state library,” she said.
The library’s interior along with the purchase of the books cost RM10mil.
She said every item in the library was well researched to avoid wasting money.
She said the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah played an important role in ensuring the library was of high standards.
“The Sultan often visits the library and he has been a great source of support to the library. He loves reading hence he has offered a lot of positive input for the growth of this library,” she added.
In her opinion, libraries have a major role to play in the nation-building process.
“Many enjoy visiting shopping centres and the coffee chain outlets and are there for long hours to read or use the Internet.
“If a library has the same modern ambiance and facilities, it will attract more visitors,” she said.
The state library has a separate area for children and interactive multimedia corners.
The children’s corner is set up under a big mock “reading tree”.
Many interesting features in the library are based on ideas from places such as the Singapore National Library and the Singapore Discovery centre.
Besides its modern interior, the library is equipped with at least five desktop computers on each floor.
“Not everyone can afford these facilities at home so they can come here to use them,” she said.
Mastura said the Raja Tun Uda library is the only library in the world with the XD-Theatre.
She said the theatre was included to attract even those who are not interested in reading.
“Many students commonly visit libraries and gain a lot of knowledge that helps them excel academically. However, those not academically inclined should also come to the library,” she said.
She hopes that in the long-term, the library will have the “pull factor” and become a place where people from all walks of life will come to.
Extraordinarily, the library also has gym and shower facilities.
Mastura said that libraries could play a role as a “crime prevention centre”.
“If we can get troubled youths to spend time at the library, they will eventually change for the better,” she said.
She said libraries nationwide should be given more funds to function well.
“If you have a library with good facilities, everyone benefits.
This will lead to a better-read society and the country will benefit,” she said.
She also urged parents to take their children to the library and spend time there together.
“Make the library your second home,” she said.
The National Library
The National Library has a decent collection of books but its fittings are old, with poor lighting, compared to the state library.
The library is located at the busy Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur and cannot be reached via the LRT.
The library is also open for shorter hours compared to the state library.
National Library director-general Datuk Raslin Abu Bakar said over the past three years, visitors to the library had decreased by 0.7%.
In 2011, the library recorded 423,166 walk-in-visitors but it decreased to 420,171 in 2012.
The trend is worrying.
However, there was an increase of 6% online visitors to the National Library’s website during the same period.
In 2011, the website recorded 8.26 million hits and this increased to 8.75 million in 2012.
He said reading from the Internet was gaining popularity.
He cautioned despite being informative, the information from the Internet might not necessarily be accurate.
“The public see the library as a place to read and borrow books.
“However, the library is also a centre to seek knowledge and information,” said Raslin.
He said libraries must cater to the present needs and provide free WiFi and Internet services to stay relevant.
He said publishers should produce more digital books to cater to the tech-savvy generation, with importance given to the new technology such as electronic books (e-books).
“The National Library subscribes to e-books and public can also make personal requests,” he said, adding that Government reports must also be digitised for better access and future references.
He said the National Digital Library of South Korea attracted many visitors as the people loved to read.
“South Koreans go to the library to read digital books. They have a wide range of multimedia-related activities at their libraries.
“Libraries are still an important information centre,” said Raslin.
In Malaysia, schoolchildren read but this habit changes drastically when they are in their late 20s and 30s.
However, most pick up the habit again when in their 40s, due to career advancement.
Raslin said learning and seeking knowledge should be a life-long journey.
He cited former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as a good role model who still reads despite his age.
“Tun Mahathir is a well-read person and is able to speak on many topics confidently. He gained respect globally due to his ability to express his views on many matters.
“We want more Malaysians to emulate his reading habit.
“In fact, he is the present National Library’s reading icon,” said Raslin.
* The Raja Tun Uda library is in Jalan Kelab Golf 13/6, Seksyen 13, Shah Alam. For more details, visit www.ppas.gov.my
** The National Library is in Jalan Tun Razak. For more details visit www.pnm.gov.my and www.u-brary.gov.my
Did you know?
> The National Library houses ‘The Hikayat Hang Tuah’, a 300-year-old book written in 1713. The book received recognition from the Memory Of The World Register by Unesco on Oct 20, 2001.
> The National Library has manuscripts dating back to 1637. The oldest manuscript is the Kitab Khalq Al-Samawat Al-Ard written by Syeikh Nurudin Al-Raniri requested by Sultan Iskandar Thani. This manuscript is 376 years old.
> The Raja Tun Uda library in Shah Alam is the first public library in the world to have an XD Theatre. The technology is from Canada. The 6D theatre provides motion rides with the combination of special effects such as lighting, sound, movement and 3D movie.
> The Raja Tun Uda library in Shah Alam is the first library in the country to incorporate interactive and mind-stimulating games on Nintendo Wii, I-Step and on-location reporter system for children.
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