Making the best use of community learning spaces

Almost every barangay, village, or city has public spaces devoted to community activities like sports, bazaars, celebrations, and the like. Sometimes overlooked, these areas can be used to help children, youth, and other members of the community learn or share skills.

Take for example the case of Imus City’s public plaza, which hosts the monthly “Kuwentuhan na sa plaza, mga bata… tara na!” for the community children. Spearheaded by the city’s public library and the City Parks and Historical Sites, Kuwentuhan sa Plaza is a storytelling project that aims to foster a love for reading among children.

The city’s head librarian, Ms. Rose Roman, thought of bringing the books and stories to the children who regularly played in the plaza, choosing the playground over the city library almost all of the time. It was a success as the project has been running for about seven years now, attracting volunteer readers from the community and even outside of Imus—the mayor and government employees, schoolteachers, police officers, firefighters, and other volunteers. There are days when the number of participants swells to more than 100 children, with some of them coming from nearby cities.

The activity itself is not limited to just storytelling as the organizers have taken it as an opportunity to teach, especially when the featured book has specific lessons to impart. For example, a story about dental hygiene is the perfect opportunity to teach children how to take care of their teeth or how to brush their teeth. They would also be given free dental kits, for instance. A book on earthquakes would be the perfect time to take the kids through an earthquake drill, and so on.

When the pandemic happened, Ms. Roman did not think the reading/storytelling should stop. The Imus City Public Library started to host the weekly Online Kuwentuhan via the library’s Facebook page. Volunteer readers told stories to a virtual audience composed mainly of the community’s children who could not go out of the house. Both the Kuwentuhan sa Plaza and the Online Kuwentuhan continue to this day.

Maximizing the public library

The Imus public library was built in the 1950s. In 2004, a portion of the city hall burned down and the library had to give up its space temporarily. A public school housed the library after that fire, but it moved back to the reconstructed city hall around 2011. Today, the Imus City Public Library is located on the lower ground floor of the newly built Imus City Government Center. It houses a good collection of titles including Filipiniana books and a shelf devoted to books on Imus, Cavite. The modern library features a children’s room with a reading corner and a play and audio-visual area; a training room; a computer room; and a small lounge where guests can enjoy free brewed coffee.

In March 2016, Beyond Access Philippines cited Imus City Public Library as The Most Innovative Library in the Philippines for its digital literacy services. And in August 2021, it was given the Most Innovative Public Library Award by the National Library of the Philippines and The Asia Foundation.

But it is not just the library that collects prizes, its head librarian Ms. Rose V. Roman, a city librarian for more than 30 years, bagged the first prize in the 2022 Gawad Parangal sa Natatanging Propesyunal na Tagapangasiwa ng Pampublikong Aklatan from the National Library of the Philippines and The Asia Foundation. She is a dedicated librarian who has taken her noble task to heart—helping people learn and grow, which eventually leads to the community’s collective success and development.

With the help of her reliable library staff members, Ms. Roman initiates various projects for the community, like the weekly “Tayo Na’t Magbasa: A Library Reading Program for Struggling Learners”; a summer reading program for out-of-school children; e-books and digital literacy training for the community’s senior citizens, microentrepreneurs, and out-of-school youth; storytelling sessions and the establishment of reading centers in various Imus barangays (in partnership with the barangay officials); and many other programs. The public library taps student volunteers from institutions like Cavite State University to help “slow readers” improve their reading skills.

While the library receives a small budget from the local government, it welcomes support from concerned citizens and members of the community so it can accomplish its numerous programs. Individuals and organizations can donate tangible items like books, reading materials, computers, coffee (for the lounge), etc. to the library, or they can also volunteer as resource persons, instructors, or readers/storytellers. They can likewise sponsor activities and learning events for children and other members of the community. For more information, please visit the library’s Facebook page here:

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