Tuesday, March 31, 2009

There is cause for celebration...sometimes

I've stumbled upon a paperback of Henry Adams's Mont St. Michel and Chartres in the Booksale bin priced at a lowly P15.00. It is my second copy of the book but it saddened me to see it there in the "below P35.00 bin" probably written off by the people at the second hand book shop as unknown, so I bought it.

My first copy of the book is from my mother. She won it from some contest on the radio program the Voice of America. It was from that book that I've discovered Henry Adams so that when I discovered his autobiography work at the USC library, I read it like a supposedly long lost niece should read about a long lost uncle. And it was exactly how I read his autobiography book, as his niece, still his niece, because when you read his book Mont St Michel and Chartres, he invited you to pretend to be his niece or nephew accompanying him in his tour of the Gothic churches of France. The copy I bought recently do not have accompanying photos in them unlike my old copy which had black and white pictures of the exterior and interior of both churches. I have since saw several colored pictures of these churches but when I read the book, I wished that the reference photos were colored so I could not just understand but would actually see what he meant when he described the beauty of the large rose stained glass windows of Chartres.

And if you are the kind of niece or nephew who happened to love architecture or if not, a devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the book is an absolute revelation. It made you love ancient architecture if you're not an admirer of its grandeur yet and it made you revere the Blessed Virgin Mary more if you've already loved her and if not yet the book made you understand to say the least the devotion of Her followers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The education of Juana Taspukan

This phrase "the education of" has been used and abused by many, including me obviously, but as far as I am concerned the original of this came from Henry Adams’s The Education of Henry Adams.

This book is rated as the number one non-fiction work of the 20th century. It is autobiographical. Henry Adams is the grandson of the 3rd president of the USA John Quincy Adams. Being a progeny of the elite, he was given a classical education. Classical education in the 19th century means Latin, history, the arts and literature. As he became mature he realized he was not equipped to deal with the technological and scientific advancement that had happened in his lifetime.

The book may have been written a century ago, but its main theme resonates in the present Philippine education system. What we learned at school is not viable in real life. At school, we are trained to be pen pushers when the work in the real world that awaits us need us to wield a wrench, climb ladders and work under the heat of the sun, crawl under things, and be dirty. Industrial revolution happened more than two centuries ago but we still have not caught up.

Or perhaps, we have actually caught up with the technological advancement of the world, only that we are in self-denial. We wanted to believe we all have potential to achieve greater things. We are ashamed to be seen enrolling in a non-BS degree because it might be misconstrued as sign of low intellect. Our parents worked themselves to death and amassed toxic debts just to send us to acquire a degree because they too do not want to be seen as a failure. Then too, if we are lucky enough to enroll in college, sometimes we do not take the courses that are suitable for our talents and capacities. We study the subject our parents, uncles and aunts wanted us to study. So instead of acing the course, we just get by with passing grades; thereby making us the least choice come seeking for employment time. And in the end, we end up underemployed or worse yet unemployed.

I should know this because I have been there. I wanted to enroll in carpentry or dressmaking or cooking, I wanted to create things, but my parents wouldn't hear of it. Celebrity cooks was unheard of then. There was not even a culinary school in Cebu in the 1990’s. And the likes of millionaire dressmakers such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel have not reached the ears of my provincial parents. And forget about women carpenters, it was and still mostly is the field of men. I could have enrolled in Fine Arts or Architecture where I could learn dressmaking and carpentry, but classes especially service courses, not college per se, was as boring to me as rubber slippers.

There will be thousands of new graduates this March and April. Where, I wonder will they go to find employment. Some of them will be our former students who transferred to other colleges because they’d rather take Banking and Finance and Nursing and Political Science and other such glamorous sounding courses than finish a degree in agriculture and its allied courses.

Everybody wants to work in an air conditioned office. Nobody wants to break their bones in the field anymore.

Monday, March 23, 2009

How do you sit while reading.

In grade school there was this poster on the wall on how to read properly. One of the steps to reading properly is to sit up straight, feet flat on the floor, back straight, etc.

Some have become most comfortable lying down while reading, others in a reclining or slouching on a sofa. I am most comfortable reading sitting with legs in a lotus position, book held on the top edge while the spine of the book rests over the lower arm, back curved and body hunched. But these are done in the privacy of the homes.

In a library, at the main reading rooms, the straight back chairs encourage the correct reading position, which everyone assumes, inspire and promote scholarly activities. At the serials section and in some cases at the lounging areas, there are sofas where magazines and newspapers are read. In this case, it creates a relaxed atmosphere. Unfortunately, in this leisurely environment some readers have taken the extreme step while reading. They not only recline on the sofas, they also put up their feet, shoes and all, on the table. Some would even kicked off their sandals and would sit on their feet on the sofa. This is maybe forgivable given the invitation the sofa represents, to sit back and relax, but to do this in the main reading room is inconsiderate given the limited space and number of chairs any and all library have.

However, they are all bad behavior, bad form and unsanitary besides.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I am OC sometimes so I count things. There are 12, 300 people who listed Alejandro as their favorite music, 105, 000 who listed museums and libraries as their industry and only 271 people whose occupation is preoccupied which makes us a very rare group.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The shape of things to come has arrived

Everyone knows that books are a representation of serious thought. Whatever its content and subject is about, it is basically a product of long hours of thought and creativity. However, creativity has always been limited to the content (obviously) and the cover of the book (despite the cliche do not judge..., etc.). What's on the title page and verso usually do not need creativity, they just need the editors' and publishers' eye for detail and everything is good to go. For a cataloger the verso of a book is always serious matter. For any other reader, the verso is of no concern to them, they are taken for granted as nothing else but what are usually on it.

The book by Dave Eggers, A heartbreaking work of staggering genius, however, is another matter. For starters it is a 2-in-1 book. What is usually the back cover is actually the front cover of another book. And for another, its verso is a reminder to read everything even the microscopic prints if possible. Go see for yourself.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Read me to sleep.

It saddened me to hear people say that they used reading as narcotic. They do not read to gain knowledge, to live a vicarious life, or even to read to be taken as an erudite. They read to welcome boredom and tiredness so that sleep comes easy.

Of course there are people who also can not go to sleep without reading first, but their reasons are different. These people read before going to sleep because their obsessive-compulsive brains tell them to; it reminds them that it has not learned anything new however trivial it may turned out to be.

Featured in the BBC a few weeks ago is a hotel that offers a read-me-to-sleep services to its patrons. Judging from the advert shown, the reader does not stop reading until the client falls asleep. If I were to become one of their lucky customers, the reader would read himself/herself to hoarseness or she may read herself to sleep first before I would in the silence of the dawn.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where does your money go?

A big chunk of my budget goes to the purchase of books. It came to a point that my parents where wondering why I seemed to be wearing the same shirt every time they see me, but that was when I was still a new income earner. I was dazzled by my ability to buy books, so I bought all the books I've always wanted. Now I am reasonably well-dressed. I can now allocate some of my money for clothing because my brother is now also buying books for us.

When I travel, even if I thought there might not be time to read, I always carry a book or two or three with me. I do not know how to travel light. Except for the cellphone, I do not have any other hi-tech gadgets. They do not attract me as much as a nice book does. The only hi-tech gadget that has me drooling at the moment is the Sony e-book reader. It could store as much as five books at a time and if one brought it along for travel, it could make the travel easier. It would also make saying no to your uncle who always wanted to borrow your books a lot easier.

I can afford this gadget but what keeps me from having this one is the thought of what do I do with my e-copy of the books i have purchased. They can't line my wall. They can't give me the kind of comfort a hard copy does.

Own the Knowledge, Buy the Book

My brother, my number one fan, always laughed his head off every time I narrate to him incidents in the library that put me and in all probability my profession in a bad light. He rather liked me being notorious. It is exactly opposite to my stereotyped librarian image--quiet, timid, mousy. He always tells me that for as long as I am fighting ignorance and injustice I should not be afraid to be labeled "malditang librarian". "Your being a librarian is just incidental to your principles." I know I am not liked by some people because when they have business with my unit, they looked for another staff even when I am already there ready and available to provide them with a service.

The incidents I told him about are when faculty complained about the due dates and the overdue fines imposed on them. They want semestral borrowing "rights" to their reference book/s. I have always thought that a faculty must have at least one, the most basic reference book of his own on the subject he is teaching. Owning your own reference book is as basic as your knowledge of your subject matter. What does the cost matter when your whole professional career and your means of living rest on your teaching that subject? And what does the cost of the book mean to a professional being paid to teach the subject compared to the cost of the book to a student?

For others this attitude is putting librarians in a bad light. For me it is simply protecting the interests of my primary clientele, the students, who mostly are coming from low to middle income families.

Ironically, this could be a cycle. These students could be children of teachers who also do not own their own reference book. Then here is the vicious cycle of injustice and ignorance should end. In The Library.