With Internet, village libraries are now rich in resources


JOY OF LEARNING: Halim (centre) and NML director-general Datuk Raslin Abu Bakar (right) testing the reading skills of children during their inaugural visit to Hajah Sena Bugo Village Library at Kampung Sungai Bedil Besar Kuching. — Photo by Mahathir Haroun

KUCHING: Village libraries are one of the movers for rural communities to gain more knowledge, more so now with broadband connectivity that allows more people to have access to information through the Internet.

This point was highlighted by chairman of the Advisory Board of National Library of Malaysia (NLM) Datuk Seri Halim Safie yesterday, who also said with the Internet, libraries have become a place rich in resources.

“This is an era where we are over connected. The Internet has brought the people of the world and nations closer together,” he said during his inaugural visit to Hajah Sena Bugo Village Library at Kampung Sungai Bedil Besar here.

The library, which began operation last March 16, is stocked with 7,318 printed materials including books and magazines.

Drawing positive response from locals and visitors, a total of 4,669 printed materials were borrowed from the library during its first five months of operation.

However, to give people access to what modern libraries can offer, Halim said they had come up with the U-Pustaka portal.

“And the Internet allows the people to get reconnected to the libraries. As such, we have set up the U-Pustaka portal to allow people access the vast knowledge and information kept inside a library,” he stressed.

Halim, who is also a director of Telekom Malaysia, revealed that around 1.2 million people had accessed the portal last year while the State Library recorded some 400,000 visitors.

He also disclosed that the broadband coverage in the country was growing at a good rate, with coverage already reaching 67 per cent, meaning our country is as connected as developed countries.

“The government’s target is to provide near 100 per cent coverage by 2020 with 50 per cent coverage by 2010 and 75 per cent by 2015,” he explained.

With wider coverage, he pointed out, more people would have access to the Internet, through which they can gain more information and knowledge.

“It also encourages people to want to obtain information and pursue knowledge because the resources are accessible at the tip of their fingers. Otherwise, why bother to be connected,” he highlighted.

Apart from some 1,000 village libraries that have Internet facilities at present, he said, 300 1Malaysia Internet centres have been set up throughout the country.

“For people in rural areas who cannot afford to subscribe broadband services for their homes, they can access the Internet through community centres within their areas,” he further said.

Another step to make libraries rich in information is digitising old books, which has already been started, he added.

“There are a lot of people who are interested in reading old books. The added advantage in digitisation is that other countries can also have access to our collections,” he said.

Shafie also revealed that NLM was working on a project to add lifelong learning application to its platform.

“The library can become a repository of information with courses being offered online in which people can sign up or subscribe for e-learning to improve their knowledge, for example on English Enhancement Programme,” he added.

Also present was NML director-general Datuk Raslin Abu Bakar.