By Gina de Alwis Jayasuriya*
Living with COVID-19 has meant curbs on travelling and the inability to attend my favourite conferences and other professional events in person. However, I discovered a positive side to being grounded. Nearer home, many professional events were being moved to a virtual environment offering great opportunities to get insights into the LIS landscape in South and Southeast Asia.
One such event I had the opportunity to attend and present virtually was the International Knowledge Conference 2021 (IKC2021), hosted by the Sarawak State Library from 12 to 13 August, 2021 on the theme “Sustainable development goals: the roles of knowledge institutions and public service”. The two-day event showcased presentations from Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, and was attended by over 500 participants.
Two papers presented at the conference that particularly drew my attention were:
- Local Content Enrichment by Young Researchers and Talents for Cultural Heritage Sustainability by Salina Hj. Zawawi (Head, Library Services Sector) and Ahmad Bin Samsudin (Head, Information Services Division) of The State Library of Sarawak or Pustaka, and
- Fruitful Library Effort to Change the Community by Dr. Ida Priyanto and Dwi Fitrina of Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Both presentations unfold success stories and insights into how librarians in Sarawak, Malaysia and in cities and rural areas of Indonesia proactively reach out to and engage with their communities.
Zawawi and Samsudin’s paper narrates how the Sarawak State Library identified the twofold concerns of the
- paucity of local content;
- lack of people in the local community with the requisite knowledge, skills and the motivation to document their cultural heritage; and
launched the annual Local Content Competition (Pertandingan Warisan Budaya Tempatan – PWBT) in 2008 in the Northern Region of Sarawak targeting secondary and high school students. Project PWBT has not only contributed to generating rich local content but also benefitted the young researchers to hone their research skills, to develop an appreciation of local culture as well as personal enrichment. One other initiative undertaken by Pustaka to showcase the unique multiracial identities of Sarawak is the biennial event, Sarawakiana Carnival, launched in 2010.
Pustaka is indeed to be congratulated for successfully partnering with local communities and harnessing young local talent to ensure the preservation of Sarawak’s cultural heritage for future generations. The endeavour is also an attempt to contribute to Sarawak’s fulfilment of the UN2030 goals, specifically SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.
Access full paper here.
The second paper, a presentation by Dr. Ida and Dwi Fitrina based on the findings of a research study provides insights into how public librarians have proactively initiated social inclusion programs to empower communities in Indonesia. Some examples of the social and economic inclusion programs implemented include:
- Inviting the community to the Perpustakaan Balai Pintar Rural Library, Gunung Kidul Public Library System, Yogyakarta to grow medicinal plants and vegetables in the library compound which are later harvested and sold as raw or dried chips. Perpustakaan Balai Pintar has won several awards over the years for their efforts.
- Engaging with the communities in their Kampungs (villages) in Surabaya and Borneo. In Kampung Sawunggaling, Surabaya, the librarians conducted a training course on entrepreneurship in response to feedback from the community that income from their home-based business, batik making, had declined during the pandemic.
In remote Borneo, the librarians not only guide the community to make use of local resources but also conduct activities for the teachers to help them attain their teacher’s certification.
The presenters also highlighted a major challenge the librarians in Borneo face in their efforts to drive the social inclusion programs, ie, dealing with the bureaucracy of the middle management. It was enlightening to learn how the librarians have embraced creative coping strategies such as adopting a top-down approach of lobbying the relevant stakeholders, the community leader and the director of the local authority, to see their programs through.
Kudos to the public librarians in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta; Surabaya, and Muara Teweh in Central Borneo who have proactively demonstrated through their social inclusiveness projects that libraries are not just about providing information but also a means to empowering the community, both socially and economically, to cope with some of their daily and future challenges.
Access presentation here.
Conference site: https://www.pustaka-sarawak.com/apps/ikc2021/index.php
*Dr. Gina de Alwis Jayasuriya is an Independent Researcher with over four decades of experience in academic and special libraries in Singapore and Sri Lanka. She is very passionate about promoting continuing professional development (CPD) and lifelong learning to library professionals and advocates upskilling and reskilling to stay relevant. In 2019, she launched a research project on “Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for LIS Professionals in selected Asian Countries” which is ongoing. She holds a PhD in Information Studies from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She has presented at numerous conferences and has several publications to her credit. She resides in Singapore. Email: [email protected].