When I was traveling or working overseas, usually I spent some time to visit the library in that country. My purposes were to find some interesting books that hard to find in my country, Indonesia; and find interesting information that might be needed to support my career, job and interest. On the other side, by visiting the library, there was a chance for me to know how well other countries manage their library to support their knowledgeble society.
As an example, let us take a visit to library in Singapore. The libraries in Singapore are managed by National Library Board (NLB). There is one national library, which is the main library in Singapore located at Victoria Street, near Bugis MRT station. Some other libraries, namely regional libraries and public libraries, are also spread all around Singapore’s area. Normally government build one public library near the community center, MRT and bus station.
Figure 1: National Library Building, Singapore
The libraries are well organised, and provide huge collections of books. Newspaper, cafetaria, other audio/video material, free wireless internet access are provided in the library. The book catalogue is also easily accessed from the internet, so people can receive detail status, and location about particular book they want to read. The libraries are open every day, 10 am to 9 pm, except on public holiday. And through my experience, even on the weekend the library are full with students and visitors, reading and studying. And suprisingly, visitors fill almost all space and corner in the libary, eventhough they shall sit on the floor because all the chairs are already fill up.
Another example, let us move further to a library in a central Europe, the Universiteitsbibliotheek (UB), the central university library of Rijkuniversiteit Groningen (RuG), the Netherlands. This library is located at the center of Groningen city, at Broerstraat 4, surrounded by offices, shopping center and cafetaria. This libary is one of the university libraries, where the others are spreaded around the University area, and located in each particular Department’s building.
Figure 2: University Library in Groningen, the Netherlands
The library is open every day, 8.30 am – 10 pm (Mon-Fri) and 10 am – 5 pm (Sat-Sun), except on public holiday (which is closed) or examination (open everyday until 10 pm). The library is well organized, have complete collection of books, have cafetaria, have private study room and provides wireless internet. The book catalogue is also easily accessed from the internet. And what impressed me is that the catalogue are also interconnected to other universities catalogue all over the Netherlands. The students can still access and lend a books from other universities if the books cannot be found at the libraries in Groningen. During examination, the library is full with students. One of the character of Dutch student when studying in the library is to keep the study environment very quiet, so helping themself and others to concentrate. No discussion is allowed in the reading area.
After visiting some libraries in other countries, I would like to look back and make a reflection to the library in Indonesia. Contrary to the countries like Singapore and Netherlands, it seems that government and institution in Indonesia need to increase their priority to develop the services of the libraries. Even I found central library in a respectfull university only open half day on Saturday and close on Sunday. The other scientific institution only open in working hour and close during weekend. How can we increase the knowledge of the society if we could not continuously provide the best source of knowledge and information? Books are expensive and the government shall give their best effort to serve the society to gain knowledge and access the information.
Now it’s time to wake up! … (dedicated to my beloved country, Indonesia)