“The public library of Nam Pad District in Uttaradit Province”won the Living Library award at “The 4th TK park Library Award Program” for their ‘the elderly love to read for health’ project. Educational academics note that librarians have crucial roles to play in opening up the world of learning, and “TK park” provides motivation for “librarians” in terms of new perspectives and recognition of their increasingly important roles and responsibilities. Librarians have learned to work proactively while changing their strategies when organizing reading/learning activities for specific target groups in a more creative and well-defined way.
The saying that "Open the book: Open the world" and reading can open the door to knowledge and jobs because the more you read the more you learn. But the important thing is to create a reading culture and the love of reading among all groups of community members from a young age group all the way to the elderly group. These goals can be achieved through cooperation of all parties, especially the "libraries".
The TK park Library Award training and contest program has been continually organized since 2006 by Thailand Knowledge Park (TK park). 2012 was the 4th time that this was organized with the objectives of promoting concrete ideas for a "living library" and motivating "librarians"to realize their role in supporting, instilling, and promoting community members’ reading and learning experiences. Excellent support has been provided from the Office of Non–Formal and Informal Education, Office of the Basic Education Commission of Thailand, Ministry of Education, local administrative organizations and the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority.
This year, the program received applications from over 100 libraries across the country and 20 libraries were eventually selected to contest in the final round. The results were announced on Friday, 28 September 2012 and the winner for the 4th TK park Library Award was “the public library of Nam Pad District in Uttaradit Province”. The 1st - 4th runner ups were: the public library of Nong Khae District in Saraburi Province, the Songkhla Province public library, the public library of Sopmei District in Mae Hong Son Province, and the public library of Chiang Khong District in Chiang Rai Province. In addition to the cash reward, totaling to 800,000 baht, granted for the development of all 20 finalist libraries, the winner and runner ups also received an opportunity to go on a study tour of libraries in Korea from 9-13 November 2012.
Dame Kasama Worawan Na Ayutthaya, a member of the Library Reform Committee in her capacity as the chairperson of the judging committee, agreed that the roles of librarians had changed to a more proactive ones. Many librarians had adopted new attitudes of becoming more active instead of remaining in a library and waiting for people to come to them. They now become more involved in the community, organizing activities to help community members recognizing the importance of reading. They put more effort into making an appropriate linkage between library activities and the locals’ lifestyles in order to promote more reading. We had seen more non-educational organizations, such as the military and local administrative organizations, taking up the roles of librarians and providing more support to reading activities. These are good signs of change. The form of involvement their involvement and the people's attitudes towards the importance of reading had also changed.
Regarding the operational plans of the finalist libraries, Dame Kasama stated that although they came in different format or operation technique, one thing that they should be aware of and be able to achieve was how to effectively link reading to learning. Otherwise, the bridge between a library and people’s lives or a community would be lost. She also expressed the wish to see that the outcome of these plans would lead to the creation of an intelligence society in the long run.
In addition, Dame Kasama also gave a reminder on the preparedness of the Thai librarians and libraries for the coming participation in the ASEAN community. She said, “Reading is not an outdated tool. On the contrary, it can provide children with many advantages for their future. Books can provide important introduction to knowledge about ASEAN country members. Librarians themselves must read books on ASEAN in order to be able to provide suitable services to library users. Even if there are no such books in their particular library, advice from knowledgeable librarians can be most helpful to readers”.
Dr. Tassanai Wongpisetkul,the Deputy Director of the Office of Knowledge Management and Development and the Director of Thailand Knowledge Park (TK park) stressed that librarians were indispensable in a learning society as they could provide advice as well as knowledge to users. It was hoped participants in this program would use the knowledge and skills that they learned from distinguished speakers, and that they would be able to apply it to increase the learning potential in their communities as well as to organize interesting activities for effective reading and learning development. However, as librarians were in the position of great responsibilities which were highly recognized all over the world, Dr. Tassanai would like to see the establishment of the “Thai Librarian Day” in the future.
Dr. Amara Patapinyoboon,an educational scholar attached to the Office of Non–Formal and Informal Education, admitted that TK park had given an inspiration and opportunity for librarians to develop a modern-style place of learning, a living library, and had changed their perspectives in organizing more proactive activities in a way that was more audience specific. The general public would greatly benefit from such changes. For example, there were projects promoting reading and learning activities for homeless children, projects promoting reading in nurseries or projects promoting reading to pre-natal children. These were new reading formats that differed from past projects, which generally focused on children or the public only. Libraries or books were not only used as reading promotion media but could also be used to inspire charitable activities for the society. The TK park Library Award allows librarians a clearer picture of their work, to be able to identify target groups instead of being the defensive party. Librarians learned to be proactive and to reach out more to their community and target groups.
“We have to admit that today’s librarians have made much progress in term of self-development and have acquired new perspectives. They are also learning new skills and accumulating new knowledge on handicrafts or many other occupations in order to be able to organize activities that will attract more people to libraries. This is different from the past when librarians would only focus on the management of library books or materials. The new roles are more important especially as we are moving toward the ASEAN community participation. We can no longer specialize in one field alone but we require more comprehensive knowledge of the world around us. Only “librarians” will understand that it is their special task to open up the world of learning to others”.
Miss Patrawadee Taosalee, a librarian at the public library of Nam Pad District in Uttaradit Province which was the winner of the 4th TK park Library Award, said she was most delighted with the outcome since this was the first time that her library entered the contest. “The elderly love reading for health project” won her library the first prize.
“This project was conceived from the long-standing activities that we have organized to promote the love of reading in our seven local communities. The original project was later modified to identify a clearer target group. There is a large number of old people in these communities and most of them earned some income from making Dok Mai Jan, funeral-pyre offering flowers. This activity make them feel lonely and abandoned, resulting in depression and deteriorating mental health. The public library of Nam Pad District wanted to organize activities to promote reading among the elderly because we believe that reading would help them overcome loneliness and they would also learn useful knowledge to help them regain good physical and mental health”.
As for the study tour of libraries in South Korea award, Miss Patrawadee said, “I believe it will be of great benefits because we will be able to observe and study the format of reading promotion from librarians and libraries in the country known to have one of the highest reading rates in the world. We will apply the knowledge and new ways of creative thinking to improve our libraries or to organize a wider range of library activities to maintain the quality of a living library”.