24 July 2008

The One And Only National Library Guide Ever

Library card, front. My photo is too big!

Along with the Naughty Nurse, the Sexy Librarian has been one of the most predominant, ah, ideas that have brought color and motivation to some pretty loathsome institutions. Their origins are similar to those of the Tooth Fairy-- entities so fantastic and superlatively magical as to compensate for the unfortunate inevitability of gaping holes in your gums, death, injections, and the Dewey Decimal System.

Like getting a heavy-syrup shot for hepatitis vaccination, going to the library is largely seen as a chore, something you have to get done to fatten up that mandatory bibliography you append to that delightful research paper for your minor-yet-cumbersome class. Most people are too lazy to utilize these heavenly brothels of knowledge.

Pambansang Aklatan on Kalaw St.

I've proven since childhood to be a sucker for a gripping Bobbsey Twins mystery (about goldfish and cookies), any travel adventure (my homiez Tintin and Snowy), or how-to books (making lamps out of bottles and rubbish).

Later on, realizing what a detrimental Westernized mindframe I'd developed from a literary diet of suburbian utopian misleading stuff and Archie comics, I became more inclined to pick up journal articles of some ridiculously specialized field (Tarrifs and Woven Household Materials in Medieval Mesopotamia and Modern-Day Bulgaria: A Comparative Analysis). The latter appeals to me because there is so much impassioned nerd mania involved in creating works with this kind of absurd specificity.

So I graduated from mandatory schooling, and suddenly a little part of me was missing, the part that yearned for information overloads and etc. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to fill this void and take a trek to the National Library.

Let me begin by saying that these days, I usually say "fuggit" and hit the internet. Otherwise, I trawl stores and freeload new books while taking notes on my phone.

This time, I was looking for information more likely to be in obscure books by local researchers. The Pambansang Aklatan is the best place for this. It is just the type of place that needs an encouraging female sex bomb archetype to motivate you to go there-- stuffy, slow, quite subpar on the whole. But clean! It also has little displays of heroes' actual clothing and shoes.

If you hadn't gone to college around the University Belt nor heard of the National Library until now, trust me when I say you need to go through the process below (or some version of it). Otherwise suffer making several trips up and down the stairs, or to the library itself. Consider it a public service segment:

1. Take the LRT or FX to UN Avenue, and walk towards the library. You want to get off the station at around 8:20 AM, as the library opens at 8:30. Don't come during lunchtime, the ID applications are closed.

2. Apply for a library card. The window is to your left when you enter. Be armed with 50 pesos, a 1x1 photo, and a valid ID. (I forgot my ID at home and improvised a ghetto-looking one out of my business card, pasting a photo and putting a bogus "employee number" and all that stuff. I felt triumphant about this dishonesty. I should have felt bad, but it saved me a trip home.) You cannot even browse through books if you don't have a library card. I will explain more later.

Library card, back. See the mandatory ID card threats of loss and non-transferability, and your reader number, with an actual bar code.

3. Pay for the card, glue your pic on, sign it, and proceed to the electronic registration part. You will be asked to enter more detailed information, like your address, etc. They have some fantasy of actually being able to use this information.

4. Check your bag in at the right side of the first floor. They'll give you a claim tag. Be sure to bring your valuables, your library card, and some note-taking materials with you. And a pen. There are no pens available anywhere.

5. Go to your floor of choice. Mine was the Filipiniana section, as I wanted to find out about the history of my city. You log in at the area entrance.

Good daylighting in the search area.

6. Take some query cards from any of the wholesome librarians at your service. (Flip them over and you'll realize they're actually recycled cards from old card catalogues.) Go back out or into the halls to search for books on the available computers. Their selection is not too bad, especially when it comes to dissertations and local research. If you find something you definitely like, put it straight out on the query card. The rest you can write on a sheet of paper.

A faded green query card from Filipiniana.

7. Enter the "inner room" (I'm speaking from my experience in the Filipiniana section) which is actually where all the books are. You will be allowed to retrieve your own books. They are quite well-organized.

Inside the vault of books.

8. Take your books out of the morgue-like room. The lady by the door "checks out" your books. You will need to write the details of the books on the abovementioned query cards (if you haven't already), and give these to her with your library card. You can't actually take these books home. You need to give your card just to sit around and read them. Needless to say, this measure has surely ensured the continued presence of actual books in the building.

9. Research away. Around you will be similarly engrossed students from nearby universities. At the end of the day (4:30 PM), return your books to the lady, take your card, and scoot. You cannot take books home without resorting to theft.

Lots that you won't find on the web.

You have now extracted, with much effort, some benefit from your tax payments to our national government. You will no doubt be back, to maximize the effort you expended in actually obtaining both a card and information about the library's existence.

Pambansang Aklatan (National Museum)
T.M. Kalawa Street
Ermita, Manila
(+632) 525 1748 / (+632) 5253196
Hours: Monday- Saturday 8:30 AM-4:30 PM. During summertime they shorten hours and skip Saturdays. Call to make sure.
LRT Station: UN Avenue (I got lost because I missed my stop, but I ended up there eventually. Just ask around. FXs also go down in front of the building itself)

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