Question: Has the role of the library changed in the Internet era?
The increase in the sale of books and the number of book fairs by book publishing consortiums indicate that books are still needed and are part of lives in Malaysia.
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Answer: The role of the library never changes through the ages. What is changing is the way information is stored and disseminated due to rapid change and advancement in technology.
Question: How have reading trends in Malaysia changed?
Answer: I strongly believe people, especially the young generation, are still interested in reading. If we take into consideration the increase in the number of bookshops, the increase in the sale of books and the number of book fairs conducted by book publishing consortiums, they all indicate that books are still needed and are part of their lives.
However, nowadays reading trends in all countries, including Malaysia, are changing. People prefer to embrace the wonders of the Internet than read print copies of books or any other reading material.
Malaysia has, however, not yet conducted any research on reading trends, especially the Internet reading rate, and we hope that we can do so this year.
Question: Why are Malaysians not reading more?
Answer: It is not fair to say Malaysians are not reading more. Statistics show that in 2010, Malaysians read between eight and 12 books compared with only two in 1995. Cultivating the reading habit among people, especially the younger ones, is not easy but this is not a Malaysian problem alone. The whole world is facing this problem, especially developing countries.
A home library is no longer part of the compulsory architectural brief when one is building a home as it can be costly. It takes several books to stock up a library, whereas a single desktop computer can bring an ocean of information through the Internet to one’s desk at the click of a button.
However it is debatable whether digital reading is going to take over the print medium, particularly since it is seen that typically, people use the web to scan for relevant information. Web habits show that people tend to spend no more than a few minutes on each site.
Question: What is the National Library’s role in educating its community and how do you think the library ties into the community’s goals, missions and needs?
Answer: As the users of the National Library of Malaysia comprise all age groups and different educational and academic backgrounds, the library provides books and e-resources in all genres.
Libraries play fundamental roles in society and should ensure equality of access for all citizens. They are the collectors and stewards of heritage and also organisers of knowledge, adding value to their communities by cataloguing, classifying and describing books and resources they collect.
Their role is to collect knowledge of the past and present and lay it down for the future, according to the needs of society,
Question: Do you think the National Library has been unfairly burdened with the task of getting the nation to read and build more intellectual minds?
Answer: As the Secretariat for the National Reading Promotion, we seriously undertake the responsibility to coordinate and conduct various reading promotion programmes and activities at national, state and rural levels to help Malaysians develop intellectually and to help Malaysia become a developed nation, as envisaged in Vision 2020.
This is reflected in our Reading Promotion tagline “A Reading Society, A Successful Society” (Bangsa Membaca, Bangsa Berjaya). The Reading Campaign concept and implementation strategy under the auspices of the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry has been given a new and fresh approach every year.
Since 2006, the campaign has intensified, with programmes and activities conducted to create more impact in cultivating and nurturing reading.
Question: Who else plays a part in building more intellectual minds through reading?
Answer: We have involved various institutions and 10 non-governmental organisations in making reading activities and promotion programmes successful.
We have smart partnerships with state libraries, ministries, government departments and private agencies as well as schools, universities, the book industry, clubs, individuals, associations and other institutions to encourage public participation in reading activities and programmes in order to generate awareness of the importance of reading.
It is also to encourage Malaysians to read various types of materials and to make reading part of our culture.
A five-year plan of action for the reading campaign focused on, and is still focusing on planning and implementing reading programmes and activities which include educational and family institutions, the civil service, public libraries sector, publishing sector and the community at large.
Question: How successful has the library’s engagement of reading ambassadors been in promoting reading in Malaysia?
Answer: The Reading Ambassador is just one of the strategies to promote reading here. The National Library has appointed Malaysian icons Datuk Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor Al-Masrie, Malaysia’s first astronaut and actress Datuk Seri Michelle Yeoh to encourage young people to read and also to participate in our reading programmes.
Although we are confident that their popularity will help generate interest and wide publicity in our reading campaign, it is difficult for us to quantify this with exact statistics reflecting their impact on the public’s reading habits.
Question: Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was also recently appointed as a reading ambassador. How do you think his appointment will inspire young people to read more?
Answer: Dr Mahathir is considered a suitable reading ambassador because he is admired by Malaysians of all age groups due to his illustrious achievements in nation-building. His success and great wisdom are strongly attributed to his great passion for reading. He is a role model and a source of inspiration for most Malaysians.
His appointment as a reading ambassador will have a significant impact on our reading promotion campaign.
Question: Are Malaysians less employable now because they have poor reading habits?
Answer: I do not agree with that statement because Malaysians do read, and there are many other reasons why Malaysians are less employable.
According to a recent government survey on Malaysian graduates, about 60,000 were unemployed due to lack of experience and soft skills, poor communication skills, poor English and because they had pursued studies irrelevant to the marketplace.
However, I strongly believe that if Malaysians inculcate reading as part of their daily lives, it could further enhance their command of English, increase their knowledge which will in turn help them to make up for their lack of experience and soft skills.