Anthony Bahia and I have been privileged to be part of the four-day international library benchmarking program in Taiwan sponsored by the Philippine Association of Academic and Research Librarians, Inc. (PAARL) dubbed as “PAARL’s Exploring Possibilities in Taiwan” held on October 20-23, 2016. The “Beautiful Island of Taiwan” is considered as the center for technical excellence and one of the world’s top producers of computer technology. It is also rich in cultural heritage sites. Taiwan is indeed a perfect venue to hold the benchmarking activity which aimed to provide avenues that would set international earmarks that can contribute to the improvement of library products and services. The itinerary included five well-selected academic and research libraries and cultural heritage sites, such as National Central Library, National Taiwan University Library, National Taiwan Normal University Library, Beitou Public Library, and New Taipei City Library.
On the first day, we visited the National Central Library, the oldest library in Taiwan. Noticeably, an e-reading booth was set up in the main lobby of the library offering a variety of reading devices to experience the library’s abundant digital collections. It encouraged patrons to try e-reading and see how learning can be fun. E-newspapers, e-books, and e-magazines were available for viewing, as well as several e-books produced by National Central Library and the Taipei Cultural Center.
The next site we visited was the National Taiwan University Library. Although it is a university library, it is open to the public. One of the facilities offered that caught my attention was the installation of equipment for music listening in the Leisure Periodicals area. Users can browse through the catalogue on the touch screen and play any music they like. The site was voted to be named as “Music Bay” by the users. In contrast to the usual reading areas full of heavily-laden shelves, the library created a unique environment for readers to enjoy a relaxing atmosphere.
Our third stop was the National Taiwan Normal University. The eight-story semi-circular library building features Gothic style architecture. It is a modern building on a north-south axis, with a total floor space of more than 11,000 square meters. It has open stacks, space for 800 readers, and 36 study rooms.
On the second day, we visited the Taipei Beitou Public Library. It was opened in Beitou Park in 2006 and is Taiwan’s first “green” library. Located in the lush green environment of the park, the magnificent wooden structure is quite a sight to see. It was the first building in Taiwan to receive the certification of “Green Building.” The sloping turf roof preserves humidity and moisture and drains water to recycling troughs. The recycled water is used to water plants and flush toilets. The roof also has a bunch of solar panels to generate electricity in the building. The thoughtful design of large windows saves energy, allows natural light to substitute interior lighting, and reduces the need for fans and air-conditioning. Free Wi-fi is available in the library.
The final stop of the tour was the New Taipei City Library, which pioneered in serving 24 hours a day. The library provided diverse reading space based on the needs of different kinds of readers, referring to it as a “Universal Design” so that all the patrons can read in a friendly and comfortable environment. Even the disabled readers, senior citizens, and readers with special needs would feel that they are reading at home in this library.
Taiwanese libraries share similar fine features, such as the 24-hour self-service in returning and borrowing of library materials, reservation of library materials, study room and seats, self-service photocopying, and printing using copy card. Library buildings are eco-friendly and energy-efficient. All libraries have an interactive information kiosk facility. Knowledge services are offered thru e-reading, digital reference services are available 24 hours a day, and library resources are accessible via mobile devices or apps. Rare collections, theses, and dissertations are digitized through the “National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations” or “Digital Archives” initiative which provides value-added knowledge services for theses and dissertations, such as full text download for authorized users and online research capabilities for the public.
The Romeo P. Ariniego MD Library Services plans to implement a similar digitization project for theses and dissertations. It aims to provide an archive of institute-wide research and make it easily available to support the teaching, learning and research of the academic community. Being an active user of technology, RPAMDLS can also adapt the interactive or touch screen information kiosks of Taiwanese libraries to inform users about the library policies and procedures, floor plan, current awareness services (CAS), news, announcements, selective dissemination of information (SDI), circulation services, references services, and other library activities.
If I had to choose a word to describe the whole trip, it would be overwhelming because honestly, it was. The libraries and cultural sites we visited were inspiring. I am very glad to have been given an opportunity to be part of this wonderful experience. I shall forever cherish this and hope that through this library benchmarking tour, I would be able to contribute to RPAMDLS’ vision of being the Institute’s partner in delivering excellent education, health care, research and community service to the community it serves.