by Raquel P. Samar, Cataloging Librarian
It has always been a dream of mine to visit South Korea someday. So when I was picked amongst the library staff to join the Library Benchmarking Tour in Seoul in October 16-19, 2014, I have to admit my excitement and happiness could not be contained. The four-day library tour was organized by Philippine Academic and Research Librarians (PAARL) with the aim giving Filipino librarians an opportunity to observe the best practices in technology, space-planning, and infrastructure development in six selected Korean libraries. We visited the National Digital Library of Korea (Dibrary), Seoul Metropolitan Library, Yonsei University-Samsung Library, Seoul National University, Gyujanggak Royal Library, and Sungkyunkwan University Library-Samsung Library. Among the libraries that we have visited, three of them stood out for me.
First is the National Digital Library of Korea which is the first hybrid library in Korea that combines both digital and analog ideas with services open to all citizens, even foreigners. What’s good about its service? It’s free! Numerous workstations are set up for viewing movies and for video and sound editing. Library users may also use its fully equipped studio for recording and dubbing purposes. E-kiosks are also available for users who want to read from its digitized collection.
The second is Yonsei University-Samsung Library which focuses on providing big user spaces and offering digital tools and content for collaborative learning. In the lobby, over-sized panels and touch screen monitors are strategically placed for different services like searching the catalog, reserving facilities, and virtual reading of newspapers, journals, and books. Numerous computer workstations are available for individual and group use.
The third is Sungkyunkwan University Library-Samsung Library, the largest library in the country, which is both architecturally and technologically impressive. The design of the library has an inviting and comfortable vibe. A cafe is even situated alongside the study areas that offers for informal and animated group discussions. What is unique with its services are the digital lockers that can be booked for up to six months and the book shower machine that disinfects and dusts a book.
Noticeably, Korean libraries have been transformed to respond to the evolving needs of the younger generations. I think our own library can adapt what Yonsei University Library has done and should start evolving the PAMDLS into a center for discovery and collaborative learning. For starters, the library can place touch screen monitors in lobbies that offer different services like searching the OPAC, reserving of facilities, and virtual reading of books and journals. Right now, RPAMDLS has purchased a bigger interactive television, so the possibility of having this kind of service in the future is within reach.
The library tour had been great. For a short period of time, I was able to explore Seoul and most of all, I have been extremely fortunate to have the chance to see first-hand some incredible libraries that demonstrate creative approaches to library services, innovative uses of technology, and realistic approaches to library automation.