By Patricia May P. Catan
Profile Photo by: Roanne Rae Cabradilla
CREATING a platform for individuals to gain access to learning and making use of public facilities the city has is a project called #BeyondBooks. Spearheaded by Stephanie Jarina, the project started back in 2015 and is now running for three years. Jarina said the project is about maximizing the utilization of public libraries and spaces through fun and innovative activities that bring people together and celebrate learning. With the project’s mission to provide an exciting and conducive learning environment for everyone, #BeyondBooks works hand in hand with the Cebu City Public Library — which only recently is now open 24 hours — in conducting their various programs.
Sharing that majority of our country’s population belongs to the low-income household, Jarina and her team saw how the library is a great equalizer that gives access to everyone regardless of socio-economic status. “We realized how the library is an awesome space for learning and saw how we can reconcile that to today’s definition of learning that goes beyond just books and reading, by bringing in creative education, experiential learning, and community engagement,” she explained.
Fascinated by how individuals can gather, share experiences and learn new things all at the same time in creative events, Jarina views this as the fulfillment of a vision that the library could very well be that creative space. For her, it’s a platform where people from all walks of life especially those who need it the most, come together, have fun and learn from each other.
The main focus of #BeyondBooks is to shift society’s perspective about the role of libraries in our communities into an active and innovative one. Taking this into account, Jarina along with her team specializes in activations that promote community engagement. #BeyondBooks also highlights our local culture and arts and innovation through creativity, science and technology.
#BeyondBooks is slowly driving traffic to the library with activities that cater to different individual needs and interests. Through these initiatives, the library had an increase of 6,000 more visitors and patrons in 2016. “It’s about giving them more opportunities for learning at the library that goes beyond reading and books. We see this not just in the number of event or workshop attendees, but in each attendees’ feedback about the workshop — it’s always ‘we want more of this,’” Jarina shared. She added that this is why long-term collaborations and partnerships play a big role in shifting the perspective of communities, from a library of books to a library of experiences.
Pointing out that innovations and breakthroughs start with creative experiences, Jarina’s team believes that public libraries and spaces nurture these creative experiences and that everyone is given opportunities for igniting creativity and for pursuing passions. Jarina said everyone deserves a safe space where they can be themselves and engage with like-minded people for a sense of belongingness, not just at home, at school, and at the malls.
Now that the city public library is open 24/7, students and everyone else have more access to the library and can use space that’s conducive for learning. Jarina and her team supports the 24-hour operations because many individuals will have full access to reliable information that’s stored in the sea of books. “We believe the city public library is the perfect third space for creative education, experiential learning, and community engagement. Imagine a library that is equipped to nurture those, then we can already see how our public libraries and spaces positively impact Cebu by nurturing creative and innovative citizens,” Jarina said.