There’s no shortage of great literature written by Filipino authors across the country (and around the world!), but in places with limited publication runs and even less reading spaces, access to these materials has been especially difficult.
This is where Book Nooks come in handy. A nationwide initiative by the National Book Development Board (NBDB), The Book Nook project aims to provide remote communities in the Philippines with better access to local books and stories by establishing community-based reading centers.
Starting November 24, a total of 52 libraries across the country will be open to readers of all ages. After paying a registration fee of Php 10, readers can choose to borrow over a thousand fiction, non-fiction, and reference titles by Filipino authors—written in Filipino, English, and other local languages—for free.
Aside from providing reading spaces to different communities, the Book Nook project also aims to provide alternative avenues for children to learn literary skills through different storytelling activities.
SERVICING THE COMMUNITY
“There’s the notion of places like museums and libraries [belonging to] the higher echelons. There are barriers to entry; you feel like you can’t [come inside] if nakatsinelas ka lang,” says NBDB’s Executive Director Charisse Aquino-Tugade. To combat this stigma, NBDB works closely with local government units and culture councils to make sure each Book Nook addresses the needs and reflects the culture of the places they belong to.
The result is a space that’s unique to each community: some sites are set up like a typical library, while others like in Banaue, Ifugao make use of a network of kubos, with a reading space, dance space, and weaving space. Local community members, who are thoroughly trained and assisted by NBDB, oversee its daily operations. Each Book Nook is also housed in an existing structure or venue within the community—such as a room in the Bontoc Public Market; a stilt house in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat; and a traditional spirit house in South Ubian, Tawi-Tawi.
“What we want to do is… set up storytelling spaces that are organic to the community; where the community feels comfortable.”
EMPOWERING LOCAL STORYTELLING
While the Book Nooks start off primarily as reading centers, NBDB’s long-term plans for the project involve turning them into what they dub as “active culture spaces,” where people can also learn how to tell stories in different forms—from spoken word to song, and even acting workshops and cultural performances. The organization hopes that the Book Nooks inspire its communities to participate more actively in preserving and telling their own stories, in line with NBDB’s goal of giving Filipino storytellers a platform to share their narratives.
“If you look at our indigenous communities, they have so many stories and speak in their own distinct languages,” Charisse says. “By sharing these books with them… hopefully they can [be inspired] to start putting their own stories into print.”
The Book Nook project officially launches on November 24, 2021. Those interested can get in touch with NBDB to volunteer for online and on-site storytelling initiatives, host training sessions for the project’s community volunteers, or participate in other collaborations. NBDB also accepts donations of cash and books by Filipino authors. Visit the NBDB website or join the Book Nooks Facebook community to learn more.