Children’s library abuzz with activity

For many young people, a library, as perfectly put by one author, is nothing more than a tomb for books.

“I even know some university students who are library-phobic — believe it or not — so much so that they go with whatever their lecturers tell them and never look for further references,” said Gola Gong, the pen name of Heri Hendrayana Haris, who is noted for his work of fiction Balada Si Roy (The Ballad of Roy).

“Enliven the library with activities,” he told a recent seminar.

A librarian at a state senior high school in Cilegon, West Java, commented that her efforts — putting comfortable sofas and beanbags in the school library — did not have the desired effect.

“Students just used them to take a nap between lessons,” she told the seminar.

It is not enough for a library to have comfortable chairs, Kompas Information Center manager Sintha Ratnawati responded, it was more important to have literary-based activities to encourage interest in the library.

“Depending on the target audience, various activities can be created based on the available material, such as storytelling, watching documentaries and other films, book discussions, ‘meet the author’, and writing courses,” she said.

Activities based on articles taken from daily newspapers and tabloids, for example, range from sentence-making exercises to spotting new vocabulary. The news can be used as a starting place in storytelling, a geography lesson or a crossword puzzle.

“Newspapers and tabloids are good sources of activity because they present a wide range of subjects — crime, education, health, food — that are up to date, and presented in a variety of formats such as articles, photos and tables,” Sintha explained.

At Gola Gong’s Rumah Dunia (House of the World) activity center in Serang, Banten, children are not only invited to come and enjoy its more than 4,000 books, but to engage in a number of activities.

“Rumah Dunia started out as my own private library, but now I like to call it a community activity center, where reading is but one of many activities,” Gola Gong said.

On Mondays, Rumah Dunia invites visitors to explore the world of books and storytelling, while on Tuesdays, it holds an outdoor drawing class, which is called a tour to increase its appeal to children.

“Drawing tours are one of our most popular activities for children, we get about 50 to 60 children a week,” Gola Gong said.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are set aside for composing stories or poems about daily activities, parents, the home, school, or anything else that interests the child.

The seven-by-five-square-meter stage at Rumah Dunia — located on a one-square-kilometer orchard — is the place to be on Fridays, with children and visitors exploring the theater, while on Saturdays they are invited to express themselves through words or dance.

“Every Sunday, we organize a writing workshop for students, teaching them about journalistic writing, fiction writing, and writing for television,” Gola Gong said, adding that some of the workshop’s graduates were now published authors.

“Librarians often forget their library is just a small part of society, and there are many other activities out there for children.

“They should be more creative by embracing these other activities and organizations, to help children take an interest in books and the library,” he said.