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Board Games, Libraries, and Breaking the Rules

Board Game Day was held at Matteo Ricci Hall of the Rizal Library last Friday. I was asked to deliver the opening remarks, which I wrote in a hurry that same morning, and literally finished at the last minute. It's not as polished as I would have hoped, but if any of you have been wondering what kind of library director I hope to be, you're going to get more than a few clues here.

Opening Remarks
Board Game Day
25 January 2012

Good morning! And thank you for joining us today for Board Game Day.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal published an article about events being held in public libraries in the United States that are designed to encourage people to check out what's new at the library. The events mentioned included Zumba classes, seminars on landscaping, and even hog-butchering, blacksmithing and fly fishing.

Some have questioned the relevance of such events to the mission of libraries. I would not be surprised if some in the Ateneo community are also wondering, "What do board games have to do with the mission of the Rizal Library?" The best answer I have for this question is to state that our mission is not limited to providing access to books, journal articles, and the Internet. We are here to facilitate learning.

We do this not only by continuing what has already been done in the past, but also by exploring newer, proven ways of enhancing the educational experience. Today, we hope to identify board games that will not only be fun to play and build community, but can also help our university achieve its mission of producing men and women for others. Now, that's a big leap in logic, but let me explain by discussing just one reason I think playing board games can help facilitate learning.

One thing common to all board games is that there are rules. And each game has its own rules. You have several choices. Most play the game according to the rules. Some try to change the rules and see if their fellow players will continue to play with them or throw them out of the game. Some choose not play at all. But you cannot play one game using the rules for another. You cannot play chess, for example, using the rules of Monopoly.

Here at Matteo Ricci and the library, we have lots of rules. For example, you can eat on the second floor, but not the first floor. Most students abide by the rules, but a few try to get away with eating their merienda or lunch, and risk getting reprimanded with a warning or even an official sanction. Some might ask, "How come we can eat on the second floor, but not the first floor?" And there is a good reason for that—ask me later—but the point I'm making is that there are different rules for different places, and different occasions. In the real world, unlike board games, some rules are written, many are not.

The same is true for Ateneo, the companies you hope to work for, the businesses you'll be setting up, Philippine society in general. But the rules are not always the same. As you very well know, sometimes the rules that are announced in public are not followed in private. You can choose to abide by the rules, break the rules, or refuse to play the game. But first you need to know the rules, and that the rules change depending on the game you're playing. I'm not sure if this makes sense, but when I started working after graduating from Ateneo, I learned that what I got used to in school is not necessarily also what happens outside. Or, as Dorothy told Toto in The Wizard of Oz, "We’re not in Kansas anymore."

This is probably getting too heavy for the opening remarks at Board Game Day, so allow me to just thank a few people, and share a little prayer. I’d like to thank:
Karryl Sagun, who organized this event,
Hans Fernandez and Adrian Manahan of Gaming Library, who provided all the games,
Diane Santos of Book Bench, who designed the poster for this event,
The various librarians and staff who helped Karryl prepare for Board Game Day, especially Manny Concepcion, who is the person in charge of Matteo Ricci Hall,
The volunteers, who will be helping you learn all the rules later, and
Mrs. Lourdes David, Director of the Rizal Library, who approved the proposal and made this day possible.

Finally, allow me to end with a familiar prayer with a few amendments…

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the rules I cannot change,
The courage to break the rules that should be broken and deal with the consequences,
And the wisdom to know the difference.


What was the first book printed in the Philippines?

Click on the photos above to learn more about each book
and/or download their digital versions.

Earlier this week, I received a text message asking if the essay mentioned by Ambeth Ocampo in his latest column was posted on my blog. Since I had no idea that any publication of mine had been cited in a newspaper recently, I checked out the column. And there it was at the very end of a discussion on "First book(s)" (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 January 2013): "For a more recent take on the old issue see Vernon Totanes’ 2009 essay 'What was the first book printed in the Philippines?'"

Since I've never actually posted a link to the journal article on my blog, I thought I'd share it now, along with the abstract, in case someone wants to read it. Click on the title to download the pdf =)

Note, however, that the title is misleading because the article is essentially an introduction to the discipline of book history, and asserts that the two books printed in the Philippines in 1593 are significant in ways that have yet to be fully appreciated.

"What was the first book printed in the Philippines?"
Vernon R. Totanes
Journal of Philippine Librarianship 28:1 (2008), 21-31.

This paper will show that the importance of the imprints lies in the fact that they effectively communicate the idea that printing in the Philippines—and Philippine history—is inextricably linked with the non-Filipino. The first books printed in the Philippines, though not strictly "Filipino," are a physical reminder of the plurality of the nature and culture of the Filipino and the Philippines.


Libraries as Buckets

At the well
Photo by zzzmarcus.

For this first post of 2013, I thought it would be good to start with a metaphor for the role of libraries in today's world. In his introduction to participants at the 5th Rizal Library International Conference (RLIC), which was held at the Ateneo de Manila University last 25-26 October 2012, Jose M. Cruz, SJ, likened knowledge to drinking water at the bottom of a well. Libraries, he says, are "the buckets that allow us to draw the water from the well."

I'd like to think that this blog, though not a library, has also served as a bucket that has helped librarians and other readers to draw knowledge from the large—and sometimes misleading or confusing—well that is the World Wide Web. It is in this spirit that I resolve to continue updating this blog at least once a week.

The full text of Fr. Joey's introduction is reprinted below with his permission. Thanks to Teng Montejo for the transcription.

Incidentally, pdfs of the presentations shown and/or papers delivered at the RLIC may now be downloaded at the conference website.

Jose M. Cruz, SJ

On behalf of the Ateneo de Manila University, I welcome you to the campus and to the conference.

You may occasionally have heard the expression "thirst for knowledge," referring to the need and desire of human beings to know more so that they and their communities can have more and be more. Libraries, archives, and museums can play a crucial role in satisfying this thirst.

Although the surface of our planet is mainly water, water for drinking and planting cannot be the salt water of the seas. There is, thus, a need to search and draw plain water, that is, water without the heavy dose of minerals and other elements that make it undrinkable.

This reality points to the task and responsibility of repositories of knowledge and culture to be selective in their holdings. We seek then drinkable water: water that is clean, fresh, nourishing and life giving. If you want an image, we find this kind of water at the well. At the bottom of the well is much of the knowledge that human beings and societies need to survive, to sustain their way of life, and to advance.

Libraries, archives, and museums are the buckets that allow us to draw the water from the well. Needless to say it is thus an absolute necessity that these be in good shape: no leaks, sufficiently large in size, and always ready to serve. For while available information is enormous, access to it is still quite limited. At this conference you have decided to look for better ways to provide access.

You honor the university by choosing it to be the venue for your conference. Know that you are welcome here. Thank you and good morning.


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