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Libraries and "The Great Book Blockade of 2009"

A column by Manolo Quezon (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4 May 2009) on "The Great Book Blockade of 2009" brought a topic that had yet to make it into the news to the attention of a wider audience. Quezon's column is also reproduced on his blog, which has allowed readers to respond. He also posted additional material and updates before and after his column was published.

The basis for what Quezon wrote was an article by Robin Hemley, also entitled "The Great Book Blockade of 2009," in a foreign publication. Bloggers have reacted in various ways, but I think the most informed analysis is at Bibliophile Stalker, where the following may be found:

Clarifying The Great Book Blockade of 2009
More The Great Philippine Book Blockade of 2009 Fallacies
Robin Hemley Responds
There will probably be more, so add the blog to your RSS reader or bookmark it.

At this point, all I can say is that librarians should be even more concerned about delays or taxes on the importation of books than the average book lover. Why? Unlike individuals, librarians don't buy one, two or even ten books at a time, they order hundreds. Then there's the reality that most library collections in the Philippines, like bookstores, are made up of imported books. (Even if libraries had the budget to buy all the latest Filipiniana available, the truth is that there aren't enough new titles published locally every year to justify the effort of hunting them all down. But that's another problem altogether.) Hence, new titles are primarily imported ones. Librarians don't usually order directly from publishers or online bookstores, they place their orders through book dealers. The "blockade," if nothing is done, will strain already tight budgets even more and delay deliveries of new books even further.

I am not, however, a practicing librarian. So I invite my colleagues who read my blog—especially the acquisitions librarians—to comment and/or correct my simple (and perhaps simplistic?) understanding of how this problem affects libraries.

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