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Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is seeking to leverage digitalization to promote the culture of reading among learners and their communities, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

“We have to be realistic that the world is now becoming digital. If you want instant knowledge, you grab your phone and do a quick search. So how do we fuse digitalization, digital habits, and access to libraries?” Gatchalian asked stakeholders during a Senate hearing on Senate Bill 475 or the National Reading Month Act on Wednesday.

Dr. Dolores Carungui, chief librarian of the National Library of the Philippines’ (NLP) Reference Division, said the NLP’s online public access catalog is already accessible on the NLP’s website and in other school and public libraries. The online public access catalog also allows users to access digital copies of resources, including electronic resources for children.

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She said around one million pages of materials were already digitized.

Gatchalian is eyeing to institutionalize access to this catalog as part of his proposed measure.

As of November 2023, there are 1,660 public libraries affiliated with the NLP. There are also 56 provincial libraries, three congressional libraries, three locally funded projects, one regional library found in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, 116 libraries in cities, 611 in municipalities, and 870 barangay reading centers.

“I’m thinking of ensuring access to these libraries so that we won't only be promoting reading culture, but also improving access to materials, both digital and physical, to make the promotion holistic,” Gatchalian said.

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Under the proposed National Reading Month Act, the month of November shall be celebrated through the conduct of nationwide reading programs.

The bill mandates the Department of Education (DepEd) to act as the lead coordinating body in the formulation of policies and strategies that foster reading not only for entertainment, but also to equip learners with knowledge and skills that will prepare them for policy-making, nation-building, and other means of contributing to economic, social, and cultural development.

To increase access to books and other learning materials, Gatchalian proposes that Public Telecommunications Entities shall provide free public access to DepEd’s learning management systems applications. These applications include web-based applications, online educational platforms, digital libraries, and other online knowledge hubs exclusively hosted by DepEd.

Under Gatchalian’s proposal, no data charges shall be incurred for the data downloaded from or uploaded to these applications.

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