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Celebrating libraries, celebrating inclusion | Cheryl Falzon

Ahead of the week leading up to Libraries Day, Malta National Libraries CEO Cheryl Falzon tells Teodor Reljic how this annual milestone will be celebrated

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
20 April 2017, 7:30am
Cheryl Falzon
Cheryl Falzon
What was the main impetus behind this programme of events, and why did you feel the particular libraries and subjects that the programme covers needed to be tackled in Malta at this point in time? 

This programme of events is carried out to commemorate Libraries Day, which falls on April 23, which also happens to be World Book and Copyright Day. We celebrate in a number of libraries including the National Library by organising educational sessions, exhibitions and library services awareness campaigns through the support of other organisations such as the National Literacy Agency, the National Curriculum Centre, and Graphic Novels Library Malta (GNLM) and Horizons Publishers. 

In the past year, Malta Libraries extended its business and remit due to official detailing of the Gozo libraries’ staff and the merging of library operations across the board. The programme of events seeks to reflect the new and wide-ranging scope of the entity. Moreover, we have sought to rope in initiatives at every level, encouraging librarians from public and regional libraries to act on their own initiative and come up with events that attract their own clientele.

How much importance are libraries given in Malta, and would you say the quality of their collections and accessibility to their venues (in every sense of the word) is adequate to guarantee their continued usage by a large swathe of the Maltese populace? How do events like your two-week programme aim to tackle and improve upon these realities? 

The Libraries Day celebration programme starts tomorrow morning with Mixjet Il-Malti at the National Library, Valletta
The Libraries Day celebration programme starts tomorrow morning with Mixjet Il-Malti at the National Library, Valletta
Unfortunately, libraries and their relevance in our community is still overlooked. Although we make every effort to update their collections and accessibility there are limitations beyond our control – mainly financial resources and lack of adequate space. 

Nonetheless, we are continuously re-evaluating the existing libraries and seeking opportunities to increase facilities and services through the support of Local Councils and the National Literacy Agency. 

Additionally, with today’s technological developments people can also access the National Library’s digitised material online and public library members can download ebooks for free 24/7. These events aim to create more awareness of the importance of libraries in the community and also their pertinent role to aid inclusion, since library services cater for diversity.

Some of the highlights of the programme appear to be the Talking Books initiative -- which seems to be focused on improving reading for the blind as well as giving more multimedia options for those wanting to experience audiobooks – and Mixjet il-Malti – which aims at giving students a more tangible experience of the texts they will be studying for their O Levels. What do you hope to achieve with these books in particular? 

The ‘Talking Books’ initiative seeks to upgrade the former ‘Services for the Blind’ and cater for those who simply prefer audiobooks to printed material
The ‘Talking Books’ initiative seeks to upgrade the former ‘Services for the Blind’ and cater for those who simply prefer audiobooks to printed material
The Talking Books Service will be replacing the former ‘Services for the Blind’ which started way back in 1968 and solely catered for the visually-impaired. This upgrade in the audiobooks service is being launched in a bid to render a more inclusive service and reach out not only to library members that are visually-impaired but also those who are housebound, have reading difficulties or require the audio format of a book. 

The Mixjet il-Malti exhibition ties in nicely with our overall position on the transfer and accessibility of knowledge – by presenting the students with an immersive and tangible experience we trust that they would experience their studies in a way that they would then be able to carry it on with them later in life.

For a full programme of events related Malta Libraries’ celebration of Library Day, log on to: http://bit.ly/2o7giYH 

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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