Rural libraries have been able to make this significant contribution to a knowledge-driven economy through the provision of ICT services. In this way, they have been able – and continue to do so and narrow the digital divide and fill a broad social need to reduce disparities between ‘knowledge haves’ and ‘knowledge have-nots’. This is especially important as knowledge and human capital become increasingly central to all aspects of economic life. Higher levels of knowledge have also enabled people to improve their employability, or to start up more viable businesses. In this regard, rural libraries have high level of engagement with ‘hard to reach’ communities that are excluded from the knowledge economy.
Registered Members of Rural Libraries as at December 2012
No. of Rural Libraries Children Adult Total
Johor 89 58,354 35,892 94,138
Kedah 88 31,182 29,002 60,184
Kelantan 34 8,487 10,079 18,566
Melaka 55 14,268 10,492 24,760
Negeri Sembilan 70 162,213 108,081 270,294
Pahang 63 9,007 17,187 26,264
Perak 70 8,903 12,656 21,559
Perlis 36 6,664 4,410 11,074
Penang 81 37,932 27,464 65,396
Selangor 67 96,442 70,295 166,717
Terengganu 82 23,989 25,865 49,854
Sabah 108 12,638 23,990 36,628
Sarawak 194 99,934 50,364 15,296
Federal Territory of Labuan 2 407 308 712
TOTAL 1,039 570,470 426,022 996,492
Total Parliament Constituencies
Total Parliament Constituencies with rural library
Total Parliament Constituencies without rural library
Johor 26 23 3
Kedah 15 13 2
Kelantan 14 11 3
Melaka 6 6 -
Negeri Sembilan 8 8 -
Pahang 14 12 2
Perak 24 15 9
Perlis 3 3 -
Penang 13 9 4
Selangor 22 9 13
Terengganu 8 8 -
Sabah 25 16 9
Sarawak 31 20 11
Labuan 1 1 -
Wilayah Persekutuan 11 11 -
Total 222 166 (74.8%) 56 (25.2%)
Rural libraries support lifelong learning by providing information and library resources at remote areas and also to disadvantage group example the poor, iliterate, ethnic minorities and disabled. One of the role of the rural libraries is to hold scheduled reading campaign continuously according to target group. Among the activities for children include story telling, colouring activity, handicraft activity, traditional games and information literacy games. For the youth, activities such as spelling bee, motivation talk, creative writing and information literacy are held to inculcate reading habits. For the adult, My Favourite Read Programme, religious activity, cooking and sewing activities as well as information literacy are conducted as part of lifelong learning and as a centre for community activities. These activities are held four (4) times a month or 48 activities per rural library per year. These activities involved NGO, local community, private sector and government agency.
One of the unique service provided by rural libraries is “door to door” service. Books and magazines are delivered to their houses, schools, community centres for those who are not able to visit the rural library during the opening hours. This service has increased the accessibility of information and in turn improve their quality of life.
In this context, libraries under the Ministries and government departments have adopted this concept of ‘door to door’ service to a ‘desk to desk’ concept where librarians bring the books to the staff at their office for them to read and borrow. In this way, staff who are not able to go to the library will have this valued added service where books are being brought to them to be read. This will inculcate reading habits among government servants.
In the international era, the rural library model in Malaysia has been benchmarked by countires such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. The Internet services provided by the rural libraries will be used as a model for Vietnam to provide internet services to the rural libraries .
The rural library has transformed library service from physical to digital services where information is available and accessible to anyone, anytime and anywhere irrespective of age, gender, ethnic and social status. Federal government, state government and local authority must collaborate to ensure that rural libraries will continue to play an important role in restructuring the social life of the people in the rural areas. However, in order for rural libraries to keep abreast with the technological advances, infrastructure and ICT facilities need to be upgraded and goverment must continue to provide funding to sustain the project.