Most of the prime areas within towns in Papua New Guinea is occupied with commercial activities such as shops, banks, markets and office spaces. Other vital public institutions such as schools and resource centers are bit far out of town. However, this is not the case in Alotau, the provincial town of Milne Bay Province, which is in the most southern the tip of the PNG mainland map. It has a fully functional Provincial Education Center. Which hosts the following
- Papua New Guinea Flexible Open and Distance Education (PNG FODE) center
- Fully functional Provincial Library- managed by PNG National Library staff
- Public Internet Café
- Children’s Library
- Training Rooms
Location is right in the center of town.
Impression any new person in town would get when they look at the impressive building, might think this building is a office complex or rental property. The building is quite impressive and design is unique. It is fully furnished and air-conditioned. Also, it is located right at the back of the Milne Bay Provincial Government Office complex. The provincial government have recognized the value and importance of library and build it in a place where it should be.
Access to Milne Bay Provincial Library
Due to the central location, it is easily accessible by people who come to town from the remote islands, local town residents, students from nearby schools and even visitors. Children’s room in the library is ideal for kids to go after school to complete their homework, spend school holiday periods and other participate in other activities organized by the library staff.
It’s also ideal for people from remote islands who come and stay in town while they wait for their return retrip.
Library’s book collection
The library is fully supported by the PNG National Library in Partnership with the Milne Bay Provincial Government. The library is also working with University of Goroka library catalog software system to manage its collection and provide more efficient services to the community. It has a very good Law Books collection for references. It is working with lots of partner institutions to fully stock up with books.
Currently, the stock is slowly being built has a good number of books already on the shelves.
To compliment the library services, the center has a internet café which is manned by a IT Staff. The students and public can access the internet. This gives them the opportunity to learn and explore so many things available on the internet. It can also be a place to learn basic vital ICT skills such as sending and receiving emails, surfing the internet, typing and etc. These are skills that soon becoming survival skills in the current digitally connected society. Not everyone has access to a smartphone, internet access or pc so this place does fill in the much needed access.
Students Studying Through Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Mode.
University of Goroka, Divine Word University, University of Papua New Guinea, PNG University of technology, all have programs offered through Open and Distance Learning (ODL). Given the fact that Milne Bay province is located far from these institutions and students who have enrolled in these ODL programs will greatly benefit from this library service. These institutions can also partner and support the center so that their students can be served better. It is providing PNG FODE students with much needed facility in terms of office space and student learning rooms.
Not only that but also the students who are enrolled in private training institutions that have established themselves in the province such as UPNG Open College, International Training Institute and Mapex Training Institute.
Importance of Library Services in PNG
There were public libraries in all provincial centers during colonial administration but all have collapsed over time due to lack of funding from provincial governments. Some may still exist but are not fully functional as it is in Milne Bay. May people may think we are living in the age of electronic information with internet, social media platforms and etc but print books are still the king when it comes to learning. Universities, colleges and schools world over have not shut down the libraries as yet in favor of electronic learning modalities. Libraries are still the integral part of education infrastructure.
The setup up at Milne Bay Provincial Education Resource is a beacon of hope and inspiration for other provinces in Papua New Guinea to follow and start building libraries at provincial centers. Libraries are critical in building a educated population. PNG National Library is already in existence to provide the technical support that is needed at the provincial level. All that is needed is commitment from the Provincial Governments and even districts if need be.