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1,000th 'Starbooks' rises in Laguna.

Just like the popular coffee chain it was named after, Starbooks is out to conquer the Philippines, from the northernmost province of Luzon to the southern tip of Mindanao.

Starbooks, short for the Science and Technology Academic and Research-Based Openly Operated Kiosk Station, is a digital science 'library-in-a-box' developed by the Science and Technology Information Institute (STII) under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in 2011. It contains a library of science books stored in a computer, making information available in a single, easy click.

Starting with the first kiosk that stood next to a coffee maker at the DOST office in Taguig City, the government opened its 1,000th site on Sept. 23 at a public high school in Barangay Dayap in Calauan, Laguna province.

The good thing is Starbooks does not need an internet connection to be accessible.

The colorful pages featuring animated characters made it fun to use, said Ailene Gonzales, a Grade 10 student at Dayap National High School, as she browsed through topics on acids and bases.

More materials

Easy to use, 'just like Facebook,' she said, referring to the world's No. 1 social networking site. 'We see a lot of stuff from social media but not all of them are credible. Now, we have a source of correct information,' she added.

Vince Carlo Orzales, also a Grade 10 student, said Starbooks just made research work easier. 'It will help me a lot with my research for school,' he said.

The earlier edition of Starbooks contained scanned materials and science journals of STII. But over the years, the contents have been enhanced to include videos covering topics on food and nutrition, health, climate change and the environment.

While most of these were written in English, some video materials were packaged in Filipino or Cebuano, said Alan Taule, chief of STII Information Resources and Analysis Division.

Starbooks was awarded the American Library Association Presidential Citation for Innovative International Library Projects in June last year in San Francisco, California.

For its 1,000th site, the DOST-STII upgraded the program into 'Super Starbooks,' with 15,000 more materials added to the compilation.

Higher literacy

A total of 363 videos comprised the 'Tamang DOSTKarte' livelihood series on income-generating projects like longganisa (native sausage) or candle-making.

Richard Burgos, STII director, said the project supported the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's campaign for higher information literacy.

'There is a huge gap that separates us from the rest of the world,' he said. '[But] it is never too late to learn,' Burgos said.

Of the 1,000 sites, 769 were in schools across the country. Others may be found in municipalities or nongovernment offices and in public areas.

Among the first schools to receive Starbooks was Zambonga City High School.

While STII has yet to assess the current number of Starbooks users, Taule said the case of Victoria Roman National High School in Bulacan province was one of the project's success stories.

'They used to rank at the bottom of the National Assessment Test. [But after the installation of Starbooks last year] they really leapfrogged to the top,' he said.

STII plans to install 100 more kiosks in the next six weeks.

One box per barangay

Dr. Aristotle Carandang, chief of STII's communication resources and production, said the project's target was to install at least one box in every village in the Philippines.

The DOST is also working on an online version and a mobile application of Starbooks.

Carandang said the department was encouraging local governments or private organizations to become partners by providing computers, with a storage capacity of at least 2 terabytes.

Aside from providing the content, STII is willing to take care of the skills upgrading and training of librarians.

Dayap National High School, with 4,000 students, is the 75th Starbooks site in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region.

'Calabarzon has a unique character. It's one of the more developed regions but several towns are trailing behind [in proficiency levels],' Science Secretary Fortunato dela Pena said.

Through Starbooks, Dela Pena said the DOST was hoping that more students would choose science and technology as their career path.

'Education gives every family a chance to [rise] out of poverty,' Dela Pena said.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Sep 29, 2016
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