Senayan library: A place for film, fact and fiction

LIBRARY LISTENING: Two blind library members are scanner facility that turns textbooks into audio. The facility enables them to enjoy several books unavailable in braille.

The National Education Ministry is arguably one of the more people-friendly government agencies in Jakarta. It welcomes all, in particular fond readers of the written word and devotees to the moving picture.

If you have free time for intellectual pleasure, pursue it at the ministry's library. The Perpustakaan Pendidikan Nasional (National Education Library), or Library@Senayan, is on the ground floor of the main ministry building at Jalan Sudirman, Senayan.

This library is a learner's oasis with 18,000 books, 5,000 audio visual materials and 80 print media titles. Opened in November 2004, the library's main collection comes from the British Council at the Widjaja building across the street.

Like any public library, you are free to walk in without having to submit to an electronic spot check.

One feature that immediately draws visitors in is the giant, flat-screen TV at the far end of the reading room. Sit on a sofa, put on earphones and watch the latest BBC world news broadcast.

After absorbing an hour of TV news, switch to the printed version. You'll find the day's edition of Kompas, The Jakarta Post, Republika and several other major Jakarta-based papers, as well as the locally printed International Herald Tribune. You also have your choice of news magazines: Tempo, Gatra, Time and The Economist.

Many of the visitors are young, student types. Regular members, who pay Rp 150,000 a year for membership, can use the library's desktop computers and the Internet is accessible for 12 hours of the day. A premium membership grants you free Internet access for whole year. For that, you have to cough up Rp250,000. If you are not a member but want to go on line, the charge is Rp 10,000 an hour. Members who bring their own laptops can use the free wireless facility.

MOVIE HUNT: A library member looks for her favorite films at the Education Ministry’s library in Senayan, Central Jakarta. The library is also equipped with a TV to play the movies.(JP/Ricky Yudhistira)MOVIE HUNT: A library member looks for her favorite films at the Education Ministry’s library in Senayan, Central Jakarta. The library is also equipped with a TV to play the movies.

The digital video discs are also popular. Many are from the BBC and other U.K. networks. You can find David Attenborough's acclaimed nature series, Harry Potter and vintage David Lean films. One is a 1945 film, Brief Encounter, a typical English film. A doctor (Trevor Howard) meets an attractive woman (Celia Johnson) by chance on a railway platform. Both are happily married but after two more chance encounters, they become drawn to each other.

If you want to extend film watching into an intellectual exercise with an exchange of ideas, the library offers a monthly screening for all visitors. On the third and fourth Saturdays of the month (and sometimes the fifth when there is one) at 12 noon, you can watch a feature film for free. They are films based on real events, which deliver a message of humanity. After the screening, the film viewers give their off-the-cuff critiques.

In March, the library rolled the award-winning Indonesian masterpiece Cut Nyak Dien. Actress Christine Hakim portrays a warrior chief in Aceh, whose name is the film's title. Her protracted guerrilla warfare in the late 19th century against the Dutch made it difficult for the colonial army to subdue the territory.

The April film was Freedom Writers. It is a film about a California teacher, Erin Gruwell, who is assigned to a high school in a troubled neighborhood. The majority of the students seem destined to fail their high school exams. She teaches them how their exposure to violence and intimidation is parallel to what Jewish teenager Anne Frank faced in Holland under the Nazis during World War II. Through strong will and sacrifice, however, Gruwell motivates her students to write moving diaries of their life experiences. They end up graduating and some move on to college to become motivating teachers themselves.

The May screening was Sometimes in April, which tells the true story of an African family caught in the 1994 ethnic conflict in Rwanda. After the showing, one viewer warned of provocateurs who play one section of the community against another.

Another viewer believed a central message to the film was people of different ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds in a community must learn to develop mutual appreciation to live peacefully and prosper together.

After treating your eyes and ears to a film, you might want to treat your taste buds. The delightful, dim-lighted La Biblio caf* is located to the right of the library and offers light snacks. Try a plate of singkong (cassava) for Rp 5,000 and a cup of Jawa oolong tea. This blend of jasmine and green tea sets you back Rp 5,500.

If the stomach pleads for something more substantial, try the nasi mangkok, a rice dish, for Rp17,500. This is a glass bowl of rice with shredded chicken in thick, sweet kecap (soy sauce). A smattering of small cuts of carrot, onion, mustard green, green peas and sweet corn come with it.

So if you have a Saturday free and want to do something meaningful with it, visit Library@Senayan.

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