The Jakarta Post
Reading time: Passengers in a public minivan in Malang can now read books while waiting for their journey to start. (JP/Aman Rochman)
Such a situation has become a familiar sight inside public minivans in the small town of Malang in East Java.
The minivans in Malang have added an extra function and become mobile libraries, a perfect feature to enrich the experience of passengers who previously had to deal with the boredom of waiting for the drivers to start their engines, sometimes under the scorching sun.
Public minivans that also function as mobile public libraries seems like a perfect match for Malang, a town well-known as one of the top educational towns in Indonesia with its four state universities, 10 major private colleges and dozens of diploma-level education centers.
A lot of students from all regions of Indonesia pursue their higher education in Malang and the public minivans have become their main choice of transportation despite the recent trend of online-based public transportation services.
A community of students called the Students in Motion (Merger) Community initiated a movement to create mobile libraries by collaborating with minivan drivers.
The movement began in February, during which the community approached several public minivan union heads.
The community wanted to target students first before expanding to the broader general public and as such, they launched their pilot project by collaborating with minivans serving the Arjosari-Dinoyo-Landungsari, the Gadang-Landungsari and the Arjosari-Landungsari routes, which pass through a number of campuses and schools.
“At first, we were hesitant to approach the minivan drivers because they are very rugged and rough. However, once we got to know them, they turned out to be very friendly and humorous. They also completely supported our initiative,” one of the volunteers from the community, Miftahul Jannah, said.
Every minivan carries around 15 books and magazines that are mostly light reading materials for all ages.
A minivan driver, Syiafudin Jufri, said that so far the collaboration with the student community had brought a lot of positivity for him and his passengers.
“The public library facility adds an added value to public minivans because now passengers have more entertainment options than just their gadgets,” he said.
More minivans serving different routes subsequently joined the movement after the pilot project was launched.
As of April, public library minivans were available in five major routes in Malang.
One public library minivan is available for the Arjosari-Dinoyo-Landungsari route and then there is another one for the Landungsari-Dinoyo-Gadang-Hamid Rusdi route while three serve the Hamid Rusdi-Gadang-Landungsari route.
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The community aims to add five more public library minivans to have a total of 10 in operation by the end of May.
The main challenge for the community so far is to provide more variety of reading materials because some drivers thought that the passengers got bored quickly.
“Hopefully the community can provide new reading materials on a weekly basis,” Sugiarto, a minivan driver, said.
“We often serve the same passengers on daily basis and they probably need new reading materials from time to time. New reading materials might also lure new passengers,” he added.
Miftahul was fully aware of the book supply issue and as of now, the community has been trying its best to find the best and most affordable book suppliers.
“We once received a donation of books and magazines, but they were not suitable for all ages. We took them, but we replaced them with more suitable books from second-hand book vendor and markets,” Miftahul said.
The volunteers in the community also still heavily rely on word-of-mouth to get the books they need to supply the drivers.
Being students means they have very limited resources in terms of time and money to develop their movement. Therefore, they expect as much assistance as possible from other stakeholders who care about the development of the literature and reading culture in Malang.
Another main challenge is to make sure that the books are not stolen or damaged by irresponsible passengers. For this, the drivers said they regularly monitored with their rear view mirrors to see how passengers used the books.