Hong Kong 2003
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Public Libraries

The LCSD operates the Hong Kong Public Library System which comprises 70 public libraries, including eight mobile libraries. It also manages the Books Registration Office. The Public Library System provides free public library services to meet community needs for information, research, informal education and the profitable use of leisure time. The aim is to promote reading and the literary arts and support lifelong learning.

The libraries have a comprehensive library collection of 8.98 million books and 1.19 million multimedia materials and a total of 2.97 million registered borrowers. In 2003, 58.62 million items of library materials were borrowed from the libraries and 3.91 million reference enquiries were handled by staff, representing an increase of 10.04 per cent and 3.97 per cent, respectively, over 2002.

Hong Kong Central Library

Since its opening in May 2001, the Hong Kong Central Library has developed into a major information and cultural centre in Hong Kong. Occupying a gross floor area of 33 800 square metres with a total stock of 1.82 million items, the 12-storey building provides a wide range of facilities. Special features include a Multimedia Information System, a Central Reference Library with six subject departments, an Arts Resource Centre, Hong Kong Literature Room, Basic Law Reference Collection Room, Map Library, Language Learning Centre, Young Adult Library and a Toy Library. There are also hiring facilities including a 1 500 square-metre Exhibition Gallery, a 293-seat Lecture Theatre, two Activity Rooms, a Music Practice Room and a number of Discussion Rooms. On average, the Hong Kong Central Library is visited by about 16 000 users daily.

In addition to regular cultural activities and subject talks, a wide range of notable events was organised region-wide during the year. The 'Distinguished Contemporary Chinese Scientists Seminar', which was a joint programme with the China Association for Science and Technology and the Beijing-Hong Kong Academic Exchange Centre, was held in October, attracting an audience of over 800 and many others on the Internet through live webcasting. The Exhibition on Heinrich Boll: Life and Work, featuring photographs, manuscripts, awards and newspaper clippings concerning the winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature was jointly presented with the Cologne Public Library in Germany.

The Exhibition on a Tribute to Heritage: Discovering Hong Kong's Culture and Tradition, which was co-organised by the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Antiquities and Monuments Office, showcased over 100 cultural pieces. The Music Encounter: Exhibition of Ng Tai-kong's Works presented a collection of the works of this renowned music master, donated by his descendants. To promote public awareness and research in local history, the Exhibition on Treasure of Literature was organised with a display of over 280 pieces of historical documents selected from the 70 000 items collected by the library through the Documents Collection Campaign. The Exhibition on Guqin Culture highlighted the development of qin music and its culture, and displayed 20 rare examples of qin instruments.

New Initiatives in Library Services

The Hong Kong Public Libraries system has made dedicated efforts to improve service to the public through enrichment of library stock and reference and information services, use of information technology, promotion of reading habits in the community as well as enhancement of the accessibility of public library services.

With the expansion of the library stock and of the number of patrons, a total of 58.62 million items of library materials were borrowed from the public libraries, an increase of 10.04 per cent on 2002.

The public libraries continued to promote and support lifelong learning in the community. The 'Library Cards for all School Children' Scheme was continued in collaboration with the Education and Manpower Bureau to encourage primary school students to use library services. Regular meetings were held with school librarians on the provision of library services to support the school curriculum. Moreover, public libraries continued to provide supporting services to the Project Yi Jin education programme and 15 public libraries stocked course materials of the Open University of Hong Kong, facilitating the pursuit of self-learning by many in the community. Plans were also under way to set up an Education Resource Centre at the Kowloon Public Library.

In January, two new libraries were opened: a full-scale district library in Fanling and a small library in Fu Shan. Plans were in hand to open two more new libraries in Tung Chung and Ma On Shan and a new mobile library, as well as to reprovision the existing Tai Po Public Library in leased premises to the new Tai Po Complex in 2004.

An 'Artwork on Loan' Scheme was launched jointly with the Hong Kong Arts Development Council which allowed each reader to borrow two pieces of artwork and institutions to borrow a maximum of five pieces of artwork for a loan period of 30 days from the Arts Resources Centre of the Hong Kong Central Library.

Reference and Information Services

Reference and information services are provided at the Central Library and the five major libraries — the City Hall, Kowloon, Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun Public Libraries. The Central Reference Library has a total collection of 760 000 items, providing comprehensive reference and information services through its six subject departments. It features a comprehensive collection of electronic materials including CD-ROMs, online databases, electronic books, electronic journals and multimedia programmes, all of which are available for online access by the public. The library also holds the depository collection of books required under the Books Registration Ordinance. During the year, a total of 3.91 million reference enquiries were handled by library staff.

During the year, the City Hall Reference Library was renovated into a specialised reference library in business and industry subjects and further enhanced with the setting up of the Creativity and Innovation Resource Centre in November, a joint project with the Creative Initiatives Foundation. The centre helped further strengthen education in innovative and creative thinking and foster a deeper understanding of the potential of creativity, thereby enriching the creative culture in Hong Kong.

Information Technology Initiatives and Digital Library Initiatives

The Library Automation System of the public libraries is one of the world's largest computerised library systems with both Chinese and English capabilities. It provides 24-hour Internet library services for online searching, reservation and renewal of library materials. In 2003, the use of 14.10 million items of library material was renewed through the Internet and Telephone Renewal Services. With the growing popularity of online public library services, the Hong Kong Public Libraries home page (http://www.hkpl.gov.hk) was ranked sixth among the most popular websites in Hong Kong.

With the Government's launching in mid-year of a new generation of identity cards, utilising 'smart' technology, the public libraries provided residents the option of using their smart ID cards as library cards to borrow, renew and reserve library materials. Moreover, a number of computer terminals with Internet access were installed with e-Cert compatible smart card readers for public use to promote wider use of information technology and electronic services. In December, an e-mail notification service was introduced to enable registered readers to receive overdue and reservation notices by e-mail, thereby enhancing service efficiency and economy of paper. Plans were also in hand to install more self-charging terminals to further promote self-services in the libraries.

The successful implementation of the Multimedia Information System (MMIS), which provides audio and video on demand, online CD-ROM and reference resources, as well as searching and viewing of documents through the workstations at the libraries and on the Internet, was a milestone in the development of digital library services. The system was also extended from the Hong Kong Central Library to 24 major and district libraries which significantly expanded the network to a total of 592 workstations across the HKSAR. To further improve accessibility, the service hours of the MMIS on the Internet were extended to midnight from November. At the beginning of the year, the system was linked up with the International Children's Digital Library's Books Project, a programme which collects in digital format children's books and literature written and published in different countries and offers them free to readers world-wide through the Internet. With its strong archival feature, the MMIS has been included since April in the Archives Portal of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, a website through which archivists and researchers may study the history and culture of different nations.

Outreach Programmes and Promotion of Reading and Literary Arts

Outreach programmes form an integral part of library services. Regular programmes like children's hours, book displays and exhibitions, thematic talks and seminars, interest clubs and group visits were organised throughout the year. In line with the digital library initiative, educational programmes on teaching the public to use the Online Public Access Catalogue, online databases, CD-ROMs, MMIS and the Internet were also held regularly. The libraries organised a total of 15 248 library outreach programmes during the year.

A variety of reading programmes and reading-related activities were organised to promote reading. A month-long reading promotion programme was organised during the summer holidays. The event included a Children's Poetry and Rhyme Exhibition and a series of children's reading programmes such as musical drama, mini concerts, film shows, reading talks, storytelling sessions, poetry writing workshops, workshops on paired reading, children's and parents dramatisation competition and children's musical rhyme competition.

Moreover, the Teens' Reading Clubs were extended from the Hong Kong Central Library and the five major libraries to 25 district libraries. A number of activities, including 'Meet-the-Author' talks, were held to support the reading clubs, and these drew an enthusiastic response. Apart from the regular block loan service which provided books and audio-cassettes to schools, not-for-profit organisations, rehabilitation and penal institutions, homes for the aged and the physically handicapped, a special mobile library loan programme was launched in collaboration with the Po Leung Kuk and the Education and Manpower Bureau to provide books to schools without library facilities. The 'Ten Recommended Good Books' programme continued to be held jointly with Radio Television Hong Kong, for the 10th year.

To encourage people to share books and support recycling, the Book Donation and Sale Campaign was held again in February, raising $677,000 for the Community Chest. The unsold books were donated to local schools and organisations.

A number of special programmes and large-scale competitions aimed at promoting creative writing and appreciation and development of the literary arts were held. The major activities included the Chinese Poetry Writing Competition, Competition on Story Writing in Chinese for Students, and Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature jointly organised with the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. The winning entries in these competitions were published. So far, the public libraries have published 99 Chinese literary books.

Cultural Exchange

The year saw the strengthening of cooperation with public libraries outside Hong Kong. A Memorandum of Understanding for a series of cooperative activities in library development, resource sharing and professional staff training was organised with the Cologne Public Library in Germany.

The cultural link with libraries in the Mainland, especially in the Greater Pearl River Delta, was also strengthened particularly in the areas of training, exchange of publications, library visits, reference service and organisation of joint functions such as talks and exhibitions. As part of the professional exchanges, a delegation of 16 librarian staff from the Shenzhen Library underwent an attachment programme at the Hong Kong Public Libraries.

Books Registration Office

The main functions of the Books Registration Office are to help preserve Hong Kong's literary heritage through the registration of local publications and to monitor the use of the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) system. A Catalogue of Books Printed in Hong Kong is published quarterly by the Books Registration Office in the Government Gazette, which can be accessed through the Internet. In 2003, the office registered a total of 13 075 books and 13 427 periodicals, and 669 new publisher prefixes conforming to the ISBN.

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