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Upgraded rural libraries in China see more readers

(People's Daily Online)    13:43, August 15, 2019

A rural library in Yongqing county, Hebei province. (Photo/Xinhua)

As more libraries in China’s rural areas make efforts to upgrade their services and facilities while seeking digitalization, many have witnessed increased popularity and a rise in visitor numbers.

In recent years, libraries in rural areas of China faced difficulties, including books unsuited to the local people, irregular opening hours and low borrowing rates.

The situation started to change in February when 10 government departments, including the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, jointly issued an implementation plan for deepening reform and innovation in rural libraries to improve the efficiency of services.

Since the publication of the document, the number of premium rural libraries has surged, with the number of readers and the borrowing rate of some demonstration libraries increasing several times.

China is now experiencing the hot weather of the early autumn, and reading in an air-conditioned room while enjoying a cup of tea has become an enjoyable addition to the daily lives of villagers in Guangmingju Village, Keqiao District of Shaoxing City, east China’s Zhejiang Province.

Since it was upgraded and transformed last year, the Guangmingju Village Library, which looks just like a coffee house, has become a leisure facility for the villagers. Children regard it as a great place to do their homework and read books.

“Libraries are supposed to be a place for enjoyment, so that people want to come,” said Chen Xiaoping, chairperson of the Women’s Federation of Guangmingju Village and the village librarian, disclosing that the library has transformed from a small room with less than 100 books into today’s extensive library with more than 8,000 books covering an area of over 100 square meters.

The new Baixing Library, or the People’s Library on Baishi Street in Yueqing City of Zhejiang was built this January. From February to May this year, the library welcomed an average of 455 readers and loaned 1,605 books per month; up 6.5 times from last year.

Before, Baixing Library was small and old with few readers, located on the second floor of the management office building of Baishi Street, according to librarian Lu Yongli. She noted that since the library moved into this new building in a busy area of the city, it has seen a continuous flow of people.

“To help rural libraries better serve the people, we need to choose a location closer to the residents, provide better services, and create a better environment, so that people want to read in the library,” said Su Weifeng, associate curator of the Yueqing city library.

The hardware and services available in the current demonstration libraries in rural China have reached the same level seen in urban libraries, and since the loan systems of rural libraries are now connected with urban libraries, the update frequency of books in rural libraries has been increased from once a year to once a month, thus greatly enhanced their appeal, disclosed Su.

Just like urban families, new generation parents in rural areas pay great attention to how much their children are reading, said Chen Guangen, curator of the library of Keqiao District in Shaoxing City. He disclosed that the number of books borrowed by children accounts for more than half of all books loaned by the Keqiao District library.

Statistics have shown that the proportion of children’s books in key books recommended for China’s rural libraries in 2019 was 41 percent, making this the most important category on the recommendation list.

“We will try to make the rural library into a favorite study location for rural teenagers,” said Lu Chunzhong, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee.

More people in rural China now prefer to get information from their cellphones rather than by watching TV. In fact, the smartphone has overtaken TV as the primary source of information and carrier of entertainment for people in rural areas of China, according to a recent survey by the Publicity Department of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee.

As digital reading has expanded to rural areas of China, digital reading platforms have been gradually integrated into rural libraries.

Digital Publishing Group Co., Ltd., one of the largest digital content providers in China, developed a rural digital library which enables people to download e-books and movie resources to their cellphones for free within 100 meters of the device. So far, several thousand devices have been installed in central China’s Henan Province and east China’s Anhui Province.

By the beginning of July, the number of digital rural library users amounted to 642,300 in Henan Province, with active users exceeding 300,000. The platform provides users with 100,000 e-books, 2,000 audiobooks, 3,000 journals, 500,000 minutes of video, as well as many media resources.

To date, 125,000 rural libraries in China have adopted digitalized reading means with the use of such technologies as broadband and mobile internet as well as social media platforms including Sina Weibo and WeChat, an increase of 48,000 when compared with 2017. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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