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LCQ5: Public library services

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (April 27):


     According to a research report on "Challenges of Public Libraries in Hong Kong" released by the Legislative Council Secretariat, despite a sustained uptrend in the number of registered borrowers of public libraries (libraries) in recent years, the usage of libraries has faced downward pressure over the past decade (e.g. the total number of physical visits to libraries declined by 3 per cent in the period from 2012 to 2014).  The causes for such a situation include the growing popularity of Internet usage for information search and online reading (but the circulation of e-books in libraries declined by 7 per cent between 2011 and 2014), and the limited collection of library materials.  The per capita library collection of Hong Kong libraries was only 1.9 items last year, which is two-thirds of the average figure of developed places in the world and below international indicators.  The distribution of library collection among various districts of Hong Kong is also uneven.  Those districts with lower median monthly household income, including Kwun Tong, Sham Shui Po, Kwai Tsing, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long, often have smaller per capita library collection.  Moreover, the growth of library e-book collection is rather slow, with e-books accounting for only 1.7 per cent of the total collection and their circulation accounting for merely 0.3 per cent of the total circulation in 2014.  On the contrary, the library e-books collection in Singapore surged by nearly three times in five years to 3.5 million copies in 2014, a figure almost 18 times that of Hong Kong.  On improving the usage of libraries, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of (i) the number of visits to libraries, (ii) the number of enquiries made on reference materials, (iii) the number of books on loan, (iv) the number of multimedia items on loan and (v) the circulation of e-books, in each of the past five years (set out in a table);

(2) whether it will review and adjust the library collections of the libraries in all of the 18 districts across the territory to ensure that per capita library collections of the libraries in various districts are roughly the same; if it will, of the details; if not, of the reasons for that;

(3) whether it has plans to allocate more resources for purchasing e-books and digitisation of library materials; if it does, of the estimated expenditure; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) as it is learnt that the Singaporean authorities offer reading devices, e.g. e-readers and tablets, for loan up to three weeks for people who are in need of them, whether the authorities will, in reviewing the library services, consider making reference to such a practice, so as to enhance public interest in borrowing e-books; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(5) whether it will improve the existing "Multimedia Information" mobile application for libraries, so as to facilitate the public's browsing and viewing of e-books, images as well as audio and video materials of the libraries anywhere and anytime on their mobile devices;
(6) as I have learnt that the some 82 000 copies of Chinese e-books in the local libraries are mainly scholarly books, and therefore the average circulation rate of which has been persistently declining in the past three years, whether the authorities will consider purchasing other types of e-books, e.g. novels and other kinds of books for leisure reading and self-improvement, so as to attract members of the public to borrow such e-books; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(7) whether it will step up its publicity and public education efforts to promote the library collections and e-book lending services, so as to promote a reading culture; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Hong Kong Public Libraries (HKPL) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) has been striving to enhance services and facilities to provide territory-wide public library services that can meet the community's needs for knowledge, information, self-learning and continuous education, as well as the constructive use of leisure time.  My reply to the various parts of Hon Chan's question is as follows:

(1) The attendance figures, the enquiries handled (including reference enquiries), the numbers of loans of books and multi-media materials, and the number of virtual visits (sessions) of the HKPL in the past five years are set out at Annex I.  The usage of e-book collections is set out at Annex II.

(2) The HKPL provides services for the public through a network of 68 static libraries and 12 mobile libraries under a five-tier planning structure (i.e. the Hong Kong Central Library, major libraries, district libraries, small libraries and mobile libraries). The network of libraries is inter-connected by an integrated computer system.  Libraries at the respective tier provide collections appropriate for their specific aims and target users.  Users may easily reserve, borrow or return library materials across districts through the Library Catalogue and the library computer system.

     Generally speaking, the Hong Kong Central Library and the major libraries serving the whole territory and districts respectively have richer library collections. Nevertheless, through the five-tier planning structure and the library computer system, the various libraries can meet the different needs of residents in the 18 districts.

     For more effective use of library resources, the HKPL will regularly review their collections in various districts to ensure that they are developed in a diversified and balanced manner.  An initial stock size will be designated for each new library under construction.  After the opening of the new libraries, additional library materials will be acquired according to their development needs.  Where necessary, the HKPL will complement the collections by arranging inter-library transfer of materials to cater for the needs of the users in different districts.

(3) and (6) The HKPL has been devoting its efforts to develop a balanced and "mixed" library collection which covers print books and e-resources.  In the past five years, the total number of e-books in public libraries has increased from over 110 000 in 2011 to over 220 000 in 2015.  In 2016-17, the number of e-book collections will increase from seven (covering about 220 000 titles) at present to eight (covering about 240 000 titles) and the estimated expenditure for the acquisition of e-book collections is $3.5 million.  The new Chinese e-book collection covers a wide range of subjects such as arts, commerce and finance, children literature, fiction, language and literature, medicine and health, science and technology, etc.

     In addition to e-book collections, the LCSD now provides 63 e-databases where 21 of them are available for access by library card holders through the Internet outside library premises.  The content covers encyclopaedias, human science, social science, environmental science, sports, music, performing arts, etc.  The estimated expenditure for the acquisition of e-databases in 2016-17 is about $9.6 million.

     Furthermore, the Multi-media Information System (MMIS) of the HKPL currently provides about 8 000 hours of digitised audio-visual recordings, over 170 000 audio-visual recordings and more than four million digitised pages of images and documents.  The HKPL will continue the digitisation of authorised collections, including local historical and cultural materials of different themes and ages.  The digitised materials will be available for access by readers through the MMIS.  The digitisation in 2016-17 includes 1 000 hours of audio-visual recordings and 90 000 pages of printed materials, and the estimated expenditure is about $0.6 million.

(4) E-books of the HKPL can be viewed from desk-top computers, notebooks and any mobile devices in support of major Internet browsers without the use of any special reading devices.  Given that mobile phones and tablets are very popular at present, the HKPL has no plan to provide loan service for electronic reading devices or tablets for a more effective use of resources.

(5) The "Multimedia Information" app of the HKPL provides a one-stop mobile platform for readers to log in the MMIS mobile site upon the installation of the app.  Readers may search and browse digitised materials such as old photographs of Hong Kong, old newspapers, e-books, images and audio-visual materials in the MMIS anytime anywhere.  The "Electronic Resources" webpage and the MMIS mobile site currently allow readers to browse the e-book collections and materials in the e-databases online.  Moreover, the existing two English e-book collections and the new Chinese e-book collection further allow readers to download e-books to their mobile devices.

(7) To foster a reading culture, the HKPL regularly organises diversified extension and reading activities for readers of different age groups.  From 2013 to 2015, over 20 000 extension activities, with an attendance of over three million, were held each year.  Territory-wide extension activities include Reading Programmes for Children and Youth, Reading Clubs, paired reading talks and workshops, thematic storytelling workshops, "Meet-the-Author" Talk Series, "Summer Reading Month", "4.23 World Book Day Creative Competition", etc.  Each library will also hold thematic and roving book exhibitions with tie-in recommended booklists.  Since 2008, the HKPL has been collaborating with District Councils and community groups to organise reading activities which cater for the needs and characteristics of individual districts.  These activities include Summer Reading Programme in Sham Shui Po and Tuen Mun Reading Festival, etc.  To cultivate a reading habit among the public and to fully utilise library resources, the HKPL regularly offers block loan services to schools and community organisations.

     Apart from promoting the use of its e-resources through printed publicity materials such as posters, the HKPL has stepped up publicity on the Internet via its e-resources webpage.  In addition, the HKPL will promote its e-resources by regularly organising user education sessions such as library visits by schools, briefing sessions on electronic information, "School Culture Day" and school visits.  The LCSD will strengthen collaboration with the Education Bureau and schools to further promote e-reading.  It will also promote its e-book collections among various sectors of the community through drawing up recommendations for e-resources and guides for readers, conducting customer liaison meetings and teacher liaison meetings, as well as paying visits to local groups/organisations.

Ends/Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Issued at HKT 13:17


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