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LCQ10: Public library services
     Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kwok-fan and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (May 17):


     Regarding the services provided by the public libraries (libraries) under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the average monthly (i) attendance figures and (ii) numbers of loans of books and other materials of various libraries last year, with a breakdown by the District Council districts in which the libraries are located and type of libraries (i.e. major, district and small libraries);

(2) of the reasons why the current opening hours of small libraries are only 56 hours per week at the most; whether LCSD will extend the service hours of those small libraries with higher utilisation rates (e.g. Fanling South Public Library); if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) given that some residents have relayed to me that the computer workstations at the Fanling South Public Library are not installed with word processing software for use by the public, of the current number of computer workstations for use by the public at various libraries which are installed with word processing software, and whether LCSD will consider installing such software in all computer workstations; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) given that LCSD has currently installed a total of 12 book drop boxes in three major MTR interchange stations (i.e. Central, Nam Cheong and Kowloon Tong stations) only, whether LCSD will install book drop boxes in other MTR stations for the convenience of the public; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     The Hong Kong Public Libraries (HKPL) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), currently comprising 70 static libraries and 12 mobile libraries, provide diversified library services for the public. Under the structure of public library services, major and district libraries serve as the backbone while small libraries and mobile libraries play a supplementary role in enhancing the library service network. In response to the public demand for longer opening hours of libraries, the Government has, since April 2009, allocated additional resources to standardise and extend the weekly opening hours of all major and district libraries from 61 or 62 hours to the present 71 hours, providing services for the public seven days a week. My reply to various parts of Hon Lau's question is as follows:

(1) The monthly average attendance figures and numbers of loans of library materials of all major, district and small libraries in Hong Kong in 2016 with a breakdown by District Council district are tabulated at Annex.

(2) As the backbone of public libraries, major and district libraries currently provide services for the public seven days a week. As for small libraries that play a supplementary role, their opening hours are relatively shorter. The 21 small libraries in urban areas are open six days a week for a total of 50 hours, and the weekly opening hours of 11 small libraries in the New Territories range from 14 hours (those located at remote areas) to 56 hours. Overall speaking, the existing opening hours of different types of libraries have catered for the needs of most people.
     The opinion survey conducted by the LCSD from September to November 2014 revealed that 83 per cent of the respondents considered the existing opening hours "very convenient" or "convenient". In view of the substantial resources and manpower required for library operation and the need to strike a balance between public needs and resource efficiency, the LCSD has no plan to extend the opening hours of 32 small libraries at this stage. The Fanling South Public Library which commenced service in August 2016 is currently open for 56 hours a week. The LCSD plans to collect and analyse the data of library usage at different time periods to explore, without extending the weekly opening hours, the possibility of revising the opening periods of the library with regard to the circumstances in the district. The LCSD will report timely to the North District Council.
(3)  At present, the LCSD provides about 1 930 computers with Internet connection at 70 static libraries.  Computer and Information Centres have been set up in 30 static libraries (mainly major and district libraries), and about 550 computers in these centres are installed with word processing software. As for small libraries, the computer facilities therein mainly allow users to gain access to information on the Internet, as well as the libraries' multimedia and digitised resources, e-books and online databases, to facilitate their seeking of information, leisure reading and self-learning.

     The HKPL will review the computer facilities and services from time to time to meet public needs.

(4) The LCSD has provided book drop service under a trial scheme at three major Mass Transit Railway (MTR) interchange stations, namely Central, Kowloon Tong and Nam Cheong since late September 2011, and completed a review on the scheme in 2013. Apart from analysing the usage of the service, the LCSD collected public views through an opinion survey. The findings revealed that as the majority of the readers still preferred visiting the libraries in person to return and borrow books on the same occasion, the usage of the service was below the planned capacity. The monthly average usage of the book drop service in 2016 was about 44 per cent of the planned capacity.  In view of the habit of the library users and the cost-effectiveness of the service, we have no plan to extend the service to more MTR stations at this stage.

     On the other hand, the LCSD plans to provide on a trial basis three self-service library stations, one each on Hong Kong Island, in Kowloon and in the New Territories at convenient locations with heavier pedestrian flow and far from existing libraries. The self-service library stations will provide round-the-clock services such as borrowing, return, payment and pickup of reserved library materials. After launching the trial scheme in 2017-18, the LCSD will conduct timely review to evaluate the effectiveness of the trial scheme taking into account factors such as utilisation, cost effectiveness, feedback of users, sustainability and complementarity with other library services.
Ends/Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:42
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