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LCQ9: Promotion of reading for all
     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Fok and a written reply by the Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):
     Since 2014, "reading for all" has been included in the Report on the Work of the Government delivered by the State Council at the National People's Congress for nine consecutive years, and the relevant wordings used in the Reports have changed from "encouraging the people to read" in the past to "continuing to foster a love of reading among the people". Regarding the promotion of reading for all, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will consider designating World Book Day (i.e. April 23) as "Hong Kong Reading For All Day", and allocating additional resources to collaborate with the publishing industry on the promotion of reading for all in the 18 districts across the territory on that day, so as to help build Hong Kong into "a city of avid readers"; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) conducted studies and surveys in the past two years on the use of e-‍books in public libraries; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) given the increasing popularity of e-reading, whether the Government has plans to expedite the digitisation of the old collections of public libraries and increase the number of e-‍books in their collections; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) given that the LCSD launched a pilot scheme in 2017 to set up, in phases, self-‍service library stations operated round the clock in three convenient locations on Hong Kong Island, in Kowloon and in the New Territories which have a high pedestrian flow and are far away from existing public libraries, whether the Government has assessed the effectiveness of the pilot scheme; whether it will consider providing additional self-service library stations in other locations; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(5) given that in order to strengthen the promotion of a reading culture, the Education Bureau provides a "Promotion of Reading Grant" to primary and secondary schools as well as kindergartens, whether the Government reviewed in the past two years the effectiveness of the Grant; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     In consultation with the Education Bureau, the reply to the question raised by the Hon Kenneth Fok is as follows:
(1) The Hong Kong Public Libraries (HKPL) under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) collaborates with District Councils, academic institutions, professional organisations, schools, non-governmental organisations and community organisations, etc., from time to time to offer diversified extension activities to all ages, with a view to cultivating a reading habit among them for life-long learning.
     Every year from April onwards, the HKPL organises a series of reading programmes to echo the World Book Day. In 2023, the HKPL will organise the "4.23 World Book Day Creative Competition" on the theme of "Tasty Reading", which integrates reading and creation in order to encourage children and young people to broaden and deepen their scope of reading. Moreover, the HKPL plans to work with the publishing sector, schools and community partners on reading promotion in organising different forms of reading promotion activities, such as book exhibitions, book sharing sessions, story theatres and parent-child workshops, at libraries in various districts and on online platforms on the "4.23 World Book Day" and during the Hong Kong Book Fair, so as to integrate reading into our daily lives and build a persistent reading habit.
(2) The HKPL regularly reviews the e-book collections and their usage to address the needs of the public. Generally speaking, Chinese e-books are more popular among readers, and the most popular categories are children books for paired reading, comics and picture books, and books on finance and business management. In respect of English e-books, the more popular categories include fiction, books for children and comics and picture books.
     In addition to regular analysis on e-book collections and their usage, the HKPL also conducts an annual reader opinion survey, which covers, among others, readers' satisfaction with its e-books. In the past two years, nearly 80 per cent of readers found the e-book service satisfactory.
(3) The HKPL has been selecting suitable materials from its collections for digitisation upon obtaining authorisation from the copyright owners. At present, the HKPL has about 11 000 hours of digitised audiovisual recordings and over 6 million digitised pages of printed library materials, and these include old newspapers, photographs, maps, manuscripts, published books and library talks/lectures, etc., in its digital collections which are available for public use at all static libraries and on the Internet. The HKPL will continue with the digitisation of about 350 hours of audiovisual recordings and 60 000 pages of printed materials for public access in 2023-24.
     As regards e-books, in response to readers' needs, the number of e-books in the library collections has increased from 340 000 items in 2019 before the pandemic to 490 000 items, representing an increase of over 44 per cent. In the past two years, the HKPL acquired five different categories of e-book collections, among which "JoyReadClub", "Scholar World" and "Total Wellness" provide access to locally published Chinese e-books, covering popular works and books on lifestyle, etc. As for English e-books, the HKPL subscribes to "O'Reilly for Public Libraries" for books on information technology and business, and "Britannica Collective" for children books, covering different subjects such as literature, science, art and sports. Subject to the supply of e-books in the market and the availability of resources, the HKPL will continue to actively procure e-books on various subjects to address readers' needs.
(4) The LCSD provides three "self-service library stations" (library stations) in phases under a trial scheme, one each on Hong Kong Island, in Kowloon and in the New Territories, rendering round-the-clock services such as borrowing, return, payment and pickup of reserved library materials. The three library stations located at the Island East Sports Centre Sitting-out Area, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Kowloon and Tsuen Nam Road, Tai Wai of the New Territories commenced service in December 2017, December 2018 and January 2020 respectively. Since the commencement of operation of the library stations, the LCSD has been collecting usage data for analysing the utilisation of various library stations and has conducted opinion surveys on services of the library stations. Generally speaking, the library stations have been operating smoothly and the services provided have been well-received by the public.
     To enhance the overall library services, the LCSD is now developing a Smart Library System, which will include a full application of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to enable the development of more diversified and user-friendly self-service facilities. We will make timely application for additional resources for the acquisition and installation of book dispensers, book drops and multi-functional kiosks etc., enabled with the new-generation RFID technology, to replace the existing facilities before considering providing additional library stations.
(5) The Education Bureau (EDB) has all along actively promoted "Reading to Learn" to kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. In order to strengthen the promotion of reading, the EDB has provided all public sector primary and secondary schools (including special schools) and kindergartens joining the "Kindergarten Education Scheme" with the recurrent "Promotion of Reading Grant" and "Promotion of Reading Grant for Kindergartens" (hereafter collectively referred to as the Grant) from the 2018/19 school year and the 2019/20 school year respectively. Schools are encouraged to use the Grant to organise different types of school-based reading activities to create a favourable reading environment to nurture students' reading interest and habits from a young age and enhance their reading and learning abilities. In accordance with the "School Development and Accountability Framework", public sector schools and kindergartens joining the "Kindergarten Education Scheme" receiving the Grant are required to plan for the reading promotion activities and incorporate the Plan on the Use of the Promotion of Reading Grant for the school year into the Annual School Plan for endorsement by their school governing bodies. Besides, schools should include the details of the activities held and the financial report in the School Report of the school year concerned for submission and endorsement by their school governing bodies. On the other hand, the EDB will continue to maintain good communication with schools and gain an understanding of their progress in the promotion of reading through various channels such as school visits, focus group interviews and regular contact. Schools in general agree that the Grant enriches their book collections, widens students' scope of reading, and provides schools with necessary resources to organise activities that enhance students' interest in reading, thereby creating a positive impact on the promotion of reading.
Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Issued at HKT 14:30
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