public libraries

public libraries
China has public libraries, university libraries, scientific research libraries, school libraries, and libraries affiliated with government organizations, army units, trade unions, enterprises, and local communities, with 6 billion books and about 400,000 employees. While these other libraries belong to their respective affiliated institutions, public libraries—the National Library of China being the largest—are under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture.
The uniqueness of the Chinese public library system lies in the Ministry’s effort to build a digital network connecting the 27,000 public libraries to the 72,000 public art and cultural centres, museums, cinemas and theatres throughout the country. Led by the National Library of China, the ‘Project for Information Sharing’, which is to be completed by 2005, has already made great progress. Its library system provides free access to 10.78 million bibliographical records and 60 million audio and video documents. This project is built upon a networking backbone that so far provides over 200 cities with Internet connectivity and a cable and satellite television network targeting 350 million television sets.
Public libraries fall into three tiers: the national, the municipal or provincial, and the district or county. Development is by no means even. Generally, the higher the tier, the better funded the library is. However, this is not always the case. The Xicheng District Library of Beijing, for example, with its 10,000-square-metre premises, has a collection of 400,000 monographs, a computer lab, a music collection with lab, a state-of-the-art reading room that accommodates sight-impaired patrons, a special collection of multimedia tour guides and travelogues, and a German Self-Teaching Centre, which is a joint venture with the Beijing campus of the Goethe Institute.
From collection development to circulation, the library is fully automated. By 1999, the library had created an online database with bibliographical records of its entire current and back holdings.
Chinese libraries in the main have made remarkable progress. Besides a library system now serving multiple functions, libraries have also been upgraded with better facilities and modern technology. The establishment of China Digital Library Corporation Ltd and the organization of China’s first international digital library conference in 2002 in Beijing marked the country’s maturity in digital library development. At the same time, library management reforms are in full swing, and library services have become more proactive and value-added. Librarians are increasingly aware of their new role as information creators and providers. Library and information education has progressed, as has library research—librarians have authored over 1,000 professional monographs and written 60,000 papers published in over fifty core library journals. The China Society of Library Science, set up in 1979, has been pivotal in this effort. More and more libraries have developed exchanges with their counterparts abroad and now participate in activities organized by the International Federation of Library Associations and the American Library Association.
Lin, Sharon Chien (1998). Libraries and Librarianship in China. Guides to Asian Librarianship. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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