A Unique Development Road of Urban Public Libraries of China: Practice and Exploration of Pudong Library

A Unique Development Road of Urban Public Libraries of China: Practice and Exploration of Pudong Library

Wei Zhang (Pudong New Area Education Bureau, Shanghai, China), Wanfen Zou (Pudong Library of Shanghai, Shanghai, China) and Xiangen Qiu (Shanghai Lixin University of Accounting and Finance, Shanghai, China)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/IJLIS.2019070104
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Since its debut seven years ago, Pudong Library of Shanghai has been committed to promoting reading and providing services that benefit that all. It provides new reading experiences, explores institutional building and communication platforms in public library circles, while intensifying efforts at team-building and cultivating library culture. Moreover, Pudong Library devotes itself to exploring, on a micro-level, restructuring practices and innovative developments of urban public libraries. In doing so Pudong Library constructs its own paradigm of library management. The exploration and practice of Pudong Library is a fresh case and vivid example for the development of urban public libraries in China.
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China’s public libraries have scored notable achievements over the past four decades since the country’s reform and opening-up that started in 1978. Evaluations and ratings of public libraries have been conducted six times since 1994. These assessments have played a role in propelling the sustainable development of public libraries across the country. Consequently, the evaluations have helped to quickly upgrade the hardware facilities in public libraries, and leapfrog advancement has been made regarding the number of libraries, collections, budget, staff and so on. In 2011, sixth plenary session of the 17th Central Committee of the CPC (Communist Party of China) approved of the decision to deepen the reform of China's cultural system and promote the development of the cultural industry. The decision states that public culture-related undertakings must fulfill the development requirements of public interest, fundamentality, fairness and convenience. The decision also proposes accelerating modern public cultural service construction.

The Public Cultural Service Guarantee Law of the People's Republic of China and the Public Library Law of the People's Republic of China were implemented and effective from March 1st, 2017 and January 1st, 2018, respectively. The laws have sped up the legalization of China’s public library industry, ensuring it develops with unprecedented legal protection and impetus in its policies.

Promoting national reading has become part of state policy since 2014 when “Promoting nation-wide reading” was first included in the yearly “Government Work Report” by the State Council of China. The Public Library Law of the People's Republic of China states that public libraries “should regard it as an important task to advance, guide and serve the promotion of nation-wide reading.”

Public libraries are not merely part of public cultural service system. They are also the main frontier of nation-wide reading promotion. In this context, public libraries have gained unprecedentedly favorable conditions and opportunities for their development and in reality, have scored tremendous achievements in China.

In general, the development of China’s public libraries can be shown with some statistical evidence. At of the end of 2016, China had 3,153 public libraries (including 122 children’s libraries) with 57,208 professionals, according to the Statistical Communiqué of the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China on Cultural Development in 2016. In all, the nation’s public libraries occupy a floor space of 14,242,600 square meters. In total, collections contain 901,630,000 books and 887,980,000 e-books with a per capita book collection of 0.65 books. China is a populous nation. The per capita book purchase fee is CNY 1.56 (about USD 0.24) (Ministry of Culture of PRC, 2017). All of the above-mentioned figures are bigger every year.

In addition, thanks to a sound environment for development, China’s public libraries have been growing rapidly, especially in economically developed areas. New library systems have been built and new library buildings have sprung up with each passing day. In terms of library operations and services, many public libraries strive to explore, innovate, and actively ponder their mission, practice and positioning in the new era. They have produced a great variety of excellent practices to use as case studies. For example, in 2003, Shanghai became the first city in China to set up its Shanghai Central Library and a “One-Card” system has been adopted (Yu, 2003). The building of the “City of Libraries” in Shenzhen has drawn wide attention (Cheng, 2003), and the practice of “equal, free and accessible” service in Hangzhou Library has won international acclaim (Wu & Ye, 2017). Various reading promotion activities are the best part of every public library in China.

Among all the libraries, Pudong Library (Figure 1) is one of the best cases in the development of China’s library industry and extensive library operation practices. The Library’s development has kept pace with the quick progression of Chinese public libraries. Moreover, Pudong Library takes advantage of the opportunity presented by the developing and opening-up of Pudong New Area. Through more than two decades of development and opening-up, Pudong New Area has shouldered the national strategic mission for development. By the end of 2014, the Area covered close to 1,430 square kilometers with a permanent population of about 5.45 million (Editorial Office of Pudong Almanac, 2015), making it the most populous area under Shanghai municipal administration.

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