Reading: The New "It" Thing Again in Kaohsiung
◎English translation: Peng Hsin-yi
◎Photos by Pao Chung-hui
The number of people reading in Kaohsiung is rising, thanks to the availability of libraries. There are 63 municipal libraries in Kaohsiung's 38 districts. They can be found near fishing ports, in farming towns, up in the mountains, and of course in the metropolitan area. Among the 11 built since 2007 is the crown jewel of libraries: Kaohsiung Main Public Library. Three more libraries are scheduled to open in 2015 and 2016. These impressive numbers are the fruit of government-private collaboration, and are shaping Kaohsiung into a city of readers. A whole new generation of citizens who appreciate culture is being cultivated.
Kaohsiung Public Library Director Shih Chun-fu says that in the past ten years, Kaohsiung's library system has added three million books to its collection, and the number of books borrowed has grown to five million, which suggests a maturing library culture. As more libraries have been built, more thought has gone into their architecture and features. Of the six most attractive libraries in Taiwan, as described in a recent media report, three are in Kaohsiung. The ones that made the list are Kaohsiung Main Public Library, Kaohsiung City Dadong Arts Center, and Kaohsiung Public Library in Siaogang District. Kaohsiung's residents are proud of their libraries.
The true reason behind the local boom in library culture is Kaohsiung's people. The government-private collaboration model has been a very successful one. For example, while the government funded the construction of Kaohsiung Main Public Library, the library itself launched a "Million New Book" campaign, asking for donations from the public. Many businesses and individuals answered the call. The library received 4,675 donations from individuals. These combined lead to an impressive collection of 700,000 books for the library.
Sharing his experience participating in the INELI (International Network Emerging Library Innovator) held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, back in 2013, Director Shih says that when he introduced his library to participants from all over the world, they were impressed by the innovations adopted by Kaohsiung's library system, and even more impressed when he told them the library had received approximately NT$500 million (about US$16.7 million) from private donors during the "Million Books" campaign which began in January 2013. They found this statistic amazing. The hardware of Kaohsiung's libraries may be cutting edge, but it is the city's people who have made them truly top-notch among the world's libraries.
The city library system is more than just the buildings: It is a closely knitted system that delivers to your home. Kaohsiung City Government operates seven book trucks, having established the first mobile library fleet in Taiwan. People in Kaohsiung can also reserve the books they want online; the library will locate the book and dispatch it to the branch designated by the reader within five days. Currently, the average number of days needed for a book to reach its destination is 2.5, making Kaohsiung the most efficient local government in the country in terms of library book delivery.
Kaohsiung is a city constantly writing history by cultivating a large group of readers. In this way, it is boosting its future competitive edge.
施純福館長談起以高雄市立圖書館館長身份，於2013年獲邀至荷蘭鹿特丹參加INELI (International Network Emerging Library Innovator)全球圖書館創新研討會，當他向與會各國代表介紹高雄市立圖書館總館時，貴賓們莫不驚嘆總館建築物的創新，更對於市政府自2013年1月向民眾發起募書百萬活動，迄今來自民間的資金達新台幣5億感到驚訝不已，貴賓頻頻用amazing一詞來形容市立圖書館總館。高雄市民和全台灣人的參與，讓高雄以圖書館獨特的軟、硬體建設，在全球發光發熱。