Central Library fails test

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 October, 2002, 12:00am

SCMP, October 28, 2002

By Cheung Chi-fai

The Central Library has failed in its objective to become a research and information hub, a government-commissioned survey has found.

The proportion of people using the huge stock of reference and electronic facilities at the $693 million centre was far less than that of regional libraries, the study showed.

Only 3.9 per cent of Central Library users went there for research, compared with 12.2 per cent in major libraries such as the City Hall facility, and 7.1 per cent in small libraries.

About 2.6 per cent and 0.6 per cent of the users said they visited Central Library for computer and audio-visual facilities respectively, compared with 6.6 per cent and 1.8 per cent in regional libraries.

Conducted last year, the survey of more than 6,500 users at 41 libraries included the Central Library and eight mobile units.

The survey was published in the Monthly Digest of Statistics issued by the Census and Statistics Department yesterday.

Dr Sze Man-hung, a senior lecturer with the general education centre at Polytechnic University, said the Central Library had failed to live up to expectations as a research and information hub.

He said the library should consider scrapping services that overlap with local and regional libraries, such as its self-study centre and computer and audio-visual services, because users might find local libraries more accessible.

'If it really wants to become a central library, it should expand its collection of important materials and scale down other minor functions,' he said.

But the library's senior marketing co-ordinator, Yvonne Kwok, rejected the suggestion that the Central Library was duplicating and delivering services also available at a local level.

She blamed the inadequacy of the survey for the low usage reported, citing another internal survey showing about 73 per cent of the users had visited its reference sections, compared with 45 per cent in regional libraries.

Ms Kwok said the results did not reflect the real situation because the survey only interviewed users at the entrance of the library on why they were there.

'It was always our intention to turn the Central Library into a self-study place and we will continue to strengthen our position as a hub for cultural activities,' she said.

The Central Library opened in May last year. It has 1.2 million items, including 690,000 reference materials.

There are 500 computers for the public to use. It also has a language study centre, offering self-learning kits for more than 80 languages.


objective (n) a goal someone tries to achieve

hub (n) a centre of activity Example: The open skies deal with the US will help cement Chek Lap Kok's position as the most important aviation hub in Asia after Tokyo's Narita airport. (SCMP, October 20, 2002)

compare (v) students are always confused with the preposition that follows 'compare'. When we consider two things and try to find out their differences or similarities, we can use 'with' and 'to' after 'compare'. Example: Sales declined 29 per cent last month, compared with August. However, when the verb compare is used to highlight one object that is like another, we use 'to'. Example: Her paintings are always compared to those of Vincent van Gogh and sought by collectors.

live up to expectations (phrase) to prove as good as one is expected

scrap (v) to get rid of as worthless

Discussion points

- Do you go to the library often? If yes, what do you usually read in the library? If no, why?

- Do you go to the library to find materials for school projects?

- Do Hong Kong's public libraries meet your needs?

- Paint your ideal public library. How would you promote its usage?