Privatisation plan for libraries ruled out

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2007, 12:00am

A committee looking at the future of Hong Kong's libraries has rejected a proposal to turn them into commercial operations but says they should be bigger.

A six-year study concluded that privatising the libraries would not produce significant savings and would upset staff. The Committee on Libraries was established under the Home Affairs Bureau in 2001 to look into the development of public libraries. Its report is expected to be released later this week.

A committee source said a major consideration in its recommendation was staffing arrangements. The city's 66 public and 10 mobile libraries employ about 1,000 staff who would lose their civil service status if the facilities were corporatised, the source said.

Although the study favoured the corporatisation concept, saying it would cut operating costs by 18 per cent, the committee did not consider it worthwhile compared with the changes it would bring about.

These included more complicated human resources issues - such as terms and conditions of employment - as the libraries would no longer remain public institutions.

However, the size of new regional libraries will be increased - from the existing minimum of 3,500 square metres to 6,000 square metres. The first library to be enlarged will be in Tin Shui Wai.

The source said: 'People are generally happy about the services provided by public libraries. There aren't many push factors to adopt a change.

'Libraries, as a major focal point of the flow of information, are better staying with the government rather than the private sector.'

Yeung Yiu-chung, a member of the committee, said corporatisation would make public libraries very 'business-oriented'.

Another committee member, Sai Kung district councillor Francis Chau Yin-ming, said: 'I don't see any need to change the existing management of public libraries. If the government is to corporatise them, it will certainly raise a lot of voices and disputes.'

Another panel is reviewing the operation of 16 public museums, in which a new corporatisation model may be recommended to attract private donations.

In the book

The amount, in HK dollars, the government is allocating for public library services in 2007-08 $687m