On weekdays, in our public libraries, you will often see many elderly citizens reading newspapers while others are busy using free computers.
Then, in the late afternoon, schoolchildren come in. These two groups of people are arguably the major library users in Hong Kong.
I understand more people use the free services offered because they are affected by rising inflation in the city. I think we have to work out how to ensure better allocation of library resources without stripping these groups of their rights.
When it comes to libraries deciding what books to purchase to add to their stock, readers should be encouraged to engage in the decision-making process.
There could be what I would call a "pioneering readers" scheme, in which the voices of people from all walks of life are heard.
Take cookery books as an example, I would guess that housewives are better qualified than anyone to discuss what to purchase. These pioneering readers would play a role in assessing the quality of a book, and whether it is worth purchasing. In order to facilitate better use of current library materials, these readers could encourage other members of society to read their favourite books through word-of-mouth recommendations.
Second, during non-peak opening hours, I would suggest a number of measures could be adopted.
Energy conservation initiatives such as partial air conditioning and lighting (on the condition reading is not affected) are essential.
Also, regular library-goers, such as senior citizens who often go in the morning, could could become voluntary librarians. They could help with the basic running of a library because the demand for services is not high during that period.
There has been a decline in the quantity of library material loaned out.
It might well be argued that people get hold of material to read at home rather than borrowing from one of the public libraries.
However, efforts must be made to encourage young people to read because, as we all know, reading nourishes your mind. I think some of the disappointing results in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Chinese language exam indicate that some young people are not reading enough. Public libraries should work with schools - requiring students to check out a few library items and write up reports about them.
Charles Kan, Kwai Chung