Hong Kong library books dumped on pavement shows just how wasteful city’s officials are

About 10,000 volumes – some still in their original wrappers – were discarded without a thought being given to recycling

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 January, 2016, 12:34am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 January, 2016, 12:34am

Our officials have not reached the stage where they order the burning of books. But they do throw them away – a lot of them.

The Ombudsman has launched a probe into an incident in which 300 boxes – containing more than 10,000 books from the Central Library in Causeway Bay – were disposed of on a pavement in Ap Lei Chau, Aberdeen. They weren’t even sent for recycling.

Many books were brand new: some were still in their original wrapping, while others barely had any check-out records. The incident happened two years ago. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department only now says it will cooperate with the Ombudsman.

Presumably, that means the department was still throwing away library books even after that embarrassing incident was exposed by the local media. We wonder how many there were.

“The LCSD was thus criticised for being wasteful and not environmentally friendly,” a spokesman for the Ombudsman said in a statement.

The department said it was now working with the Ombudsman’s office to help identify “viable and effective measures to further enhance the library collection and services”. That’s easy: stop throwing away books in perfectly good condition.

READ MORE: Hong Kong Ombudsman probes public libraries after 10,000 books were dumped on pavement

The LCSD admitted public libraries needed to review their procedures “with a view to ensuring the effective use of resources and meeting the changing needs of the community”.

This raises some interesting questions. If the Ombudsman had not intervened, would the department bother to overhaul its practices despite the scandal? How did the department come up with “a procedure” that throws away perfectly good books? Were any of the books deemed politically sensitive?

Couldn’t the department give away the books or donate them to places on the mainland or neighbouring countries that might have use for them? Were there no local schools or NGOs that could use them?

And if the books were so useless that nobody wanted them, why did the LCSD buy them in the first place?

The whole episode, though minor, is a good example of just how wasteful our government really is despite its officials being consistently stingy about providing benefits and services to the public.