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At the Tianjin Binhai Library, rows upon rows of book spines are mostly images printed on the aluminium plates that make up the backs of shelves. Photo: AFP

Futuristic Chinese library defends use of ‘fake books’

Bungle over planning approval means books cannot be stored in the atrium, which only has images of volumes printed on the walls, says official

The deputy director of a futuristic library in northern China has defended the building’s design after reports about it went viral when it was revealed that many of its “books” were actually only images printed on the walls.

The six-storey library in the coastal city of Tianjin – designed by Dutch architectural firm MVRDV and dubbed by some media as the most beautiful library in the country – was opened to the public early this month.

It soon made waves on the internet after photographs of its interior and white floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the main entrance hall circulated on social media.

However, the euphoria was short lived with stories about its “fake books” soon making headlines around the world.
Images of books, not actual books, line the walls. Photo: AFP

Liu Xiufeng, the deputy director of Tianjin Binhai Library, told Agence France-Presse that the mix-up was because the plan finally approved by the authorities stated that the atrium would be used for circulation, sitting, reading and discussion, but omitted a request to store books on shelves.

“We can only use the hall for the purposes for which it has been approved, so we cannot use it as a place to put books,” Liu said, adding that they would probably soon have to remove all those temporarily on display.

Liu told news website that the library still had more than enough books to satisfy visitors.

“We are very capable of offering real books and most of the books are on the third floor,” Liu was quoted as saying.

An average of 15,000 visitors flocked to the library over the weekend. The library has about 200,000 books stored and hopes to house 1.2 million volumes in the future.