Old Version

Chinese Policymakers Weigh Opening Libraries to Public

China's leaders have debated whether or not school libraries should be free and open to the wider public

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Nov.7

Should the libraries of schools and research institutes be free and open to the public? Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress considered the suggestion on November 1, according to news site Legaldaily.com.cn.

Supporters of the proposal argued libraries are communal property, and denying public access to them is a waste of resources. Given China's burgeoning sharing economy it makes sense to share library resources with the public for free, granting more citizens access to educational resources, said committee members Lang Sheng and Yan Xiaopei.

Another committee member, Wu Heng, said many schoolteachers and students did not utilize their campus libraries, leaving books rotting on shelves and gathering dust. Opening them up for public use would grow the library sector, he added.   

Opponents raised safety and overcrowding fears, and suggested a digital library might be a better way to share resources. Standing Committee member Wang Mingwen said opening school libraries to the public would make it difficult to keep students and their personal belongings safe. Moreover, he said libraries tend to be occupied by students, especially during midterm and final exams.  

Another committee member, Huang Xiaojing, proposed an “Internet plus library” that would give the public access to all the libraries in China by putting their resources on the web.