HONG KONG - Every year, hundreds of thousands of books from the city’s public libraries are disposed of without explanation, a report by the city’s watchdog revealed on Tuesday.
The ombudsman noted that some of these books had been purchased less than three months previously.
The report was critical of discrepancies in book procurement and disposal policies by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD). The LCSD is in charge of the city’s 65 public libraries and 10 mobile libraries.
In a peak year, 2010-11, public libraries dumped 860,030 books with no explanation
In a peak year, 2010-11, public libraries dumped 860,030 books with no explanation. The department didn’t have clear guidelines giving reasons for the disposals.
In that year, about 2 percent of the disposed books – 17,320 – were bought less than two years before. Among these, 40 had been in the libraries less than three months.
The ombudsman noted that the LCSD has a target to procure 700,000 library materials each year but failed to provide any explanation for this. In fact, the department had obtained at least 100,000 more books than the target almost every year since 2009-10. The department spent about HK$100 million purchasing these books annually.
The number of public library collections increased 16.8 percent over the past eight years but the numbers being borrowed fell 18.2 percent, the report revealed.
The LCSD tried to donate some old books to community service agencies in recent years but the department concluded the plan was “not effective”. This is because “the cost of sorting out the materials is too high”.
The LCSD, in response, said the department had donated 412 books to libraries in the community and schools in a pilot scheme this year. It said it would continue to study how to make the most of its books in accordance with government regulations. It would also examine the cost-effectiveness and feasibility of resources, the department added.
The ombudsman suggested the LCSD conduct a comprehensive review of the procurement and withdrawal procedures for library materials. It should also revise its current plans to avoid wasting resources.