"Of all the achievements made in developing China's public culture during the past decade, I believe that three are most worth introducing to the global cultural and publishing community, which is the National Reading Campaign, the soon to be enacted Public Libraries Act, and the development of Rural Libraries."
In November 2011, it was firstly written into the Chinese government resolution to "launch a national reading campaign". Over the past five years, the country has organized various activities to engage its ever-growing reading population.
According to the National Reading Survey of 2016, the reading rate of Chinese nationals had increased significantly. The book reading rate among Chinese adults rose from 52.3% to 58.4% while the digital reading rate went from 32.8% to 64.0%. For an average Chinese adult, he or she read 4.58 books that year, more than the 4.25 books of the last year.
To promote the national reading champaign, it is wise to start with the children. Every summer, China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television ("the State Administration") and the Ministry of Education jointly organize reading activities for children in rural areas. So far, over ten thousand kids picture bookstores and NGOs promoting kids reading have participated in the initiative. In order to further engage the young to create a book-loving new generation of with good reading tastes and habits across the country, the State Administration launched the One Hundred Publishing Agencies for One Thousand Schools Initiative. One hundred prestigious children's book publishing companies have been selected to provide support for one thousand primary and secondary school around the country, especially those in former revolutionary base areas, areas inhabited by minority nationalities, remote and border areas and poverty-stricken areas in their reading promotion activities. So far, the initiative has witnessed a total donation of 2 million books, worth 6.6 million US dollars in total price to primary and secondary schools in central and western poverty-stricken areas, benefiting more than 3.5 million students. In this way, we have been able to address and meet the basic reading needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
Over the past five years, digital reading has become a new trend in China. An increase is generally observed in terms of online reading, mobile reading, e-reader reading, pad (panel computer) reading and CD reading.
In 2015 specifically, 51.3% of adult nationals read online, 60.0% used e-readers, 11.3% used Pad for digital reading and 51.9% read via the mobile app WeChat. Of those preferring mobile reading, over 80% (actually 87.4%) chose WeChat as one of their reading platforms. With more and more nationals joining digital reading, it has become an increasingly important part of national reading and a major means of access to information knowledge.
As one of the five major cultural programs to benefit the people, the development of Rural Libraries in administrative villages aims specifically to meet the cultural needs of rural residents. Such libraries are actually peasant-run non-profit self-service cultural settings that offer local residents a certain number of books, newspapers, magazines, electronic audio and video products and supporting reading and broadcasting facilities.
Pilot projects started in 2005 and was launched nationwide in 2007. As of 2012, a total of 6.00449 billion Rural Libraries had been set up, covering all the suitable administrative villages in the country. Central and local governments invested a total of 1.8 billion US dollars, of which 800 million US dollars were allocated by the central government and the rest 900 million US dollars were from local governments. 940 million books, 500 million newspapers and magazines, 120 million audio and video products and electronic publications were delivered nationwide, bringing 1.13 books to every peasant on average. In order to keep scaling up the libraries, the central government allocated 291 US dollars to every library, adding over 60 books to their collection annually. 100 million US dollars from the central government’s Rural Cultural Development Fund was used for upgrading Rural Libraries every year.
Addressing their difficulties in buying, borrowing and reading books, the initiative makes it possible for rural residents to gain access to knowledge and information locally through such self-managed and self-service libraries and supporting peasants’ reading clubs. As of 2012, more than 600 thousand Rural Libraries had been set up, covering all the suitable administrative villages in the country.
Now we are in the process of upgrading Rural Libraries. By the end of December 2016, over 40 thousand satellite & digital Rural Libraries had been put into use, mainly in concentrated extremely poverty-stricken areas, ethnic areas, and remote areas. Such satellite & digital Rural Libraries, thanks to its unique advantage in delivering a larger amount of quickly-updated, downloadable and customized content, had outperformed traditional Rural Libraries in terms of utilization. Contents featuring local farming, livestock breeding, agricultural science, employment information, audio books, and high-quality movies, etc. are most welcome by local people and has brought the cultural enjoyment of city people to those living in remote mountainous areas.
So far, Rural Libraries has basically solved the difficulties of 800 million Chinese peasants in reading books and newspapers. It has helped to ensure the equal access to fundamental public cultural services in urban and rural areas and enriched the spiritual and cultural life of peasants.
Public Libraries Act
China is expected to pass the Public Libraries Act soon. One article of the forthcoming Act encourages more social forces to participate in building libraries and providing public reading services. In the future, it will become quite common for individual to set up libraries and leave their own cultural heritage.
Most of China’s public libraries are built with government funds and based on geographical divisions, thus provincial, municipal, county, and township libraries. According to the latest statistics, there are 3139 public libraries nationwide, of which one is national, 39 provincial, 365 municipal and 2734 at the county-level. In accordance with the national administrative divisions, those libraries have basically achieved full coverage of the country, with the coverage rate of municipal public libraries being 79.3% and that of county public libraries being 85.1%. In 2015, the central government allocated 1.8 billion US dollars for public library development. In the same year, all the public libraries combined have 838.44 million books, 57.21 million readers with their book-borrowing cards, and over 20 billion visits to their websites.
We are willing to assist in cross-cultural dialogues and the international development of China’s publishing industry, and to contribute to the common prosperity, integration and development of the global publishing community.
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