Date
25 June 2017
A government official has refuted suggestions that public libraries in Hong Kong have been consciously buying more books in simplified Chinese, the written form that is used in mainland China. Photo: HK Govt
A government official has refuted suggestions that public libraries in Hong Kong have been consciously buying more books in simplified Chinese, the written form that is used in mainland China. Photo: HK Govt

Public libraries bought fewer simplified Chinese books FY16: Li

Simplified Chinese books made up for 6 percent of new collections purchased by Hong Kong public libraries in the last financial year, compared to 9 percent in previous years, according to a government official.

Michelle Li Mei-sheung, Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, said on Tuesday that authorities are adopting a diverse approach when it comes to new book purchases, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The official refuted suggestions that public libraries in the city have been snapping up more books in simplified Chinese, the written form that is used in the mainland, rather than the traditional Chinese method of writing that is popular in Hong Kong. 

Asked why there was a noticeable increase in the number of simplified Chinese books in local libraries in recent years, Li pointed to the emergence of more mainland writers and stepped-up publishing activities across the border.

But she added that if there is a traditional Chinese version of the same title, Hong Kong’s public libraries will always pick them first.

In other comments, Li said 45 percent of the new acquisitions by local libraries in the coming year will be children’s reading materials, given that books for children are relatively more prone to damage. 

The remarks came amid growing concerns in Hong Kong about a proliferation of books in simplified Chinese.

Legislator Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said earlier this year that he has received complaints about a rise in simplified Chinese books, with parents worrying that the books will affect their young children with unfamiliar vocabulary and terms — some with political messages.

Li said Tuesday the worries are unfounded and that Hong Kong still mainly focuses on traditional Chinese books. 

Secretary of Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah echoed Li’s comments that preference will be given to traditional Chinese versions, if available, Ming Pao Daily News reports.

According to statistics from the Home Affairs Bureau, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) purchased over 54,000 simplified Chinese books during the year to March 2016, making up for 9 percent of all new Chinese books purchased during the year.

During the same period, public libraries spent HK$25.9 million and HK$26.68 million on new Chinese and English books, respectively, representing 49 percent and 51 percent of the total spending.

In related news, the LCSD is planning to launch a trial scheme of 24-hour self-serviced libraries at three selected locations.

As library service fees have remained unchanged for 20 years, it is time to conduct a review, Li said.

The official, however, added that there is no timeline for any potential adjustment in the fees.

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