The Office of the Ombudsman slammed the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) for throwing away hundreds of thousands of withdrawn books from public libraries instead donating them or putting them to better use, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The watchdog said the findings were revealed by its own investigation, which began in January last year and ended on Aug. 31 this year.
The LCSD should review and improve its practice of dealing with withdrawn books, which has led to a huge waste of public money, the Ombudsman said.
Media have been reporting as early as 2014 that large quantities of books withdrawn from public libraries had been found dumped by the roadside, with some of them even looking new and having been borrowed only a few times.
It has also been reported that the LCSD destroyed more than 1.6 million books between 2012 and 2014.
In a report released on Tuesday, the Ombudsman said the LCSD failed to provide clear reasons for treating books and other library materials as waste paper when they could have been put to better use.
Their value is definitely higher than waste paper, even though they are considered “damaged” or “outdated”, it said.
Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing recommended that the LCSD carry out a comprehensive review of its policy on the withdrawal of library materials.
Aside from the improper disposal of old books, the Ombudsman also asked whether the LCSD, in spending nearly HK$100 million a year on at least 700,000 new books and other library materials, has really achieved the desired results, adding that it has not specified the reasons why it should make such purchases, Apple Daily reported.
The report also said the number of materials stored in public libraries increased 16.8 percent over the past eight years but those borrowed by the public during the period dropped by 18.2 percent.
It also asked the LCSD to make more effort in improving its record keeping.
In response to the Ombudsman’s report, a spokesperson for the LCSD said it accepts the findings and recommendations in general and is studying how to improve its practices, HKEJ reported.
The department may have to revise its basic reference target of “procuring at least 700,000 items of library materials annually” when drawing up the purchase plan for the next fiscal year, the spokesperson said.
It will also review the current practice of engaging contractors to dispose of the withdrawn materials as waste paper and examine how library resources can be best utilized.
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