(8 February 2017) Following is a question by the Hon Alvin Yeung and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (February 8):
Recently, many members of the public have relayed to me that the collections of the Hong Kong Public Libraries (HKPL) contain a large number of Mainland-published books printed in simplified Chinese characters. They have pointed out that among those books, some have strong political tints, which may instill in children biased thinking, while some contain a lot of Mainland expressions which easily give rise to confusion among children in their learning of Chinese vocabularies. On the other hand, in reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council in respect of the Estimates of Expenditure 2016-2017, the authorities pointed out that the estimated expenditures for HKPL to purchase locally published Chinese and English books were about $13 million and $1 million respectively (with the former being 13 times of the latter), and the estimated annual total expenditure for purchase of books for HKPL was about $52 million. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective percentages of the expenditures incurred by HKPL on purchasing the following books in the relevant total expenditures in each of the past five years: (i) books recommended for purchase by the public (with a breakdown by type of books), (ii) Chinese-translated books, (iii) English books and (iv) Chinese books;
(2) whether the authorities have drawn up criteria or guidelines for purchasing Chinese-translated children’s books by HKPL; if they have, of the details, including the criteria adopted by the authorities for determining whether Chinese-translated children’s books printed in traditional Chinese characters or those printed in simplified Chinese characters are to be purchased;
(3) of the quantity of Mainland-published books purchased by HKPL in each of the past five years, and the names of the suppliers or publishers; and
(4) of the following information on the books in HKPL’s collections which are listed in Table 1: (i) the current stock, (ii) year of first purchase and (iii) number of loans in each of the past three years?
The Hong Kong Public Libraries (HKPL) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) acquires library materials according to the principles laid down in the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Public Library Manifesto, with a view to developing a balanced and diversified library collection to meet the community’s needs for information, research, self-learning and continuous education as well as constructive use of leisure time. The HKPL will take into account the overall status and development direction of its collection, the demands and interests of users, the quality of library materials, latest publication information, book reviews and bibliographies, etc. in selecting library materials. My reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Hon Yeung is as follows:
(1) The HKPL welcomes suggestions for book purchase put forward by members of the public and professional bodies, which will be considered having regard to the collection development strategies, so as to enrich its collections. Information on the proportion of expenditure on book purchase recommended by members of the public to the total expenditure on book acquisition is not available. In 2016, over 95% of the suggestions for book purchase were accepted by the HKPL for addition to its library collection, representing about one-fifth of the total number of titles acquired. Table 2 provides the breakdown figures about the suggested Chinese and English books which were acquired in the past five years:
The HKPL does not have breakdown figures about Chinese books which are translated from foreign languages. Expenditures on the overall acquisition of Chinese and English books in the past five years were in Table 3.
(2) The HKPL is committed to safeguarding the principle of free access to information. In the acquisition of library materials, the HKPL mainly takes into account whether the books accord with its aims and objectives, including meeting the reading needs of different readers. If a book is available in both traditional and simplified Chinese, the HKPL will consider acquiring the traditional Chinese version in the first place with regard to the situation of the publishing market. In selecting children books, priority will be given to reading materials that are beneficial to children’s mind, educational needs and capable of inspiring children’s reading habit and creativity. For titles that are expected to be popular, the HKPL will acquire more copies to meet the needs of different readers.
For the past three years from 2013-14 to 2015-16, about 40% of the books purchased were children books. Of the total number of children books purchased, 58% are printed in traditional Chinese, 5% in simplified Chinese and the remaining in English.
(3) The HKPL acquires the required library materials through contract suppliers selected by open tender in accordance with the Government’s established procedures on procurement, where the term of contract normally lasts for three years. For the past five years, the China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corporation has been the contract supplier for providing Chinese books published in the Mainland to the HKPL.
The number of simplified Chinese books acquired by the HKPL in the past five years was in Table 4.
(4) The HKPL system only records the loan figures of individual titles in the past year and their cumulative loan figures since first purchase. Loan information of the titles concerned is in Table 5.