We visited the Xiamen Municipal Library, which can truly claim to be the “center” of its community, as it is located near a shopping mall with nearby restaurants, hotels, a sports complex, and other community buildings. The library is a former warehouse facility that has been renovated to fit a library and includes an open-air garden in the middle of the library. There’s also a museum within the library.
The library makes extensive use of RFID for self-check circulation and automated materials handling. This technology makes it possible to operate the extensive renovated building with minimal staff. This was a common situation in many of the newer public libraries. One brand new neighborhood branch in the Xiamen sysfem has only 2 staff persons total who spend their time helping patrons in other ways. Most libraries we visited either were already depending heavily on RFID or were making plans to do so. The self-check machines were nearly always the first thing the libraries wanted to show us. Interestingly, this was not the case at the universities and even the glitzy new Tan Kah Kee campus library at Xiamen University was not using RFID.
We also liked the use of the big screen readers that patrons can use to read the daily newspaper – several are available in the lobby, which is open past library hours.
Another very impressive service at Xiamen Municipal Lilbrary is a self-service 24 hour collection in the lobby which can be accessed using the natIonal ID card. There are approximately 20,000 books in the small glassed-in room, as well as a few nice work tables and chairs. The collection is both fiction and nonfiction. Patrons can come around the clock to take what they want and check it out on the self-check machines. The shelves have removable spacers which can sense misfiled books and can be used to produce a shelf report later during inventory.
Pat and Lori both gave presentations to the XML staff on Friday afternoon, when the library closes its doors for weekly staff development time. We’ve noticed this is a common practice among libraries in the Fujian province – one afternoon each week the library is closed for staff development and it’s also a time for weekly maintenance of the facilities.
After our presentations, we were escorted to the music library room. Silly us, we assumed this was the room where they kept their collection of music CDs/DVDs and music-related materials. Quite a surprise awaited us! We walked into a room with comfortable couches and a small TV, this was the karaoke room! It was also the place that musicians can reserve to practice their performances.
Then we were led past a sound room into a larger room with 15 leather recliner chairs that faced a wall-sized projection screen. The room cost $5 million RMB to build and was the idea of the local government leader, who wanted a place for people to enjoy music. Patrons can reserve this room to listen to music and watch videos of musical productions and concerts. We were treated to a video performance of Song Yuling singing Chinese folk music to a crowded Carnegie Hall. What a great way to relax after giving a presentation – comfy, plush chairs that allowed us to put our feet up while enjoying a cup of Fujian tea and beautiful singing!