Xiamen Children’s Library is another library under the Culure Dept. rather than the municipal library. This is not an usual thing and has something to do with an intent on the part of the provincial government to promote cultural knowledge. The Deputy Director gave us a tour and then served tea while we sat in their meeting room and talked shop with key members of the staff. The building is 6 floors tall, with reading rooms and service points on most floors. It’s open 7 days a week until 6:30 pm. As with every public library we’ve seen, it’s fairly empty during the week and extremely crowded on weekends. Consequently, it opens at 8:00 am on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a little eery to visit big buildings full of technology and materials but no patrons, but every library has talked about the huge crowds they get on the weekend.
Notable facts about the Children’s Library:
– It has a cool rooftop vegetable garden tended by children as a library weekend activity. Each child plants some seeds in a big pot, tends that plant as it grows and gets to take home the harvest.
– It also has a couple of craft rooms and a cullture room where cultural programs take place (such as puppet shows, music and classes in the Fujian dialect).
– There are over 1,000 events each year.
– All the storytime programs are given by volunteer parents (a common theme).
– They have 870,000 ebook titles! The ones we saw were anime-type animations, some with educational themes. It sounds like many come in packages from publishers and some may even be provided by companies. The ebook collection takes 12 terabytes of computer space. We made him repeat this figure, but apparently it’s true!
– There is a collection of 200,000 books in English purchased with funds received each year from a foundation. We saw many picture books we recognized.
– The touchscreen ebook stations have a one hour time limit because parents don’t want their kids spending too much time on the computer because it’s not good for their eyes. The computers have filtered Internet access.
– Library staff give outreach talks at schools once a month to promote the library. They were very curious about other ways to get kids interested in the library, especially teens. But teens are mostly working so hard to prepare for the national exams that they don’t have much time for anything else.
– They love the idea of Read To The Dogs!
That evening, we were treated to a lively banquet with the Xiamen Children’s Library staff, including the Director, who had just returned from the conference in Changting.