A recent regulation encouraging China's libraries in universities and research institutes to open to the public stirred up heated debate among the public. The regulation is part of China's newly adopted law on public libraries, which took effect on January 1, 2018.
According to the latest statistics by the Ministry of Education, China currently has 2,914 universities and colleges. Most libraries at these schools are for the exclusive use of campus students and faculty members, and a considerable amount of books lie unused and are seldom borrowed. Comparatively, there are 2,852 counties in China. Even if each one built a library, those in colleges still outnumber libraries at county level. Over the past years, the public have been calling universities to open their libraries. In March, 2012, a total of 34 universities in Beijing established a capital library league to share their books, journals and learning materials with the public. However, the access is limited to certain times and people. The majority of universities still hold a conservative attitude in this regard.
The regulation has led many to believe the "opening up" will interfere with normal research activities. Detractors say campus libraries should remain exclusive due to safety considerations, protection of rare books and the normal order on campus. Supporters, however, say the move will encourage the public to cultivate a habit of reading and culturally benefits society as a whole.
Libraries are irreplaceable with their unique ambience of cultivating people's temperament. Public facilities can only play their designated role through sharing. A library is a place to share intangible social
resources of knowledge. Opening those enclosed libraries is actually amplifying the value of intangible assets. In this sense, the stipulation should be applauded, especially against the backdrop of the public's declining interest in reading. Besides, libraries on campus are funded by the government and, therefore, should serve the public.
Opponents expressed concerns over safety and influences on students and faculties. In my opinion, as long as there are proper management measures in place, these will not be an issue. For example, universities could set a rule to open libraries at a certain time to avoid any disruption.
Allowing access to the general public is a way of sharing public resources and showcases the openness, inclusiveness and cultural aspiration of universities.
Education is supposed to be means of eliminating social gaps. Everyone should have equal access to knowledge. Even if some are not capable of attending universities, they should have rights to
knowledge and realize their own aspiration through learning. Opening libraries in universities is safeguarding citizens' rights.
Popularizing knowledge is always beneficial to the public. Compared with ordinary public libraries, those on campus offer a wide variety of professional and academic books and journals. Graduates and employees in certain professions will no doubt benefit greatly if they wish to pursue further study. Besides, people who go to libraries are mostly dignified and trustworthy, who will follow rules and be considerate to others.
in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province
I like reading and go to the library almost every weekend. However, I find books related to my profession are limited in the city's public library. Universities host the latest information and cutting-edge information. If I can borrow books from university libraries, it will help my career and self-improvement. In a broader sense, opening resources on campus will create a favorable environment for the public to foster the habit of reading and life-time learning.
I think certain standards should be set up before allowing the general public to enter libraries on campus. Most college students already find it difficult to find a vacant seat in their
libraries. If the public were allowed access, the space may become even more crowded. A university library, firstly, should fulfill the needs of students and faculty on campus.
Some may argue that it is a common practice in developed countries to open up campus libraries. China's situation is different, and we cannot copy everything without considering the local reality. Those nations with this facility are less populous, but have already established considerable numbers of libraries. Therefore, opening them to the public under these circumstances generally causes no unfavorable consequences.
To many people, libraries, especially those on campus, are sacred places where a vast amount of knowledge is stored and imparted. They are irreplaceable in higher education and scientific research. Not every government-funded library is supposed to serve the general public. It is unrealistic to require them to provide such public service.
Libraries on campus are built to facilitate teaching and research activities for students and faculties. Before deciding whether to open them to the public, we should conduct research on whether the resources are over used. If so, the process should be slowed down. In fact, different libraries are sharing their resources online. Readers are able to reserve and borrow books from certain exclusive libraries.
Another consideration is the shortage of resources and poor service in public libraries. This requires the government to increase investment in this sector and safeguard people's right of reading and access to cultural resources.
I am against the practice of opening my university's library to people who don't study or work here. University is a place where students are easily affected by all kinds of distractions. Allowing the public to access the campus will create potential safety hazards. After all, you cannot recognize if someone is violent from their appearance.
It also poses greater challenges to management. If so many people are crowded into a limited space, how will the library remain clean? Who should be blamed for damaged or lost books? How can the quiet reading ambience be guaranteed? Therefore, I suggest campus libraries should be for the exclusive use of students.