Reported by Ng Uen Man Florence, Wan Tsz Wing & Kwong Ka Yu


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In spite of a steady increase of registered readers of Hong Kong public library, both numbers in of visitors and books lent are lessening. As we all know, the main function of a library is to open for books lent. In other words, the reducing number of books lent reflects that the effectiveness of Hong Kong public libraries is weakening because people no longer borrow books from public libraries constantly. Among 82 public libraries in the city, 80 of them are facing a significant decrease in visitors. The whole picture might possibly relevant to a brand new reading habit – Ebook.

Overall visitors of local public library declined annually

Currently, the capability of public libraries in Hong Kong is uncertain. Statistics from the press releases informed that the number of visitors of Hong Kong public libraries is continuously decreased.


The trend of the numbers of visitors keeps transforming. There were 42 million visitors in 2011 and has dropped down to 34 million in 2017. This phenomenon has unceasingly declined for 6 years. Meanwhile, compared with 2011, it has decreased about 8 million visitors total in 2017.  


The total amount of visitors from 2015 to 2018 for each of the library (INCLUDING mobile libraries) CLICK ON A DOT TO GET DETAILS, OR ZOOM TO SEE MORE LIBRARIES AROUND YOU

The total number of visitors to public libraries within these 3 years dropped continuously. There are only 2 libraries among 82 having a rising number of visits per year. They are Yuen Chau Kok library in Sha Tin and Fanling South library in North District which are newer libraries operated since 2016. The total visiting number of them skyrocketed to 8693.3% and 41.9% respectively.

Readers tend to buy books instead of borrowing it

The number of registered readers and the number of books lent from public libraries in Hong Kong is not positively related.

According to the statistic from LCQ5 and the report of reviewing the Expenditure Budget for both 2017-18 and 2018-19, 8.8% of registered readers has been increased from 4.09 million to 4.45 million throughout the year 2012 to 2016  while 11.3% of the books lent from public libraries has been dropped gradually from 55.45 million in 2012 to 49.19 million in 2016, showing a downtrend apparently.

Since borrowing books are mainly the usage of public libraries to Hong Kong citizens, the increasing number of readers registered has not helped boost the number of books lent but has indicated that neither correlations nor positive relationships have existed between the number of registered readers and the number of books lent. Simultaneously, it also reveals that the lifting number of registered readers cannot enhance the declining effectiveness of Hong Kong public libraries.

The declining number of books lent can be explained by the source for citizens to get the books they want to read. According to the research on dweller’s reading habit conducted by Hong Kong Publish Federation between January to March, 50.4% of the interviewees prefer to buy books whereas 32.4% of the interviewees choose to borrow books from public libraries. People are more likely to own the books than borrow it from the library because they can reread the content without any limits.  

row of books in shelf

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“Although I go to the public library twice a week, I go there only for doing revision instead of borrowing books from it”, said Mr. Lam, who is a 16-year-old secondary school student.

Being asked about the reading habit, Lam expressed, “I always read books or articles on the internet because it is more convenient.” Considering the research done by Hong Kong Publishing Professionals Society this year, 63.9% of respondents read online through their electronic gadgets, like smartphones, tablets, and computers, which has increased 4% compared with the data in 2017. Alternatively, questionnaires carried out by APM, the flagship shopping mall under Sun Hung Kai Properties examined that, 60% of the interviewees spend at least an hour or above each week to read online. There are 3 factors attract those interviewees to read online: free entry, portable and getting rid of time or location limit.

“The government should put more effort into the promotion,” said Mrs. Chan, 50, a housewife who frequently visits public libraries. She emphasized that even though the government has organized activities and reading programmes for children and youth, it still cannot raise the rate of lending books.

According to the enclosure provided by the council meeting in 2016, people searching for books on the internet is increasing from 19 million times in 2012 to 24 million times in 2015. “Teenagers tend to read books on the internet, it is efficient and convenience undoubtedly. The government can take advantage of it and offer more ebooks on public libraries in order to tailor-make for the youth.” suggested by Chan.

“Read Smart” is a new concept recommended by foreign countries in recent years. They attempt to explore a new trend which is the combination of technology and reading. Hong Kong can also make use of it and provide more assistance to electronic readings.


An Overview of the Public Library Services in Hong Kong (Census and Statistics Department, 2017)

Opening Hours for Public Libraries and Study Rooms (Hong Kong Public Libraries)