Ombudsman announces results of direct investigation into e-book lending service of public libraries under Leisure and Cultural Services Department
31 March 2023
The Ombudsman, Ms Winnie Chiu, today (31 March) announced the completion of a direct investigation into the e-book lending service of public libraries under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (“LCSD”), and made six recommendations for improvement to the department.
As at end-January 2023, the Hong Kong Public Libraries under LCSD offered a total of 14 e-book collections, providing more than 490,000 Chinese and English e-books (including audio books) which cover various subjects such as leisure reading, children books, arts, literature and fiction, information technology, commerce and economics and household knowledge.
Investigation by the Office of The Ombudsman revealed that subsequent to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the total usage of seven of the e-book collections of the Hong Kong Public Libraries shot up 250% in 2020 compared with that of 2019. Given the long waiting lists for individual e-books, patrons would have to expect months-long or even year-long wait. That reflected an exceeding demand for some popular e-books. Moreover, the Office has found that LCSD could make improvement by reconsidering the length of loan periods of e-books and making efforts to learn about public demand so as to ensure optimal utilisation of resources and enhance the services of public libraries.
Ms Chiu said, “Since the commencement of our preliminary inquiry, LCSD has worked on improving the e-book lending service of public libraries with reference to our views and observations. LCSD’s proactive approach in this regard is commendable. We understand that with the pandemic under control and various aspects of society returning to normality, public demand for e-books would not continue to surge. Nevertheless, given the increasing popularity of e-reading, we consider that LCSD should attach greater importance to its work relating to e-book collections and continue to enhance the e-book lending service of public libraries for promoting a reading culture in Hong Kong.”
The Ombudsman has made six recommendations for improvement to LCSD, which include:
- continue to review the situation and consider whether the loan periods of e-books should be extended to allow patrons reasonable time for reading the items borrowed;
- strengthen the current mechanism for reviewing regularly the usage and lending service of e-book collections and their e-book titles (such as the number of patrons on the waiting lists and estimated waiting time for the reserved items) in a systematic manner;
- continue to monitor the acquisition of e-books in public libraries to ensure that all e-books suggested for acquisition must go through the Collection Development Meeting for approval;
- regularly evaluate the arrangement for acquisition of e-books and consider acquiring more extra copies and/or new editions of popular e-books taking into account their usage and waiting time;
- set specific questions on e-book service of public libraries in future readers opinion surveys to obtain substantive comments from patrons about e-book service; and
- make good use of the websites and social media accounts of the Hong Kong Public Libraries to promote e-book titles, for instance, providing relevant information on the availability of e-books in other foreign languages, top ten most-read e-books, new editions of popular e-books and compatible e-book devices.
LCSD has generally accepted all of the Office’s recommendations.
The full investigation report has been uploaded to the website of the Office of The Ombudsman for public information.
Office of The Ombudsman
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