A recent survey by a leading newspaper showed that 65% of respondents say they have not been to a public library in the past year, either because they have no time (36%) or there are no libraries near them (25%). This has spurred some of the public libraries to add more services to get more people to come and visit them and also to get more people to start reading again.
At Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward Hibiya Library and Museum, they noticed that there are still people who come in past 9:00 PM on weekdays and that they are usually seen working on their laptops. Rather than turn these people away, they decided to extend their hours until 10:00 PM and are now even offering free Internet access. Their library director Yukio Yamagishi said that they are also expanding their catalogue to include business-related materials and others that will be better suited for their users. So far, they seem to be doing a good job as a recent survey in October showed an 80% customer satisfaction rating. Meanwhile, over at Saitama Prefecture, the Tokorozawa City Library came up with a way to bring the library to the people if the people won’t come to them. They are working with eight affiliated convenience stores where people can pick up and drop off reading materials from the library. Since they started it in fiscal 2012, the service has been used 55,000 times already.
However, not all public libraries have the necessary funding to offer new services or extend hours. Figures from the Japan Library Association show that their funds for getting new materials have been in a decline since 1999 when it reached its peak. In fact, some libraries, like the Shiga Prefectural Library in Otsu have had to add one more day to the number of days it is closed because of personnel and utility budget cuts. According to Hideki Minai, a professor emeritus in issues concerning public libraries at Tsukuba University, libraries need to come up with relevant services, depending on the needs of the areas where they are located. He added that they need to be places that people can rely on, more than just a place where they can read.
[ via Yomiuri ]