A Comparative Study of Sino-American
Differences in Public Libraries
Abstract: The history of public library can be traced back to the ancient 17th century. The public libraries provide opportunities for a lifelong learning. They help children and young people develop imagination and creativity, and provide adults a platform for learning about their cultural heritage, arts, science and technology. This paper focuses on a comparison of the public library between China and America from aspects of scale, service and library funding, and explores the reasons contributing to the differences. It also shows the main problems existing in Chinese public library and draws several enlightenments from the advanced librarianship in America to help China speed up the construction of public library system, perfect the community public library service, and establish an effective management mechanism in a long run. Key words: public library; differences; public services
Chapter One Introduction
A well-stocked public library is a treasure-house of knowledge and a precious asset to students, citizens and communities. They are the memory of humankind, irreplaceable repositories of human thoughts and actions. They have become an indispensable social and cultural institution in modern civilized society and also a symbol of the level of civilization in a city or region. Lifelong learning has been on the top of the people’s agenda, thus the public library is such an important place for the public to acquire knowledge. And the ownership of public libraries per capita and collection of books per capita, as well as annual average amount of reading volumes have been a standard to judge whether the citizens are highly-educated or not. The public libraries in the United States represent the pinnacle of the development of librarianship in the world. It possesses the largest library service system in the world with the characteristics of unique development concept, management mode and service variety, because of its mature legal protection, standardized industry management organization, strong support from all sectors of society and professional management. China has a long history of cherishing books and also a rich collection of books. In China, the first public library was born in 1904. It was not until the late 20th century the librarianship had achieved a rapid blossom and developed steadily in keeping pace with the economic growth of China. Recently the mission of library has expanded from a simply borrowing-returning into providing comprehensive services of literature information resources and offering scientific directions to expand cultural activities. However, China’s rapid development of library business is still in its infancy. Compared with the public library in the United States, so Chinese public libraries should take reference of the development experience of American public libraries, deepen library services, and strengthen the construction of librarian team in order to realize the popularization of public libraries. Chapter Two Differences in Public Libraries Between China and America The basic situation of public library in China and America is quite different. In China, the public library is administrated by the local cultural department, which also manages the library expenditure, staff and service development. Except the National Library of China, public libraries in China are divided hierarchically into several administrative levels such as provincial, municipal, counties and districts. In the past, there was only one sizable library built within each of such administrative divisions. However, with the economic growth in the recent few decades, lots of libraries mushroomed in residential districts, communities, towns, villages and countryside, which have become a new phenomenon of the public library development in China. The public library, being a welfare enterprise, catches much...
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