[photopress:rural_library.jpg,full,alignright]China has established more than 30,000 libraries in rural areas since 2006 in a move to bridge the ‘information gap’ and help the farmers develop business opportunities.
Jiang Li, vice Minister of Civil Affairs, said China started a program of establishing libraries in communities for urban residents in May 2003 and extended it to the rural areas last year.
More than 66,000 libraries with some 2.2 million books have been built since then.
Jiang Li said China will establish 30,000 to 50,000 libraries in rural areas and 6,000 in urban areas this year. China plans to establish a total of 200,000 libraries in rural areas by the year 2010.
Prior to this goverment effort, and continuing besides it, is the Evergreen Education Foundation, which has just had a serious boost of $500,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It brings books, computers and computer training to several rural Chinese middle schools and high schools.
Note most carefully that there is no requirement to use Microsoft products. The Evergreen Education Foundation helps buy books, fund scholarships, install computers, organize literacy workshops and train Chinese librarians and teachers to use the Internet.
As well, Evergreen builds up school libraries, which issues library cards to the public and keep extended hours so members of the community can use the libraries at night and on weekends when students aren’t there.
Local people, most of whom live in villages or in the countryside, use library books and computers to research practical things, often searching for information on the Internet. Many adults, for example, are farmers interested in upgrading their command of agricultural science.
Freestanding public libraries in the most rugged parts of China are rare. Restructuring school libraries by making them accessible to members of the general public, not just students, helps to ensure free access.
Green Source: China View