The ATM Library — Beijing has recently seen an increasing number of so-called ATM libraries — the 24-hour self-service machines which allow people to borrow and return books without the help of librarians.
Anyone who wants to borrow books from the ATM library only needs to swipe their second-generation Identity Card and put down 100 yuan in cash deposit collateral. They can borrow a maximum of five books each time and return these four weeks later or extend the borrowing period by two weeks.
The first two ATM libraries were introduced to Beijing from Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, in 2010. They were launched at the western and northern sides of the Capital Library of China in east Beijing’s Chaoyang District.
The number of these facilities in Chaoyang has since been growing quickly. Thus far, the district has launched 119 ATM libraries across 43 communities.
“The machines, a major breakthrough in terms of time and space limitations, turned out to be more efficient and convenient ,” said Song Wei, deputy director of Chaoyang Library.
By July 2013, the ATM libraries in the district have received more than 10,800 visits for registration. The district plans to increase their number to a total of 150 in the future.
These ATM libraries are not merely book-lending facilities, they can also help librarians collect and categorize reader information.
“From these roadside ATM libraries, we have found that literary and sociological books are the mostpopular among our readers,” said Wang Qi, an official with the publicity department of the Capital Library of China.
Wang’s conclusion was echoed by a reader who happened to apply for a registration card to borrow the books from the ATM library for the first time.
“I have an immense interest in sociological books. I am fascinated by the books as long as they are understandable.” the borrower Li Liying said.
The automation of libraries composes only one step in the long-term program for the libraries to cultivate reading habits among readers.
According to a report drafted by China Youth Daily, a Chinese newspaper, the average Chinese read only 4.39 paper books in 2012, a number ranking far below that of South Korea and Japan.
Several reasons lie at the core of these low reading rates. In addition to the overall demise of the print media, the general format of the books also contributes to people not reading as much.
“In Japan, people can find many portable books, say pocket books , however in China those books are rare,” Wang explained.
According to her, people in Beijing are spending an increasing amount of time commuting between work and home; this time period would be a suitable occasion for them to get in some reading.
However, this habit cannot be shaped in one day.
“It will take a long time for any investments in culture to yield their fruits. The cultivation is a process that may take two, five or even 10 years to be completed,” Song said.