Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Seoul village libraries

Seoul city officials want to create 500 new public libraries by 2030 (from 878 in 2011 to 1,000 in 2015, and to 1,372 in 2030). All citizens will have a library nearby, within 10 minutes on foot:
- the number of big libraries will more than double (from 120 to 272). In average, they can accomodate 60 visitors in 260 square meters, and contain 3,000 books.
- the number of "village libraries" will rise from 748 to 1,100, but they're much smaller: 1,000 books, 33 sqm, and only 6 places.

More figures? By 2030, Seoulites should in average read 20 books and own 2 new books every year, instead of just 10 and 0.81 nowadays.

Of course, the best way of promoting reading would be to reform an education system that doesn't allow young minds to fully bloom: Korean kids love to read books, but they lose the habit as soon as they enter the dark and dull tunnel that leads to the final exam.

And of course, by 2030, a library featuring books made with actual paper may be called a "museum".

But beyond culture and literature, the aim is to strengthen community ties, and to create meeting points in every neighborhood. That's consistent with the Mayor's vision (see "Park Won-soon's wishes for Seoul... Village"), even if one can see a few limits, for instance:
- theoretically, libraries are places where you can meet, not places where you can talk - that would be more a book cafe.
- students who don't have a place to study home may be tempted to squat them, and older generations might feel unwelcome. Even today, big libraries have whole battery farming rooms reserved for students who have to book their tiny spots in advance.

Anyway, libraries are bound to evolve in the near future, and reserving now more space for culture at the neighborhood level seems wise.
Seoul Village 2012
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