Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Forest Libraries in Korea

In the past few weeks I was on a cycling trip through Korea and within minutes of starting on our odyssey we came across a small library alongside the bicycle track in Busan. These are called Forest Libraries, and I did some investigating on what they were and how they worked.

These small libraries are unmanned and stocked mainly through donations from corporations and individuals, but also with some funding from the district council. The books are not catalogued. There is no requirement for a library card, and people can borrow for as long as they like and whenever they like.

One user was quoted in the Korea Herald as saying "“At first, I had doubts about how long and how well an unmanned library could be maintained,” continues Yang. “But every time I come, the shelves are fully stocked and well-organized. It’s great to see how the library is encouraging a culture of trust and consideration among users.” 

These libraries were opened as part of the 2014 Year of Reading in 2012 are across Korea in the major cities. For more information on these particular libraries see this link Books for loan at new forest libraries.

The forest of wisdom library - photo from Korea Herald

Korea has been quite innovative in creating new types of libraries one of which is called the Forest of Wisdom which is open 24 hours a day, again the books were not catalogued on opening (but this is underway apparently), nor are they organised using any specific system. Borrowing is not part of this library's culture and the library is manned by "Kwondoksa" who are volunteers who help find books for visitors and guide them. Only they can climb the ladders to fetch books from the high shelves.  
Library with no restrictions opens up in Paju

The Korean government has been committing quite a lot of money toward creating more public libraries for the Korean people - with over 968 libraries open throughout the country. The population of Korea is about 50 million people, with most of the population living in the northern region of the country. The ratio of people per public library is about 53,000:1. (In Australia the ratio is 15000:1, in the USA the ratio is about 19000:1, UK is about 15,000:1) For more information on the plans of the Korean government see this link No. of public libraries to rise to 968
Evolution of libraries highlights values of books

This was all very interesting to me as governments in other parts of the world are doing their best to remove public and school libraries from their agendas.

If you are interested in our bike adventure through Korea - see our blog Rambling Cyclists

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