Advanced technologies lure more readers to public library

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Wearing a virtual reality headset, Deng Kaiyang saw a four-character idiom with one character missing. The 8-year-old used the controllers to shoot a digital arrow at a lantern with the right character from a dozen red lanterns.

This was a scene at the new provincial library of east China's Jiangxi Province. Prior to its official opening, local residents were invited to visit the new library this month.

Apart from the VR word puzzle games played by Deng, visitors entered small booths and followed the words displayed on the screen, reading stories or poems aloud. They were allowed to download their works via their cellphones to share with family and friends.

In a corridor, children were excitedly stepping on a projection piano keyboard. With enough practice, they could play a delightful tune.

The new Jiangxi Provincial Library, which is scheduled to open soon, is located in the city of Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi. With an investment of 962 million yuan (about 140 million U.S. dollars), the library is designed to contain 10 million books and accommodate up to 20,000 readers per day.

"Our new library boldly learned from museums such as science and technology museums, introducing a number of frontier technologies and advanced facilities, which has changed people's stereotypes about traditional public libraries," said Tao Tao, chief librarian of Jiangxi Provincial Library.

After reservations for the introductory events opened, tickets were all booked out within one hour, Tao said.

In the new library, readers can borrow books through a facial recognition system, saving time and improving work efficiency.

"In my memory, there were only books in the library. I had to wait in line to borrow books, and there was nothing to do in the library except read, "said Peng Yibo, a Nanchang citizen, adding that she put down her mobile phone and read picture books with her child in the family area after experiencing the advanced technologies.

"My son told me that he wants to come again. This was the first time he showed interest in a public library," Peng added.

Wu Qingfeng, 40, drove nearly an hour with his family to the library. "I hope my 12-year-old son can spend less time playing with his smartphone and read more books. I brought him here hoping he would like the library."

In this digital era, traditional public libraries struggle to attract more readers, Tao said. To meet the diversified needs of readers, the 100-year-old library decided to build a new library in 2015, while the introduction of new technologies is among a series of important measures.

In Tao's eyes, modern libraries are no longer just a venue where people come to read, use or borrow books and newspapers, but a place for work, study, as well as socializing.

For the next step, Tao said, the library plans to introduce intelligent technologies, which will enable readers to have a tailored book list based on big data analysis. 

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