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The number of people visiting the library is gradually increasing in Japan. It is a common perception that the internet or smartphones would replace the printed book, as people become more familiar with the new technologies. However, it seems like Japan is an exception.
According to the report released by the Japanese Ministry of Education last year, the number of people borrowing books from libraries reached a record high in 2010, with an average of 5.4 books per person a year. The average in the 1970s was one book per person. The report shows that about 7 billion books were borrowed, and almost 2 billion people visited the library to borrow books in 2010. Specifically, the number of teenagers borrowing books increased remarkably.
The report suggests that an aging society might be behind the increasing number of people visiting the library. The Japanese Ministry of Education said, “As many in the baby boom generation start retiring, a lot of them tend to visit the library to enjoy their leisure time. We think that is one of the main reasons.” As the Ministry said, it is easy to see elders at a library these days. Actually, one library in Tokyo, which is ran by the Chiyoda ward office is always crowded with elders who have recently retired.
There is another view that the increasing number of people visiting the library is caused by Japan’s sagging economy. Since people cannot afford to buy brand-new printed books, they may rather visit the library in order to save money. Japan’s publishing market has diminished since 1996. As a result, a lot of bookstores and publishers are out of business. Instead, the number of second-hand bookstores keeps increasing in Japan.
The third reason suggested by the report is that people are visiting the library more thanks to the increasing number of libraries, and their enhanced services. The number of libraries in Japan has increased from 2,172 in 1990 to 3,274 in 2011. In addition, libraries have tried their best to attract people by extending their hours of operation.
According to the report by Japan’s Nihon Geizai Shimbun, Tokyo’s Okubo library extended its closing time from 7PM to 9:45PM, making possible for office workers to use the library after work. As a result, the number of people using the Okubo library increased by 9.2 percent in three years.
Image Courtesy : Thompson Rivers