“ Island Libraries” promote China’s nationwide reading policy

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The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (国家新闻出版广电总局) recently released a Draft of the new Nationwide Reading Promotion Regulations for public solicitation, following the Legislative Plan of the State Council (国务院立法工作计划). Nationwide reading promotion had already been proposed as a national policy in 2013 during the “two sessions” (the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference). With the new draft regulations being released, the topic is once again under the spotlight.

Echoing this tide, a variety of free reading spaces have sprung up all over China during recent years. One particularly successful example worth mentioning is the “Island Library” (荒岛图书馆). The first Island Library was established by Liu Qiongxiong on April 23rd 2009. He hired volunteers to manage and share his 2000 books. The Island Libraries are mostly based in local communities and set in private businesses such as cafés, hostels and bookshops. They are operated by volunteers on funds deriving from fundraising or from Island Owners (the founders). All books in an Island Library are donated or stored there temporarily by their owners. Currently the Island Libraries cover over 150 cities in China and are continuously expanding their number and functions for social, artistic and cultural communication.