Bucheon is famous for its well-organized library network comprising of 128 libraries in total, including 13 city libraries, 21 small public libraries that are operated through the budget of Bucheon City, 70 small private libraries that were started and are operated autonomously by citizens, 18 miniature libraries (Spore libraries) that were built in places such as markets and offices where many people gather, and 2 smart libraries, which are operated automatically in subway stations and 4 university libraries that are open to the citizens of Bucheon, as well. To encourage residents to use theses libraries, the city aims to ensure that all residents are only 5 minutes’ walking distance from a library and offers a variety of lectures on culture and educational programs at the libraries.
Representative cooperative projects include the inter-library loan system, citizens' book clubs, a campaign to have everyone in the same city read the same book, a reading marathon, and book festivals. Bucheon is the only city in Korea with a book sharing system between public libraries and university libraries, giving the general public easy access to university research materials. The city also provides special library services for the elderly, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and migrants, a Braille library for the blind named Haemil Library, and a mobile library in the form of a bus that takes books to residents in outlying areas.
- Inter Library Loan system
The libraries of Bucheon City directly operate the mutual lending system so that citizen can borrow reading materials from one library around the house and return them to another. Through this system, even materials in university libraries are accessible to the citizens through requesting from any local library.
- Library services for the visually impaired
The city supported the establishment of a private Braille Library in 1992, and in 2008 opened Haemil Library, which produces and distributes materials for the visually impaired (Braille, recordings, tactile materials) and delivers books for free. Operated by a social welfare corporation specializing in services for the disabled, it holds 66,000 books, including audio books and electronic materials, and produces materials designed to help the visually impaired access diverse works of literature. To improve public understanding and awareness of visual impairment, Bucheon runs visual disability experience programs, the Braille Academy, and audio book production programs, and also supports Braille education and diverse clubs of the visually impaired.
- Public-Private Cooperation
The projects of Bucheon City’s Libraries are operated on the basis of the public-private cooperation. Through the operating committees of city libraries, the citizens themselves propose and select the policies of libraries. Although the small public libraries are supported financially by Bucheon City, the citizen organizations directly operate them. Small private libraries and spore libraries are mainly led by the citizens.
- Computer Network of Libraries of Bucheon City
In order for the citizens to access many libraries with more convenience, Bucheon City has successfully computerized all the lists of materials in its libraries. Through searching on the website of Bucheon City Library, all of the materials in the libraries of Bucheon City can be easily sought, and the mutual lending service is also available to borrow books from near libraries. New types of media, such as E-Book and audio book, are also provided by this network.
- International Exchanges of the Libraries of Bucheon City
Bucheon City Library is also promoting international exchanges. Since 2006, it has made exchanges with Kawasaki for personnel and materials. In addition, Bucheon City Library has carried out various active exchange activities, such as dispatching library employees, with Okayama, Japan, a sister city of Bucheon. Bucheon plans to further strengthen international exchanges and cooperation through libraries in the future.
Specialized library services to foreign nationals
Bucheon offers specialized library services to foreign nationals. There are almost 20,000 registered foreign nationals living in Bucheon. In 1995, the city opened Bucheon Foreign Workers' House to protect the human rights of foreign laborers in the community, and since 2011 it has been operating two libraries customized for foreigners and immigrants. The libraries hold foreign language publications, including audio-visual materials, and also offer various literary programs including "Book Start for Young Children." Around 4,500 foreigners use the libraries every year. Bukbu Library in Dodang-dong, Wonmi-gu where there is a high foreign population has more than 8,200 publications and DVDs in 12 foreign languages including Chinese, Mongolian, and Vietnamese, as well as a multicultural reference hall with international periodicals.
For multicultural families, Bucheon provides Korean language education, translation and interpretation service, child language development support, and parent education programs. It also offers educational programs designed to promote cultural diversity with around 4,800 people participating annually. In cooperation with the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding under the Auspices of UNESCO (UNESCO APCEIU), the city provides related programs such as global citizenship education through literature, and reading and writing programs to enhance Korean language literacy.
- Opened a special exhibition room for Okinawa Special Collection
Sangdong Library has opened a special exhibition room on the third floor featuring 10,000 books published in Okinawa. The Okinawa corner is the only resource of its kind in Korea, with all the materials you need to learn about Okinawan society, history and culture displayed in one location. In commemoration of this, the UNESCO Creative City office also held an international conference hosting representative from Ryukyu and Okinawa in Sep 14th.
Okinawa’s unique literary style is intertwined with the US troops that have been stationed on the island for the past 27 years. In this respect, South Korea and Okinawa share a close cultural affiliation.
By opening the Okinawa corner, Bucheon hopes to obtain the international honor of being recognized as a center for resources on Okinawa and peace research. By making a contribution to world peace, Bucheon City hopes to fulfill its role as a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature network.
The City of Bucheon has been recognized as a city rich in libraries, winning two Prime Minister Awards in the ‘2018 Nationwide Public Libraries Evaluation.’ Bucheon’s Wonmi Library and Sangdong Library were chosen to receive Prime Minister Awards among the 1007 public libraries located around Korea.
Wonmi Library and Sangdong Library were honored at the opening ceremony of the 55th National Libraries Conference, held on October 24 at the High1 Grand Hotel in Gangwon Province, receiving Prime Minister Awards for excellence in public library administrative management.
The national evaluation, overseen by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and run by the Presidential Committee on Library and Information, is a composite evaluation that ranks public libraries, school libraries, military libraries, prison libraries and special libraries in terms of five indicators; library management, human resources, facilities, information resources and services.
A total of 15,257 libraries from around Korea were involved in this year’s evaluation. After four rounds that involved quantitative assessment, qualitative assessment, on-site inspections and a final screening by the judging committee, 48 outstanding libraries were chosen to receive awards.
The fact that Bucheon received two awards this year despite changes in regional distribution which strengthened the evaluation standards demonstrates the excellence of Bucheon’s libraries on a national scale.
Wonmi Library was praised for running work experience programs catered to the needs of residents as determined through surveys, taking feedback from local residents on board in library construction, running a service that allows people to instantly check out the books in bookstores they want, setting up reading and cultural programs tailored to different groups, and making an effort to reduce the digital divide.
Meanwhile, Sangdong Library was recognized for creating an environment conducive to reading by establishing a mid-to-long-term development plan, expanding the interlibrary credit/debit system and library information system, and drawing up a systematic development plan that includes a mini library and literature cafe. (October, 2018)
After receiving two Prime Minister’s Awards in the nationwide administrative evaluation for public libraries, the City of Bucheon has now received the honor of being named the top local government in the ‘2018 Gyeonggi Province Public Libraries Evaluation.’
The evaluation involved a year on year comparison of four indicators across the 31 cities and counties in Gyeonggi Province; library budget, number of books loaned out, number of reading and cultural programs and number of librarians.
Bucheon beat out large cities including Suwon, Goyang and Yongin to take first place. The award represents the culmination of a number of superb library policies implemented by Bucheon, including expanding library facilities, promoting specialized literature programs following Bucheon’s designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Literature, running more career guidance programs for youth, allowing people to instantly check out the books in bookstores they want through an integrated book system, and expanding the interlibrary credit/debit system.
Mayor CHANG Deok-cheon stated “I am delighted that the hard work of our staff has paid off in the form of such a great honor. We will continue to work hard to make Bucheon the best place to live and the most attractive city in Korea by implementing a number of library projects including further expansion of facilities and creating more cultural reading programs that meet the needs of local residents.” (December, 2018)