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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

Constructing a new Shanghai Library

Wu Jianzhong
Shanghai Library


Situated in the heart of the city, along the busiest shopping street, the Shanghai Library is perhaps one of the most attractive cultural institutions in the city. The Library, with its holdings of about 10 millions, ranks second in the library world in China. Although the European-style building looks elegant and beautiful and is listed among the city’s protected cultural buildings, it is too ol d and too small to house this fast growing institution.

The new building project

The new building project initiated in early 1980s. In March 1983 the National Planning Commission of China authorized the project. In 1985 the Shanghai Planning Commission decided that the floorage of the new building be 83,000 square meters. To draw upon all useful ideas for constructing a modern library, the municipal government invited many architects for architectural competition. The judging panel finally suggested that the Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design and Research draw the architectural plan. Between 1986 and 1989 the Institute and the Library organized some study tours home and abroad and invited well-known architects and librarians to modify and optimize the plan. Among the invited figures are Mr. Dai Nianci, the designer of the People’s Great Hall in Beijing and th e former vice minister of the Ministry of Construction, Mr. Ni Tianzeng, the former vice mayor of Shanghai, and Mr. P.J. Schoots, the former director of the Rotterdam City Library. In March 1989 the Municipal Construction Commission finally authorized the plan. Later, the Institute further modified the plan according to the opinions made by the former mayor Mr. Zhu Rongji (now the vice premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China) who visited the Library in 1990. The secondary technical design and working drawing started in 1991 and 1992 respectively. The foundation stone laying ceremony was held on 25 March 1993. The new building of the Shanghai Library, one of the city’s ten great cultural projects in the last decade of the 20th century, will officially open in Decem ber 1996. The city of Shanghai will soon have a beautiful modern library people have for years been yearning for.

The new institution is located in the city’s educational and academic center, surrounded by a group of well-known universities and research institutions of China. With a total floor space of 83,000 square meters, the new Library is composed of two tower buildings in 11 and 24 stories respectively, modeling itself somewhere after the old Library’s European style building. The building is about 20 to 50 meters away from the noisy streets. Around the building is a green area of over 11,000 square meters, a long band of sloping grassland along the streets, two big squares called The Wisdom and The Knowledge and a group of eye-catching sculptures. The broad and wide stone steps lead the visitors directly to the entrance hall on the first floor. The idea of such design is to bring out a strik ing contrast to the crowded streets of the city. Paintings, calligraphic works and bonsai will be shown everywhere and make the building elegant and magnificent. The Library will surely be one of the city’s symbolic architectures and the most attractive meeting places.

The merger between Shanghai Library and ISTIS

October 4, 1995 was the Library’s most important day in its history. The Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of Shanghai (ISTIS), one of the city’s leading information centers, was associated with the Library, becoming the first combination of library and information services in the country. This is an epoch-making event in the Chinese librarianship. The new institution will organic ally and virtually combine the two organizations, complement each other’s superiority, and provide the first-class information services for the research community as well as for the general public. The merger has provided a significant chance for the new institution to restructure itself towards a new direction: the Library as a center of information resources, a clearing house, a “think tank”, a school of social education and a meeting place for recreation. The new Library will also serve itself as a coordinator among all kinds of libraries and information services in the city.

Open access

The new Library is built on the concept of open access and as many as 1,000,000 books will be displayed in its 23 large-scale reading rooms. All the new materials published within 10 years will be openly shelved and easily accessed. Books and periodicals in the reading rooms are for reference only but multiple copies of the local materials are prepared in the closed stacks to support circulation. A rapid book-carrier system connecting all the stacks in the building makes the access easier. There is also an open-stack lending department for Chinese books. As many as 300,000 books will be put on the open shelves for readers to take home.

Rational allocation

The new building will accommodate two institutions, including 10 million volumes for the Shanghai Library and 30 million items for the ISTIS. To put such a huge resource in order, the architects and the librarians had tried many proposals before a comparatively rational plan was adopted. Now the new plan has the following features: first, the Shanghai Library and the ISTIS’s holdings are virtuall y combined; second, departments are arranged according to the frequency of library use, that means heavily used materials are on the lower floors and not so frequently used materials are on the higher floors; and third, reading rooms are compactly laid out and readers will not feel that their required materials are far apart. A sign system will be designed to lead readers to the very places they want. Lifts are available to all the reading floors and escalators ceaselessly carry people along to the second and third floors.

Flexible service departments

A modular system is introduced into the new building. The reading rooms can be freely separated and there will be 23 reading rooms at the time of the opening. There will be 3,000 individual study places distributed over all floors. For those who want to study quietly the new Library provides 24 closed study carrels where readers can keep a group of the Library’s materials for a certain period but they have to be booked in advance. Reference desks are scattered all over the reading floors. Exhibitions to display the Library’s special holdings will be decorated in the reading rooms. For instance, a book history exhibition with different themes each time will be regularly held in the Chinese Rarebooks Reading Room.

The digital library project

The Library will introduce the latest technology to form a first-class information management system. The Library will cooperate with the Ameritech Company (USA) to have its Horizon library system customized for the Chinese users. The new system will have five modules: acquisitions, cataloguing, circulation, serials and OPACs. A CD-net will be installed to have the Library’s special collections s canned and stored into the optical database systems. A bibliographic system will be developed and the two institutions’ original bibliographic systems, for instance, Index to the Periodicals and Newspapers Published in China and The patent information system, will be upgraded. Administration work will also be automated and networked. All the systems will be integrated within the Library’ s Local Area Network (LAN) and connected to the world’s major networks, such as the Chinanet, Cernet and Internet. Shanghai Library will be an important node in the library world.

Think tank and Reference services

Both the Shanghai Library and the ISTIS have a reputation for providing reference services for the city’s social and industrial development. The Shanghai Library has participated many of the city’s major industrial projects by providing information services. For instance, the Library once assisted the construction of the tunnels across the Huangpu River by providing the archives of subsurface str ucture. The ISTIS often organizes information research projects for academic community and the municipal government. The first draft of “The Information Port Project (the information superhighway project)” of Shanghai was done by the staff of the ISTIS. The new institution will effectively exploit their advantages to the full and set up a new reference department. The department will continue to organize research projects and answer readers’ daily inquiries.

Audio and visual services

There is a large area opening for multimedia and A/V services. The Shanghai Library maintains the country’s largest gramophone records collection of 140,000 pieces, including most of the Chinese local operas, dramas and musicals and all these materials are going to be recorded into an optical database. A music appreciation room, a sound laboratory and many individual and group rooms are prepared to meet readers’ various needs. There is also a big studio for producing sound records, videos and dramas. The ISTIS has produced a long TV series of New Sci-Tech 3 minutes, covering 100 interesting scientific stories that have been broadcast on Shanghai TV. The new A/V Department will take advantage of newly installed A/V facilities, satellite receivers and library networking system to m ake multimedia programs for televisions, broadcasting stations and other social and educational activities.

Cultural activities

To make the new Shanghai Library a city’s symbolic cultural center, the building provides various cultural and recreational facilities. An 842-seat lecture hall, a 300-seat multi-functional hall and four seminar rooms are well decorated and equipped with simultaneous interpretation facilities. Two exhibition halls of up to 1,700 square meters are prepared to display the Library’s favorite holding s, to hold cultural exhibitions, or to organize various social meetings. The Library will open a Reading Cafe, a bookstore, a library shop as well as Automatic Teller Machines, telephones and other facilities for public services. Many social activities can be held there in the new building, such as press conferences, new release meetings and new production demonstrations, art auctions. Friends of the library will also be organized to attract more people to support the Library.