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Xi: National Library helps preserve culture

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-10 08:53
Visitors tour an exhibition showcasing over 300 ancient books from around the country in Beijing on Monday, part of the celebration of the 110th birthday of the National Library of China. WANG JING/CHINA DAILY

President writes to hail institute on its 110th anniversary

For the 110th birthday of the National Library of China on Monday, President Xi Jinping wrote a reply to a letter from eight experts from the library to express his greetings and the high value he places on the library's contributions to the country's cultural development.

Xi said that the library, based in Beijing, has a major role in preserving Chinese civilization, improving people's cultivation and bolstering social and economic development. He also urged the library to make use of continuous creativity in its service, better meet people's psychological needs and make new contributions to enhance the country's cultural strength.

The national library was founded in 1909 in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It now houses nearly 40 million books and annually logs over 5 million visits.

Also on Monday, more than 200 library experts and administrators from around the nation and more than 10 countries gathered at the library to explore positive signs in the future development of libraries.

The two-day symposium, using the theme "Keeping Pace with the Times", is among a series of events celebrating the national library's birthday.

Those in attendance included experts from such prestigious institutions as the British Library, the United States' Library of Congress and Egypt's New Library of Alexandria.

Topics include improved services for readers, promotion of humanities, digitization and cross-border communication to encourage sharing of resources.

Gerald Leitner, secretary-general of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, said at the symposium that the world's libraries face many new challenges, but those challenges also bring new opportunities.

"Some of our roles have never changed. ... The need to preserve the past for the benefit of the future, to create access to information and to provide space for learning and discovery are constant," he said.

Leitner praised the significant role of Chinese libraries in global cooperation.

The national library has established publication exchange ties with 550 institutions in more than 110 countries and regions and signed cooperation agreements with 52 libraries around the world, according to Rao Quan, the library's director.

"Libraries are 'gene banks' for the cultures of different countries," Rao said. "An inclusive and open attitude will help us make contributions to multicultural exchanges and mutual learning."

He said bilateral and multilateral cooperative platforms involving China - such as the China-North America Library Conference, the United Kingdom-China Library Forum and the China-Arab Library and Information Science Professionals Conference - have enabled Chinese librarians to get their voices better heard worldwide as well as gain operational experiences from others.

The national library also set up the Silk Road International Library Alliance in 2018.

Such cooperation has contributed to the public's knowledge and academic studies, Rao said. Exhibitions of national library treasures such as ancient books and oracle bones - which have China's earliest known written characters - have toured the world in recent years. The library also has worked with the British Library to exhibit manuscripts from key British authors at the Beijing institution.

The national libraries of China, the UK and France, among others, have also closely coordinated in digitization and preservation of the Dunhuang manuscripts, important documents from the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang, Gansu province, dating from the 4th to 14th centuries, many of which were taken out of China.

For the anniversary, an exhibition showcasing more than 300 precious ancient books from around the country started at the National Museum of Classic Books in Beijing on Saturday. It is the largest and highest-level display of ancient books in China since 1949.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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