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UPDATED: September 25, 2008  
National Library, World's 3rd Largest
The completion of the new building makes the National Library of China the world's third largest library

The interior of the new building of the National Library of China

The new National Library of China (NLC) opened to the public at 2 p.m. on September 9. Frequent readers formed long queues to take a first look at the new building.

The old National Library building, completed in 1987, was listed as one of Beijing's "top ten architectural landmarks of the 1980s", but at 12,000 a day, visitors had long since outgrown its capacity and a new building had been planned several years ago.

Started in late 2004, the new 1.2 billion yuan complex is shaped like a gigantic book. It has 2,900 seats in its 80,000 square meter area and is expected to be able to meet increasing demand for the next 30 years.

The completion of the new building makes the National Library of China the world's third largest library.

The new building has been designed with the needs of the public in mind and aims to provide space and comfort to readers. Anyone in the world can visit the library on production of a passport or ID card, said deputy curator Chen Li.

In the central reading spaces, enclosed by a glass roof and glass walls, readers will feel like they are sitting in a sunny courtyard, he added.

A new digital library service also opened to public yesterday. The LAN (local area network) of the digital library covers the entire building, and anyone with a laptop can explore the database free of charge. There are also 560 computers available for readers without laptops. The computers are free for the first hour and cost 3 yuan per hour thereafter. For disabled people the service is totally free.

Chen said that the National Library has the largest collection of Chinese literature, the largest digital resources base, and the most advanced information network service in China.

In cooperation with the China Disabled Persons' Federation and the China Braille Publishing House, the National Library has launched a special internet service for visually impaired people. The special website aims to give the visually impaired open and equal access to the library's knowledge base.

For rare book fans, the new building's biggest attraction will be the first floor, where a special glass room houses original copies of the Siku Quanshu (Complete Works of Chinese Classics – a huge Encyclopedia project initiated by the Qing Emperor Qianlong, who reigned from 1735 to 1796). The original Siku Quanshu has not been available to the public for more than 80 years. Now, every body can take a close look at what has been called the "most ambitious editorial enterprise in the history of the world."

History of the NLC

The forerunner of the National Library of China, the Metropolitan Library, was founded on April 24, 1909 by the Qing Imperial government but was not formally opened until 1912, after the Revolution of 1911 (the Chinese bourgeois democratic revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen which overthrew the Qing Dynasty). In July 1928, its name was changed to the National Beijing Library.

(China.org.cn September 10, 2008)


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