The new National Library of Public Information (國立公共資訊圖書館) in Taichung has heads turning.
“It looks like a whale swimming in the ocean,” said Taichung resident Jennifer Chan (詹淑君), who recently visited the library with her husband to borrow romance and kung fu books.
The building’s unique serpentine shape is meant to represent a river of knowledge, says Cheng Mu-ning (鄭慕寧), the library’s deputy director.
Angular windows and walls are symbolic of the flow of information both in modern and traditional form, he said.
The 41,000-square-meters building, designed by J. J. Pan and Partners of Taipei, officially opened June 3 to a storm of 15,000 visitors. To help temper the excitement, volunteers had to hold signs reminding visitors to be quiet, not to run and not to take photos. Library officials said they expect upwards of 5,000 visitors per weekend until the novelty wanes.
Located on Wuquan Road (五權路) in the city’s less commercial southern district, the library cost NT$1.2 billion to build, and is close to a planned MRT station, Cheng said. The library is run by a staff of 92 employees and nearly 500 volunteers.
Touted by its designers as a digital library, the five-story building is six times larger than the old library across town and features a multimedia section that includes 15,000 electronic books.
Plans for the now-closed old library on Jingwu Road (精武路) are uncertain, but possibilities include converting it to a Taichung City or university library, Cheng said. One other option, he added, is that it could become a branch of the Taichung National Library. The new library’s collection of 1 million books is five times the amount held at the old location, which had limited shelving space.
“We’re not only proud that the library can help out the Taichung community, but also the whole country,” Cheng said. “We wanted to be an example of a new model of public library in the country.”
The new library’s color-coded floors are thematic with browns, greens and blues representing a tree growing into the sky. The first floor houses the children’s library, with the second floor devoted to digital learning and entertainment. Multicultural services are found on the third floor, including American, British and French information corners, with books and videos promoting international culture and tourism. Books of fiction, linguistics and social sciences are on the fourth floor, with the fifth floor set aside for young adults and the foreign language collection.
“We want to satisfy people of all ages,” Cheng said.
One visitor who seemed satisfied was Patty Chiun (莊詠菁), who was using one of the library’s interactive whiteboards with an interpretive video to read a classic poem by Su Dong-po (蘇東坡).
“It’s a lot easier with this video to help explain the deep meaning of this poem,” said Chiun, a resident of Taipei.
For Taichung sixth grader Leo Yang (楊立敖), all the high-tech gadgets make reading about math and nature less boring and more fun. Yang said he plans to visit the new library at least once per week to help with his studies.
That’s exactly what library representative Luke Liang (梁鴻栩) likes to hear. While thrilled with all of the new bells and whistles, such as a robot owl that automatically returns books to the children’s section, he’s eager to focus on the library’s main goal. “Too much technology can be distracting,” he said. “We still want people to read.”