Old library undergoes splendid metamorphosis in forest park

Taipei,  A 30-year-old public library in southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County is looking forward to its re-opening next week after two years of renovation and extension, with the aim of nurturing a culture of reading in the agriculture-dominated part of the country.

The Pingtung County Library, located in the old camphor tree-shrouded Qianxi Park in Pingtung City, will formally re-open on Aug. 28, County Magistrate Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) announced at a press conference on Friday.

Dubbed Taiwan’s first “forest library,” the five-story rejuvenated building, which occupies nearly 5 hectares of land, enjoyed its splendid metamorphosis under a NT$300 million (US$10.2 million) county government renovation project.

Its new entryway, built out of vast transparent glass curtain walls interwoven with black steel bars, highlights the avant-grade nature of the refurbished building, in which new zones have been laid out to provide light foods and serve as venues for performing shows and exhibitions, creating a multi-functional space.

Pan said earlier this year that he wishes to help the nation’s second largest county by population to shake off its unfortunate reputation as a “desert for reading” by increasing the quantity of books borrowed from public libraries in the county, which has a population of 815,000 people.

For this goal to be achieved, the county needed a “proper” library, Pan said, a demand that led him to order the renovation of the old library at the county’s Cultural Affairs Department, along with the construction of a modern extension.

“People still have feelings for old buildings,” he said.

The renovation, however, was not as easy as Pan’s administration team had initially thought.

“Until the dismantling work had actually begun, we had not noticed that the building’s structure was so old and outdated that it needed massive amounts of reinforcement everywhere,” recalled Wu Ming-jung (吳明榮), head of the department.

This setback meant that completion of the renovation was delayed for seven to eight months, with a new design that emphasizes safety, according to Wu.

The work doubled the area of the ground floor of the library to 10,510 square meters, with book space expanded from 130,000 volumes to accommodate 400,000, while the number of seats available for reading increased from 150 to 500, according to the department.

At Friday’s press event, Pan said that because of its bold structural design, bringing together old and new elements, the library will continue to undergo review and improvements after its formal inauguration on Aug. 28.

Bathed in sunlight, the library allows visitors to enjoy a forest atmosphere as soon as they enter the building, thanks to the stand of 50-year-old camphor trees outside. The outdoor reading areas on the second and third floors offer readers the opportunity to view Dawu Mountain in the far distance.

Pan expressed hope that the library will not merely be a place for reading but one in which everyone “can enjoy the fun of reading in different corners (of the building).”

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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