Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Hong Kong Public Library (HKPL)

One of the things I love about Hong Kong is its public libraries.

I can get almost any book I want from there (for myself or for the kids) and what they don't have, I could always fill up a form to recommend that they purchase it. I've suggested a few books that I wanted to get my hands on, but was too cheap lazy to buy myself and the public library has come through for me. How cool is that.

Some public libraries would have a more extensive selection of English titles than others, I think. The Central Library (Note: The one in Causeway Bay, across from Victoria Park) and the libraries in Central (City Hall) and Stanley would probably have a bit more English titles than others.

The librarians are generally very helpful. Once, I lost (!) a library book and went to pay the fine. The librarian on duty suggested that I simply keep on renewing the book until I've used up all five (or six?) renewals that are allowed for each book, in the vain hope that the book might turn up somewhere. When my time was up, I went back to pay and the librarian took pains to explain to me that I need to keep the receipt for the fine, just in case I find the book or somebody finds and returns the book, then they will refund me what I just paid --for as long as I have the receipt. Nice, no?

The whole process of borrowing books is so painless and that's what I love most about the HKPL. This is what I usually do when I need reading materials:

1. Go to and browse through favorite authors to see if they have any new titles out or I simply go through the bestsellers lists. Anything that seems interesting, I jot down.

2. Search through HKPL's website to see if they have the title/s I want. You can do this by book title or by author. You can even sort results by descending publication year so that you get the latest books at the top of the results list.

3. If I see what I want from the list, I just click on it and a list will come out telling me which libraries would have the book/s and whether they are currently available, reserved by others, or checked out. If the title/s can only be found at a library that's quite far from where I would normally venture, I'd just click the "Make a Reservation" button. It will then lead me to a page asking me at which library would I want to pick up the reserved book/s. There's a pull-down menu and you simply click the one to where you would want to have the book delivered. It will then ask you to key in your Libary Card number (or your HK ID card number --if you've applied to use your Smart ID to enjoy library services) and your PIN.

4. Wait for the email notifying me that the book/s I'd reserved are ready for pick-up. (You get email notification if you have signed up for it; otherwise, I think you get a call from the library.)

5. Once I get the email, I just hie off to the library, shove my HKID into the thingamajig, pay HK$2.50 for each book that I'd reserved, and voila! I have my books.

6. If you need to renew, you can also renew online --as the book is not overdue yet. Each book gets at least five (maybe six) renewals. Each renewal is for a period of two weeks from when you do the renewal.

You can get a library card for your child once he/she turns 3yo. It's great to start them out young and trips to the library rank as highly as trips to Disneyland, in my book (excuse the pun). They're educational, not to mention cheaper, too!


  1. How much did you have to pay??
    I did that too because the librarian told me to do that. I was wondering how much I would have to pay.

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  3. @Anonymous: I paid over HK$200 for the book that I'd lost. It was a new book, hardcover.