Reading comprehension not only determines one’s competitive ability in learning but also involves the future development of a country. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2009, students’ reading ability in Taiwan is 23rd out of 68 countries, falling far behind Shanghai, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and Singapore. Results such as this are nothing less than a warning about reading education in Taiwan. It is also an opportunity for libraries to ponder why in the last ten plus years the nationwide reading initiative seems to have stopped at the level of “activities” and neglected improvement in reading ability, reading comprehension, and knowledge construction.
Another interesting phenomenon is the continual innovation in digital media, which means that e-reading will become one of the keys to strengthening students’ competitive edge in the future. However, disparity in e-resources has caused those who lack these resources to fall into a cycle of disadvantage. Therefore, the advent of the knowledge economy has made it critical for modern libraries to provide an optimized reading environment and utilize e-services with which to cultivate educated and modern citizens of the nation and the world. Doing so will create knowledge, increase a nation’s competitive edge, and forge a society that loves reading.
Government support of libraries is analogous to investing in future competitive power. In looking back, the digital content industry has been developing in Taiwan for some time now. In fact, it has been more than ten years. National Central Library started participating in an e-archive project in 2002, where it has filled the role of archiving publications in Taiwan and expanding value-added e-services. On August 31, 2009, the Executive Yuan approved a new project, E-learning and Promoting the Archival Industry. It gives priority development to digital content companies to produce e-publications. In the wake of the era of new reading, NCL has a solemn duty to not only promote strategies for the long-term development of e-publications in Taiwan but also e-reading as well. Therefore, the fact that NCL has an abundance of ancient books and digital audio-visual resources is helpful to scholarly research and can provide amazing benefits in improving educational competency in the humanities and in demonstrating the status of the Chinese civilization in the world. With government support, NCL led forth by proposing the National Long-term Archival of E-Publications Plan and creating the National Central Library’s E-Publication Platform System (EPS) as a response to new trends in e-reading.
In promoting e-reading and providing readers with better and more diverse reading selections, NCL has plans to produce an array of e-books, including An Overview of the Chinese Classics and Taiwan Memory. Our desire is to provide different ages with shorter e-books like this that are replete with knowledge and thereby promote e-reading. In addition to providing superb content, NCL also desires to understand the needs of industry and the general public with regard to pleasure reading and research. It is our greatest desire to be able to show forth the quintessence of Taiwan culture and Chinese culture and the new charm of e-reading on the stage of world culture. This will allow residents of more rural areas where e-resources are lacking to enjoy the beauty of ancient classics and the humanities, and to improve their reading ability through an internet connection and various types of e-readers.
Tseng Shu-hsien, Director-general
National Central Library