What is the place of books in Macau’s society? What is the place of books elsewhere? We are not accustomed to seeing people reading in public spaces in Macau as one can often see in Europe, or other countries in the so-called developed world. While this does not mean that people here are not reading – they may be more attracted to electronic devices – it suggests that, if people are reading books at all, they do it in their school time, at home, or in public libraries.
With more resources, financial and human, public libraries are capable of affording, collecting, and organizing an array of collections, making knowledge available in several fields, languages, and interests, for free or at a very low cost for a pubic who, otherwise, might not have such a large variety of options.
Libraries are in demand in the city. From kids and teenagers to elderly residents, it is common to see library facilities busy during the day until late at night. They provide a space of rest and a moment of piece for reading and learning in a city too often overly crowded and noisy.
It is public money put to good use if we consider that library users have a good experience with what is being provided to them.
A case of public money applied to general education and leisure time put to bad use was, however, recently revealed in a less than flattering report by the Commission of Audit.
In its report, the Commission claims some 100,000 books from the public library system have been left unattended for years in warehouses found to be in poor condition.
It is hard to foresee how the Cultural Affairs Bureau, which is the entity in charge of the book collections, could provide a convincing explanation for the unexplainable.
In its laconic response so far, the Bureau has only issued a public excuse and a promise to comply with the suggestions made by the Commission.
Is the Bureau lacking money or trained personnel, or simply staff? How can we retrace the origin of such failure? And how and when will they remediate the problem?
No information that could shed light on those questions has been
provided by the competent authorities so far, to explain the negligence and bad management that led to this sad scandal.
We should expect that they will come clean some time soon out of respect to people and knowledge.