Crowd Collecting, Lending and Sharing – New Business Model at the Red Mansion Public Library

2022-May-6 17:35 By:

At No. 156 Xi’anmen Street, there is a Republic of China-styled red brick building, and today it’s called the Red Mansion Public Library. Originally a cinema, it was the first barrier-free cinema with a wide screen in Beijing in the 1930s. In 2012, due to dilapidation, the building underwent a renovation. In 2018, the building was re-opened to the public as a library with a fresh new look. In the end of 2021, aligning to the overall renovation and upgrading of the Xi’anmen Street, the building removed its “makeup” and showed its original look to the public.

Shi Qi, Deputy Dean of Urban Renewal, Architectural Design and Research Institute of Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture

This public library has undergone a number of renovations. We conducted an in-depth study, the limewash and brick surface were carefully polished, so as to best preserve the brick body, remove the lime-glaze and reveal the true look of the building.

The renovated building is divided into four areas: the reading zone, dining zone, the office area, and an area for culturally creative products. Walking into the reading hall, one can feel the original space layout of the cinema.

Shi Qi, Deputy Dean of Urban Renewal, Architectural Design and Research Institute of Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture

The original steps and evacuation space are retained, and the public space is designed considering the people flow in the area. The different zones such as book shelves, reading area and research area are designed to meet the requirements of different people. The highlight is that all the books are kept on the four walls, surrounding visitors from all directions.

Huang Anwen, student, Renmin University of China

I got to know this place on the Internet because it’s famous online. The environment here is very pleasant, also it has a huge amount of books and it’s very quiet. I like the feeling of being surrounded by books, because it calms people down.

The main area of the Public Library is nearly 2,000 square meters, with a collection of nearly 60,000 books in social sciences, humanities and arts. It is worth mentioning that the library has pioneered the model of crowd collecting, reading and sharing. All the books are donated or under a custodianship here. Floor One of the main building is for book sharing, and all the books are from individual donations. Floor Two is for book lending, and all the books are donated by organizations. The books in the reading area on the third floor are collected by famous authors, displaying the manuscripts and collections of six famous writers and allowing dormant books to circulate among a much larger reader population.

Wang Xuan, Director of the Red Mansion Public Library: This is the collection of Mr. Shan Shiyuan, and this is his manuscript.

Reporter: Is this his original manuscript?

Wang Xuan: Yes, the original one. It’s oil-printed. This is the book “Engineering Practice” that explains the architectural principles in Qing Dynasty, and here you can see his handwritten notes.

The east side of the library also has a number of study rooms, which is the area for classic collections and expert researches. One of the study rooms is specially set up for Mr. Yang Hongxun, a student of Liang Sicheng, who was a Chinese archaeologist, architect and historian.

Wang Xuan: This is the study room of Mr. Yang Hongxun. The books here are more precious than those outside, and there are many manuscripts of the master, which are hand written by him, it’s nowhere to be found outside. Today, his students may come to me for some materials. There are not only the manuscripts of the book, but also the drawing sketches of the master, and this is the Dazheng Hall of the Shengjing Imperial Palace in Shenyang.

The Red Mansion Public Library also regularly hosts reading events, lectures, new book releases, reading salons and movie-watching events. To date, it has hosted over a hundred activities, attracting more than 15,000 participants. It’s now a culture platform for authors, book collectors and readers.

Reader: Su Kou

I think it is very rare to find such a quiet place in a bustling city, and it is a free-of-charge public space. It’s such an incredible place, and readers can bring their books to this building.

In the future, the Red Mansion Public Library will continue integrating resources and expanding its services, and bring an immersive cultural experience to readers.

Editor: Zhang Zhou
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