- The UNESCO Public Library Manifesto proclaims the belief in the public library as a living force for education, culture and information, and as an essential agent for the fostering of peace and spiritual welfare through the minds of men and women. The provision of public library service in Hong Kong is the responsibility of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. The Department aims to provide public library services to meet the community's need for knowledge, information and research, to support life-long learning, continuous education and profitable use of leisure time, and to promote local literary arts. The Hong Kong Public Libraries aims to serve the public in the following ways:
- as an information centre where information and the latest development on all subject disciplines are freely and readily available to the public;
- as a tool for self-education and continuing education through resource-based learning;
- as a centre for the promotion of literary arts and literary research in Hong Kong to cultivate public interest in creative writing and literary research, to encourage and promote literary writing, preserve Hong Kong literature, and promote cultural exchange;
- as a source of enjoyment for the profitable use of leisure where library materials may be borrowed for home use; and
- as a source for the enrichment of everyday living where members of the public may learn about current affairs, hobbies, and leisure pursuits.
- The Hong Kong Public Libraries provides a network of 70 static libraries and 12 mobile libraries. They are evenly spread over the territory of Hong Kong and interconnected by an integrated automated library system to provide convenient access to a wide range of library services for people of all age groups and walks of life. The library collection has 14.90 million items, including books, audio-visual materials, newspapers, periodicals, CD-ROM databases, microforms and maps. Some of these library materials may be borrowed whilst others are for use in the libraries.
- The extensive use of information technology improved the efficiency in delivering library services, enhance and speed up access to the library collections and optimize use of available staff resources. The automated library system is one of the largest computerised library systems in the world with Chinese and English capabilities. Through the Library Catalogue terminals, Internet facilities and multimedia terminals, information in electronic and multimedia formats has fast become an integral part of the library's resources. Remote access to library services including telephone and web renewal service, online reservation service and email enquiry service gives the public greater convenience than ever before.
- Comprehensive reference and information services are provided in the City Hall, Kowloon, Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai, Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun Public Libraries where a large collection of local studies materials, general reference materials, electronic databases and special collections are held and access to online databases and the Internet are provided to satisfy readers need for information. The Hong Kong Central Library is noted for its most extensive reference collections, amongst which are the depository collections of major international organisations and the legal depository collection of Hong Kong.
- Extension Activities form an integral part of library services. The educational and recreational programmes such as reading programmes, storytelling for children, book displays, exhibitions and subject talks organised throughout the year at the libraries all contribute to promote the use of library facilities, inculcate life-long reading habits and to enhance the public appreciation of the importance of free access to up-to-date information. The libraries also play an active role in promoting literary arts in Hong Kong. Literary awards and competitions, the Hong Kong Literature Festival and a wide range of literary activities are regularly organised.
- The year 2001 was an important landmark for the public library service in Hong Kong. The construction of the Hong Kong Central Library at Moreton Terrace, Causeway Bay, was completed. The Library was open to the public on 17 May 2001 and it is now the largest public library in Hong Kong with a capacity of holding 2 million items of library materials. Equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and digital library facilities, the Library is also the administrative headquarters and the main library of the Hong Kong public library network as well as the major information centre for Hong Kong. In addition to standard library facilities and services, the Library provides a central reference library of 6 subject departments, a toy library, a young adult library and hiring facilities comprising an exhibition gallery and a lecture theatre.