About 100 reading spaces have been established across Anhui's provincial capital, Wang Kaihao reports in Hefei.
For Hu Xunyou, 68-year-old resident of Luyang district, Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, Xinghua Park was an ideal spot for him to have fun with his grandson.
However, as the child has grown and seems to have developed many more interests beyond walking in the park, the name of which means "apricot flowers", the senior Hu has found himself a new reason to remain a frequent visitor. In December 2018, the Apricot Flowers Academy opened in the park.
It's a bookstore, a library and a place for people to enjoy some downtime during the scorching summer afternoons of August.
"I always like to read," Hu says. "It's not particularly for any pragmatic purpose, and it's never too late to learn new things, especially in such a nice environment."
The two-floor building, with its lakeside view, was originally planned to be a private club, the construction of which was not finished. However, as China launched a national campaign in recent years demanding such places in shared spaces like parks be returned to public use, it was repurposed to cater to the wider public interest.
Since 2017, renovation has taken place on 92 idle buildings in Hefei, just like the one in Xinghua Park, and turned them into what are called urban reading spaces, according to Meng Xianlei, director of the public cultural service office of the city's culture and tourism bureau.
There are three provincial and city-level public libraries in Hefei, which has over 3 million residents in its city core, and several other smaller-scale district-level libraries.
"But they are unable to meet citizens' needs at a community level," Meng says. "That was why more spaces for reading have to be created."
In 2017, Hefei city government drafted a blueprint to set up 100 urban reading spaces like Apricot Flowers Academy by 2020, and has spent 200 million yuan ($29.6 million) from its budget on the program.
Despite the impact of COVID-19, which saw some construction postponed, Meng says the number of urban reading spaces will reach 113 by the end of this year, exceeding the expectations of the original plan.