Located in northeastern Asia, Japan is a Pacific Rim archipelago country with a total land area of 378,000 sq. km. The first unified government was established in the 4th century. Today, Japan is a democratic constitutional monarchy with a population of over 127 million people.
The word for library in Japanese is "Toshokan." Each city (population over 50,000) has its own public library, which is a very popular establishment in the Japanese community. Information technology has been causing rapid change in libraries. According to statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Internet access for households in Japan has been over 80% since 2002, and over 70% for individuals since 2005. Almost all academic libraries and public libraries have their own public online catalog available via the Internet.
The first public library opened in Japan around 1872, after Western culture was first introduced. The Japan Library Association (JLA) was founded in 1892 to promote library services and librarianship in Japan. In 1906 the first All Japan Library Conference was held, and in 1929 the JLA became a member of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).
After World War II, a new Library Law was enacted in 1950 under the Constitution of Japan. This law stipulated that public libraries should be tax-supported, free of charge, and adequate to meet the information needs of the community. Along with Japanfs rapid economic growth from the 1960s, libraries underwent remarkable development. Mobile libraries were introduced, along with services for children, services for handicapped persons, audiovisual materials, and computers.
The JLA is a non-profit organization representing the library profession in Japan. Membership of the association is composed of three types: individual members (numbering 4,800 as of 2008), institutional members (2,477), and supporting members (55). For professional activities, the present organization consists of six divisions: The Public Library Division, University Library Division, Junior College Division, School Library Division, Special Library Division, and the Library Education Division.
There were 3,106 public libraries in Japan in 2008, including 62 prefectural libraries, 2,433 city libraries, 610 town libraries, and one regional library. A total of 6,541 professional librarians worked at those public libraries, and the libraries lent out some 656 million books and audiovisual materials. Thus, on average, each Japanese person borrowed 5.5 items.
The number of towns without a public library is fewer than ever. However, this is largely because the total number of local municipalities in Japan has dramatically decreased, due to the widespread merging of cities, towns, and villages.
Reform of the social system is currently a critical issue in Japan. The population is rapidly aging, and economic development has slowed. Some local governments are trying to apply private-sector management methods to public administration of facilities and services. Some libraries are outsourcing their services to the private sector or operating on the basis of a Private Finance Initiative, which results in a decline in employment of professional librarians.
With the rapid spread of information and communication technology in recent years, the Japanese information environment has changed dramatically. Most people have access to personal computers and are proficient at using the Internet. Local governments have promoted networking, and online systems have been installed in many public libraries, even in small towns. Thus, people can use online public access catalogs and digital content via the Internet. The gintegrated circuith tag has also been introduced at several libraries.
The communities that public libraries serve are diverse, so libraries need to respond dynamically to the current needs of their users. Lifelong education and business support are new challenges for public libraries, and other new types of services are also required. The Japan Library Association is holding a series of continuing education programs and has started a new committee to explore developments in the library profession. Recently qualified librarians or information specialists are required to fill these needs.
In June 2008, the Diet passed an amendment to the Library Law under which public libraries are established. New curricula for librarianship studies have been developed based on the law, and this will become effective in 2012.
In 2007, there were 758 four-year universities (Daigaku) in Japan. Of these, 86 belonged to national university corporations, 77 were public, and 595 were private. About 2.8 million students were studying at these institutions. In addition, there were 435 two-year colleges (Tanki Daigaku or Tandai) with 180,000 students enrolled. The total number of university library staff was 13,039, of which 6,399 were full-time workers. Although there is no official certification for academic librarians in Japan, 6,929 staff-members had librarian certifications (Shisho). University libraries all together held 291 million books, 4 million periodicals, and 1.9 electronic journals. The total budget for library materials was about 75 billion yen, which accounted for 1.2% of total institution costs.
In most university libraries, the bibliographic and holdings data are entered into the database of the National Institute of Informatics, and this database system is called NACSIS-CAT. The institute also provides document delivery and interlibrary loan services, called NACSIS-ILL. Of all the academic libraries, 90% have their own public catalog available on the Internet, and many large universities also make their digitized rare book collection available to public via their website. Over 100 institutional repositories have open access, through which one can access academic journal articles, research project reports, classroom materials, etc.
In Japanfs aging population, the number of 18-year-olds is decreasing, and this trend is of great concern to university administrators. Universities are evaluated by an accreditation association that assesses the quality of services, administration, budget, etc.
In 2003, the National University Corporation Law went into effect. Former national universities took on corporate status and were expected to develop their distinct educational and research functions at their own initiative, using their management autonomy and independence. All workers including library staff became non-governmental officials, and the idea of private management policy was also introduced.
Since the 1990s, the continuous price increases of academic journals have resulted in a decrease of journal title subscriptions in libraries. Some universities have joined together in consortia and contracted with commercial publishers for access to electronic journals. From 2002, the Association of National Universities, contracting with some foreign publishers, offered access to over 2,600 e-journals. Many university libraries are open until late in the evening and on holidays, allowing working graduate students and other researchers to use the libraries, reflecting the needs of a lifelong education society.
Almost all schools in Japan have libraries. In the 2008 school year, Japan had 22,476 elementary schools, 10,915 junior high schools, 5,243 high schools, 37 middle schools, and 1,026 special schools, according to statistics from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
The prevalence of school libraries is due to the 1953 School Library Law, which stipulated that schools should have libraries, although an amendment made it not obligatory for schools to hire a teacher librarian to administer the school libraries professionally. Thus, many school librarians have worked without any official qualification.
Since the 1990s, reform movements have arisen to develop school libraries, and more and more people have been taking interest. People have become aware of the need to promote more voluntary reading among children, to change school education into a more individualized and child-centered teaching style, and to develop information literacy instruction in schools.
One of the accomplishments of these movements is the 1997 amendment of the School Library Law, which led to the dispatch of teacher librarians to all schools having more than 12 classes, which means almost half of all Japanese schools, before the end of March 2003. However, most teacher librarians do not receive any exemption from their regular duties as classroom subject teachers.
Furthermore, some government measures in the 1990s and the 2000s have budgeted especially for improvements of school library books and facilities. The newest measure grants 100 billion yen from the Japanese national government to local governments for improving school library book collections. The money will be disbursed over five years starting in 2007. Thus, 20 billion yen has already been granted to local governments for 2007 and again for 2008. It is expected that this money will enrich school library collections.
Special libraries differ from other libraries because they provide unique resources and services. They belong to a diverse group of organizations including government offices, local assemblies, private institutions, research institutions, enterprises, universities and colleges, museums and archives, and other organizations.
According to a 2009 survey conducted by the Japan Special Libraries Association (JSLA), there are 1,761 institutions listed in its publication, the Directory of Special Libraries in Japan, 2009.
The JSLA was founded in 1952 and has over 500 member institutions. It is the largest of several associations related to special libraries. The JSLA organizes a variety of activities and seminars, issues a journal, the Bulletin of the Japan Special Libraries Association, and a mail magazine. It also provides information on its website and conducts research on special libraries in order to contribute to the development of libraries and information professionals. JSLA works to enhance its international network with the Special Libraries Associations of the United States as well as other special libraries in Asia.
National Diet Library
The National Diet Library (NDL) is the sole national library in Japan, established in 1948 under the National Diet Library Law. It consists of the Tokyo Main Library, Kansai-kan, and the International Library of Childrenfs Literature. The libraryfs primary function is to assist Diet members in performing their duties as elected members of parliament.
The libraryfs Research and Legislative Reference Bureau provides research services to the Diet. It replies to more than 40,000 research requests per year and also researches issues expected to attract attention of the Diet members. The library publishes the results of its research in its own publications.
The NDLfs mission also includes providing library services for the executive and judicial branches of the national government as well as for the general public. The library supports other domestic libraries with training programs and other assistance.
As the only legal depository library in Japan, the NDL acquires all materials published in Japan, preserves them as the national cultural heritage, and compiles the Japanese National Bibliography. With these collections, the library provides services directly to on-site users and indirectly through interlibrary services and the Internet.
In addition to books, periodicals and other tangible library materials, the NDL has been collecting Internet information since 2002 with its gWeb Archiving Projecth (WARP) based on permission from copyright holders. In April 2010, it starts to collect Internet information produced by the national government and local governments, as well as national universities and other public institutions, under a legal framework based on the National Diet Library Law amended in July 2009, which takes effect in April 2010. The library is also making an effort to preserve its holdings by means of digitization. The revised Copyright Law enables the NDL from 2010 to digitize its materials for the purpose of preservation without the permission of copyright holders.
The NDL is actively promoting other services via the Internet. Its National Diet Library Digital Archive Portal (PORTA) offers integrated search and direct access to 45 databases of the NDL and other domestic institutions (as of September 2009). In addition, gResearch Navih is a research guide to effective information gathering. Various other content is also available via the NDLfs website (http://www.ndl.go.jp/en/index.html), including gDigital Library from the Meiji Erah and gFull-text Database System for the Minutes of Diet.h
As of April 2009, the NDL had 898 staff, a budget of some 21.6 billion yen (initial FY2009 budget), 9.3 million books and 238,000 serial titles (as of the end of FY2008). The library has also been acting as the Japanese National Centre for ISSN since 1976 and as the IFLA PAC (Preservation and Conservation) Regional Centre for Asia since 1989.