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Top > About Us > Electronic Library Projects

Electronic Library Projects

Electronic Library Projects

What is an electronic library?

What is an electronic library?

An electronic library is a type of service that allows users, without actually stepping into the library, to read library books and conduct research at home, in the office, or at school, using the Internet. Service which enables users to effectively employ electronic data by using an in-library network is also referred to as an "electronic library service." This is a new library service that applies rapidly advancing data processing technology and networking technology, and it is expected to become a highly convenient, epoch-making mode of service.

Definition of an electronic library

Not a few institutions, both in Japan and overseas, are conducting R&D and experiments on the electronic library as a form of library service and as a means of providing comprehensive information. Some practical applications of the electronic library have already been implemented, but a full-fledged start will be made in the future.
Various institutions have been working to develop an electronic library by diverse means, so there is no definition of electronic library in wide common use.
At the NDL, it is defined in the "electronic library concept" as "a library which provides primary and secondary information electronically through communications networks, and the basis for this purpose." Putting emphasis on the library as a mode of service, electronic library service, including in-library services, is broadly defined as "service which enables library users to directly access electronic data via telecommunications networks."

Misconceptions of the electronic library

It is commonly thought that an electronic library enables anyone, at any time or place, to access a library's enormous book collection by using the Internet. It is even believed that one can use all the books in a library's collection without actually going to the library. But these notions are only half-truths.
It is true that an electronic library is aimed at making it possible for anyone, at any time or place, to access digitized resources over the Internet. It is only natural, however, that the contents which can be used over an electronic library are limited to those contents which have been digitized at the library so they can be relayed through a network. The process of digitization is a major one, involving much labor and expense. Libraries have huge book collections and it is not possible to digitize all these resources. It is a huge misconception, therefore, to think that anyone, at any time or place, can access any book in a library.
What is more, most of the books in a library's collection are protected by copyright. Electronic libraries must honor copyright and in digitizing and providing information, ample attention must be given to this copyright.
The NDL plans to actively promote the electronic library as a new library service in the future. As we have just observed, however, this does not mean that all the books in the NDL's collection can be used over a network. Through consultations with all those concerned, progress will be made step-by-step within the range of practical limits.

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Digital contents that can be used in an electronic library

With the NDL's electronic library, the following digital contents and information can be used (as of June 2005).

<Primary information>

<Secondary information>

  • List of titles of the Japanese Periodicals Index
  • Prompt report on Braille books & tape-recorded books in Japan
  • Directory of Japanese Scientific Periodicals
    (The Directory of Japanese Scientific Periodicals Database covers serials on science and technology edited and published by organizations operating in Japan)

<Electronic Exhibition>

  • Digitized exhibition /rare books of the NDL
    (Electronic edition of the exhibition commemorating the NDL's 50th anniversary, held in May 1998. (Created through cooperation between NDL and BBCC (Broadband-network Business chance & Culture Creation)))
  • Nippon in the World
    (This electronic exhibition consists of three parts: "Scenic Mementos of Japan, " "Vienna International Exposition, " and "Modern Japanese Political History Materials." Japanese history, culture, international exchanges, etc. are introduced here multilaterally by digital technology. This exhibition is held in cooperation with the "Bibliotheca Universalis" project, in which national libraries in the world are participating.)
  • NDL Gallery
  • Stacks in the Gallery

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Building digital collection

In the case of an electronic library, the central issues are digitization of the materials owned by the library and electronic provision of the same. At the NDL, this is referred to as the building digital collection. In building the electronic library's collection, advances are scheduled to be made on the basis of the following concepts.

Concept of building digital collection

To contribute to the accumulation and use of cultural assets, the NDL plans to carry out digitization and provision of digital contents. In digitizing materials, attention will be given to the value of the materials as cultural assets and to the demands of users. It is assumed, of course, that copyrights will be honored in the digitization and provision of digital contents.

Future schedule of materials digitization

Of the books owned by the NDL, for the present, digitization in the years 2000 to 2001 is scheduled to be targeted mainly at rare book and books published in the Meiji Period. System construction will proceed in tandem with digitization, and provision is scheduled to begin once the system has been fully prepared.
In the case of recent publications used very frequently, investigations will be made for digitization of journals, materials on scientific technology, etc. at the stage where copyrights clearance system can be executed faithfully.

Creation and provision of secondary information

The scope of catalog information provided is scheduled to be expanded from the year 2002.

Edited contents

The "Digitized exhibition of rare books of the NDL" is provided in the NDL's website. In addition, the electronic exhibition, "Nippon in the world, " is scheduled to be presented in the near future. It comprises the following three exhibitions: 1) the "Memory of Japanese scenery",2) the "Vienna International Exposition" and 3) "Archive on Japan's modern political history." It is being implemented as a project related to the "Bibliotheca Universalis Project, " and it was created through cooperation between the NDL and the BBCC (Broadband-network Business chance & Culture Creation). The plan for these three digital exhibitions matches the purport of the "Bibliotheca Universalis Project" as a theme of exchanges between peoples. Thus it also gives a picture of Japan, which has modernized through contact with the Western world. In the future, new undertakings are scheduled to be gradually added to the electronic exhibition, centering on NDL holdings.

Electronic information for reference

Reference service is a consultation and question-and- answer service provided so that library personnel can assist users and guide them to appropriate data sources or information whenever they wish to access them. The NDL offers its reference service in response to diverse requests by telephone, in writing, or by direct visits to the library. Typical examples of reference service are scheduled to be provided in the NDL's website. Information from reference books and subject bibliographies are planned to be compiled and provided.

Electronic library functions of the International Library of Children's Literature

This year, the NDL's Ueno Branch Library has been transformed into the International Library of Children's Literature. This library will collect and make available for use, a wide assortment of children's books and related materials from both Japan and overseas. It aims to provide services suitable for a library of the 21st century, including making information readily available through electronic library functions.
The electronic library functions of the International Library of Children's Literature fall into two major categories: a digital archive of information on periodicals and books in the library; and a digital museum where digital images are edited and processed to provide virtual exhibition space. By strengthening these electronic library functions, the following targets will be realized.

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System development

Development of electronic library foundation system

The electronic library is an information system that employs computers and networks. To facilitate use of the electronic library, together with digitization of materials, a computer system which can provide digitized data must be configured.
To achieve mutual cooperation in operations among the three libraries, that is the Tokyo main library, the "Kansai-kan" Library and the International Library of Children's Literature, and to take advantage of the rapid progress made in recent years with computers and networks, the NDL is developing an electronic library information system which will serve as a systematic foundation for its robust database and networks.

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Electronic library plan for the NDL

Formulation of the electronic library concept

From the time plans were laid for the establishment of the "Kansai-kan" library early in the 21st century, the NDL has adopted a number of concepts pertaining to new functions and roles, making active use of data communications and other new technologies. Although the term "electronic library" was still not used at that time, the concepts were based on the provision of service through digitization of materials and networking, using advanced information technology. Over the last several years, in particular, there has been a remarkable increase in use of information technology and data communications over the Internet have been rapidly spreading. In addition, electronic library projects have gotten under way in Japan and in other countries throughout the world. In response to these developments both in Japan and overseas, the NDL in 1997 stipulated the "Working guideline for formulation of the Electronic Library Concept" and an electronic library promotion committee was established in the NDL in April of 1997. At the same time, a conference on the same theme was held, attended by outside academics, scholars and other experts (Chairperson: Professor Masaru Harada, University of Library and Information Science).

Electronic library concept

The electronic library promotion conference, featuring outside academics, scholars and others, conducted an overall investigation of the electronic library which should be realized by the NDL, and in February of 1998, it submitted a report entitled, "Toward Construction of a New Infrastructure of Knowledge, Information and Culture --- For a Free, Creative Information Society."

Electronic Library Promotional Conference Report
Electronic library concept (PDF format 55Kb)
Main document

With the report by the electronic library promotion conference serving as a background paper, the electronic library concept depicts the configuration of the electronic library which the NDL should set up. It will serve as a foundation for detailed planning and implementation of operations in the future. Nevertheless, the electronic library concept is one which involves comprehensive frameworks. Putting it all in place will have to be carried out gradually in stages, taking into consideration budgets and other NDL projects. There are a total of nine chapters, including the first chapter (Introduction) and the last chapter (Steps Towards Realization of the Electronic Library), that describe the electronic library concept.

Electronic library concept (PDF format 55Kb)

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After formulation of the Electronic Library Concept

The Electronic Library Concept was formulated in May of 1998. Nearly two years have elapsed since then, and because the electronic library concept is one which involves comprehensive frameworks, creating it will be carried out steadily in stages in consideration of various conditions. Plans have been made to make the electronic library a new library service of the NDL, and progress is scheduled to be made consistently on the basis of this planning. For the present, efforts will be directed towards gradual introduction of the following groups of materials as electronic library contents.

(1) Primary information
Books published in the Meiji Period
Rare books
Information on Diet session proceedings
(2) Secondary information
Information on all types of catalogs compiled by the NDL
(3) Editing contents such as electronic exhibition
(4) Electronic information valuable as reference
Subject bibliographies
Explanatory notes to reference books
Reference samples
(5) Publications by the NDL

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