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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 81, December 2014

Special topic: How to enhance acquisition activities in your library

Acquisition activities in the National Library of China

By Li Dan, National Library of China


1. Introduction of the National Library of China

The National Library of China (NLC) serves as the repository of the nation's publications, a national bibliographic center, as well a national center for the preservation and conservation for ancient books. The major mission of the NLC includes: the collection and preservation of domestic and foreign publications; national coordination of document preservation and conservation work; provision of information and reference services to the central government, other governmental organizations, social organizations, and the general public; research in library sciences, and development of library services and programs, and guidance to other libraries in China with its expertise; the fulfillment of its role in international cultural exchanges through participation in the activities of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and other related organizations worldwide, as well as the promotion of exchanges and cooperation with other libraries in China and abroad.

2. Overview of the NLC's collection

The NLC hosts vast and comprehensive holdings, including extensive collections in foreign languages and many historical books. By 2013, the NLC's collection totaled about 32,442,800 volumes and artifacts. It is renowned for its collection of ancient and rare materials. The NLC houses about 2,900,000 rare records.

The NLC comprehensively collects all available books in Chinese. The NLC also has special collections of manuscripts of notable authors, documents on revolutionary history and doctoral dissertations in China. It is also one of the depository libraries for publications of the United Nations and other international organizations as well as foreign governments. With the development of various new types of information media, the NLC has also begun collecting more electronic publications. By 2013, the NLC hosts a digital collection of 874.5TB of which 737.9TB is self-constructed.

3. Acquisition activities in the NLC

General principles of acquisition in the NLC are as follows: comprehensive collecting Chinese resource and selective collecting foreign language resource, comprehensive collecting domestic resource and selective collecting overseas resource, and more titles and less copies.

The NLC collects Chinese documents generally by legal deposit, purchase, and donation and foreign documents generally by purchase and exchange to build up a high-quality base to reserve national literature and information resources, and create a system of information resources with abundant contents, various forms, complete species and definite characteristics.

3.1 Chinese Books

There are mainly three approaches for Chinese books acquisition in the NLC, namely legal deposit, purchase and donation.

a) Legal deposit

The NLC officially started to receive legal deposit copies of domestic publications in 1916.The legal deposit system is mainly secured by promulgated regulations by government in China, recently, the regulation is (91) xinchutuzi (新出图字) No. 990 On the Methods of Depositing the Copies of Books, Periodicals and Newspapers. Moreover, the Legal Deposit of Domestic Publications Section was set up in Chinese Acquisitions & Cataloguing Department to deal with daily affairs related to legal deposit. It keeps close relationships with publishing houses across the country and timely urges them to intensify publication deposit.

Additionally, the NLC Legal Deposit Administration Platform was released several years ago to serve both publishers and librarians. It provides legal deposit feedback and statistics for publishers as well as registration and statistics of deposited items.

< NLC Legal Deposit Administration Platform >

b) Purchase

Purchase is the regular way of Chinese books acquisition. The total acquisition budget is about RMB 170 million in which about 18% is for Chinese books purchasing. The NLC adjusts collection structure according to overall need of collection development.

c) Donation

The NLC accepts donation of domestic and overseas which richen its collection. Document types include rare books, map & atlas, epigraphs & rubbings, commentaries of renowned scholars, manuscripts of renowned scholars' masterpieces and revolution historical documents which have relatively high values for conservation and research. For other documentary material varieties that have not been collected in the NLC or documentary materials that have few copies, the NLC will also take into consideration.

For any donated document accepted by the NLC, either for permanent conservation or temporary user services, the NLC will award an honorary certificate or thank you letter to the donator(s).

Besides, the NLC also released "lack of collection list" on its website for public awareness to ensure donation efficiency. Users can also recommend the lacked documents by filling in the recommendation form at the information desk or directly contact to the acquisition department. Recommendation may be adopted according to its value.

< Lack of collection list >

3.2 Rare Books

The NLC actively collects specially-featured documents such as rare books, famous people's manuscripts, etc. by auction and negotiation. Close attention is usually paid to auction market and librarians assigned to participate in document selection and bidding, etc.

At the same time, collecting original version and copied version of Chinese rare books and ancient books that have drifted abroad is another important way of rare books acquisition.

Besides, donation from celebrities is also good supplement to the Library's collection. For example, among manuscripts donated by the Chinese-American collector Chen Canpei, those of the famous Chinese architect Liang Sicheng are one of the most valuable parts of the Library's holdings.

3.3 Digital Resources

The NLC purchases general resources while build characteristic resources on self-reliance. The emphasis is laid on construction, processing, reservation and spreading of Chinese digital resources; construction of permanently reserved resources and Chinese digital information assuring base; creation and collection of metadata of Chinese digital resources.

For digital resources, there are five major approaches of digital collection in the NLC:

a) Legal deposit

As a statutory right, legal deposit can really save expenditure as well as acquire more digital resources as far as possible.

b) Purchase or subscription

Purchase or subscription is an important commercial licensing mode and includes acquisition of the perpetual access right or ownership of the digital content such as e-books and periodic subscription to commercial resources, such as e-journals, databases and encyclopedia.

c) Collection digitization

For rare collection, such as ancient books, manuscripts, maps and oracle bones, the NLC digitizes the contents and makes them available online to protect the original and provides access to the public. The NLC also makes format conversion of sound recordings, pictures and motion pictures for long-term preservation.

d) Web Navigation

The NLC constructs web navigation of the following resources: scholarly information which is freely available on the web, subject-based information gateways and portals, online research tools and open access resources. e.g

< Library information portal >

e) Digital Archiving

Web archiving in the NLC focuses on Chinese domain, and those web resources in Chinese or on China or important events, for example the Beijing2008 Olympic Games and materials on the latest progress in aeronautics.

< Beijing 2008 Olympic Games archiving page >

< 2012 Shenzhou 9 spacecraft archiving page >

3.4 Foreign Documents

a) Purchase

The NLC began purchasing foreign documents in 1920s. Among the NLC's expenditure on document purchasing, proportion of foreign documents is more than 50%. Foreign documents in more than 100 languages occupies 40% of all the holdings of the NLC.

b) Exchange

Exchange is an important supplement to purchase foreign documents. The NLC began acquiring foreign documents through international exchange from1949 and now has formed partnerships with 552 institutions (including national libraries, academic libraries, public libraries and other academic communities) in 117 countries and regions for exchanges of publications. Publications acquired by exchange include books, periodicals and audio video materials which contain valuable specific subject documents, non-official materials and publications from international organization and foreign governments.

4. Difficulties and Comments

Documents collection is usually restrained by rules and regulations in China, for example, the basis for legal deposit is regulations but not laws, which means that legal deposit of domestic publications has not been legislative systemized. Further promoting deposit of domestic publications needs the support of national policies.

More attention should be paid to audio video materials, microfilm documents and informal publications because of advantages of space and valuable information.

Communication and cooperation between the NLC and other libraries both home and abroad should be further strengthened to promote resource sharing and improve efficiency and value of the collection.

Copyright (C) 2014 National Library of China


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