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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 82, May 2015

Special topic: Public relations activities

The Cultural / Public Relations Activities of the NDL

By Akihiro NAKAWATARI, National Diet Library, Japan
Makiko HONDA, National Diet Library, Japan

This article is based on a presentation given at the 33rd Mutual Visit Program between the National Diet Library and the National Library of China held on November 20, 2014.
Some of the webpages linked to this article are available in Japanese only.


1. Introduction

The National Diet Library (NDL) consists of three facilities: the Tokyo Main Library, the Kansai-kan, and the International Library of Children's Literature (ILCL). These three facilities comprise the sole national deposit library of Japan and serve as a reference library and advisory body to the National Diet, and as a whole provide a variety of services to the National Diet, to the executive and judicial branches of the government, and to the general public.

In the NDL's Mission and Objectives 2012-2016, which was established in 2012, Collaboration and Cooperation is specified as the fourth in a series of objectives. Specifically, this item says: "we will work together with other institutions, both in Japan and abroad, to expand and make useful our knowledge base and cultural infrastructure." One of the strategic goals set under this objective is to "convey the attraction of books and libraries." The following activities are given as means to achieving this goal: "expand events, exhibitions, electronic exhibitions and publications, and make our collections and activities more widely known" as well as "prepare an environment which fosters affection for reading, and encourages children's reading activities." Accordingly, we make efforts to enrich our cultural and public relations activities in order to fulfill these goals.

2. Cultural Activities

2-1 Exhibitions

Since its establishment in 1948, the NDL has held exhibitions of its materials as a service to the public, per the National Diet Library Law Article 21 (1) (i). Since most of the materials in the NDL are kept in closed stacks, these exhibitions are significant opportunities to introduce our materials and collections.

2-1-1 Large-scale exhibitions

The NDL's large-scale exhibitions feature hundreds of materials on display. Large-scale exhibitions have been held at the Tokyo Main Library almost every autumn since 1948, for a total of about 70 exhibitions in all. The Tokyo exhibitions are also displayed at the Kansai-kan since the opening of the facility in 2002. The Kansai-kan plans and hosts exhibitions independently, as well. The ILCL also holds a variety of exhibitions spotlighting children's books several times a year since its opening in 2000. Overall, a total of 50 exhibitions have been held.

The large-scale exhibitions can be classified in three types:

  1. Exhibitions in which the NDL holdings are introduced according to a particular topic or point of view (e.g. "The Great Match!" 2013);
  2. Exhibitions in coordination with larger events of the NDL (e.g. "Rare books of the National Diet Library – The 60th anniversary" 2008);
  3. Exhibitions cohosted with other organizations (e.g. "Barrier-free Picture Books from Around the World 2013" with the Japanese Board of Books for Young People (JBBY) 2014).

Lists of exhibited materials are available both at the venue and, in recent years, via our website.

< The exhibition "The Great Match!" Tokyo Main Library, 2013 >

< The "Barrier-free Picture Books from Around the World 2013" ILCL, 2014 >

2-1-2 Small Exhibitions

Small exhibitions generally comprise exhibition cases or bookshelves displaying 10 to 30 items. These exhibitions are able to focus on timely and topical subjects.

Small exhibitions were first shown at the Tokyo Main Library in 1981 in a small section of the Catalog Hall. Such exhibitions were held 155 times before shifting to Small digital exhibition: Kaleidoscope of books in 2009.

A total of 16 small exhibitions have been held in the General Collections Room of the Kansai-kan since 2009.

< The small exhibition space in the Tokyo Main Library >

Since the opening of the ILCL in 2000, each collection room has hosted about ten exhibitions annually on a variety of themes. Some have to do with seasonal topics, and some are relevant to other large-scale exhibitions held at the same time.

< Small exhibition "ABC Books" at the ILCL's Meet the World, 2012 >

< "Prize-winning Books" at the ILCL's Researchers' Reading Room 1, 2011 >

2-1-3 Online Gallery

Online galleries are available on the NDL website. Digitized materials are organized by theme, accompanied by explanations, commentary, and indices. The Digital Library Plan, established in 1998, emphasizes the importance of holding digital exhibitions to present an attractive collection that piques user interest with an adequate selection of materials and information on a particular subject. The first online gallery was "Rare Books of the National Diet Library," an eponymous reproduction of an exhibition held to commemorate the NDL's 50th anniversary.

Of the 16 digital exhibitions to date, each has sought to take advantage of the functions unique to digital exhibitions (searching, linking, providing different languages, etc.) through a variety of different layouts. For example, in "The Landmarks of Edo in Color Woodblock Prints," released in March 2014, each nishiki-e (woodblock print) is accessible by searching from modern maps, old detailed maps, artists, keywords, etc.

< The top page of "The Landmarks of Edo in Color Woodblock Prints" >

Also, there are six digital exhibitions featured on the ILCL website. The latest exhibition is the "Teenagers' encyclopedia of the history of Japan during the late Edo and Meiji period." This exhibition features material that targets teenagers who enjoy studying Japanese history around the Meiji Restoration.

< The top page of the "Teenagers' encyclopedia of the history of Japan during the late Edo and Meiji period" >

Some recent digital exhibitions have been held as part of a collaboration based on agreements between the NDL and other national libraries. In 2009, the exhibition "Japan-Netherlands Exchange in the Edo Period" was made available under agreement with the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands) in 2005. In 2014, the exhibition "Modern Japan and France – adoration, encounter and interaction" was made available under an agreement established in 2013 with the Bibliothèque nationale de France (French National Library). For details, please refer to this article.

Some of the benefits of digital exhibitions include the fact that they make NDL's materials available to anyone with web access and that material in the exhibition can be linked to other parts of the exhibition as well as to material that is not actually part of the exhibition but is available on the NDL website, such as the Digital Library from the Meiji Era or NDL Digital Collections. Copyright, however, is sometimes problematic, and not all materials can be made available online.

2-2 Events

Events such as lectures, symposiums, forums, seminars, and training courses are held at the NDL facilities.

The Tokyo Main Library sponsors a variety of lectures on subjects such as library evaluation, bibliographic data building/provision, digital information, Japanese studies support, and the NDL Great East Japan Earthquake Archive "HINAGIKU." In addition, international symposiums featuring speakers from abroad, policy seminars on legislative activities, and preservation forums of library materials are held.

The Kansai-kan holds lectures related to exhibitions and international symposiums on promotion of digital library services. Also, a NDL Database Forum is held every year in both Tokyo and the Kansai-kan to promote use of the NDL databases.

At the ILCL, in addition to lectures relevant to the exhibitions, lecture series such as "Books I Encountered in my Childhood" and "What's Happening with Children's Books in the World?" are given by prominent writers to publicize children's books and literature and to promote children's reading activities. The "Forum for cooperation on children's reading" and "ILCL Lecture Series on Children's Literature" are training and cooperation programs mainly for children's service staff at other libraries, and include lectures by professional researchers. In addition, there are programs for children such as: storytelling (held every weekends), "Fun with science," "Working in the National Diet Library," "Story Hour for Babies and Toddlers", concerts in collaboration with neighboring facilities, collaboration programs of storytelling of animal books and lectures by zoo officials.

< The storytelling of animal books, International Library of Children's Literature, 2012 >

3. Public Relations Activities

Public relations activities of the NDL, due to progress in digital information and communication technology, have diversified by adopting means utilizing information networks.

3-1 Publications

The NDL's services for the National Diet, the executive and judicial branches of the government, and the public, are reported in forms of paper publications and PDFs, and are carried on the NDL website. Major publications are: "The National Diet Library Monthly Bulletin," which comprehensively introduces the NDL's services and activities; "Issue Brief," a summary of the major issues in state affairs; "The Window: the journal of the International Library of Children's Literature," which carries reports on the annual activities of the ILCL, articles on children's literature and services for children.

3-2 NDL Website

The NDL Website (released in 1996) and the ILCL Homepage (released in 2000) function as the liaison for the NDL's Internet service, dispatching all kinds of information including the cultural activities mentioned above.

3-3 Newsletters

There are several newsletters that the NDL issues: "Current Awareness E," a newsletter which provides the latest news of libraries and library science (issued twice a month since October 2002); "Library Cooperation News," which carries information on the NDL's cooperation activities (issued every month since October 2003); "ILCL Mail Magazine," which provides information on the ILCL's exhibitions and events, and on children's books all over the world (issued every month since March 2010); "NDL Newsletter," a newsletter which provides comprehensive information in English, aimed for readers who cannot read Japanese (issued every two months since January 1999).

3-4 Social Networking Services (SNS)

As a new means of public relations, the NDL makes use of SNS.

3-4-1 Twitter

The NDL's official account "NDLJP" provides information on the NDL's services and activities, and urgent information in cases where the NDL services have to be altered due to emergencies (activated since June 2012). There are various other accounts that carry different kinds of information: Current Awareness Portal ("ca_tweet"); Collaborative Reference Database ("crd_tweet"); National Union Catalog Network ("unicnet").
While these accounts are all in Japanese, we are also preparing to start running an English Twitter account, aimed for our non-Japanese speaking users abroad. We hope to be able to release it sometime this year.

< Twitter account "NDLJP" >

3-4-2 Facebook

In September 2014, the Facebook page "NDL's Exhibitions (Tokyo Main Library and Kansai-kan)" was opened. It provides information on the exhibitions and digital exhibitions held at the Tokyo Main Library and the Kansai-kan. As its first step, the exhibition "Autograph manuscripts and original artwork of well-known people" (held from October 18 to November 18, 2014) was highlighted in this page.

3-5 Taking Part in Events Hosted by Library-Related Institutions

Exhibitions and events hosted by library-related institutions are significant opportunities for the NDL to promote itself.

For example, the NDL participates in the Library Fair & Forum, in which major library-related organizations and companies in Japan and from abroad take part. In the 16th Library Fair & Forum (held from November 5 to 7, 2014 at Pacifico Yokohama), the NDL held a display which introduced its services and projects, and a forum entitled "Efforts at collecting, cataloging and preserving records related to the Great East Japan Earthquake."

3-6 Cooperation / Collaboration with Government Ministries and Local Areas

The NDL also promotes itself in events hosted by government ministries and local authorities. For example, the Tokyo Main Library has participated in the "Children's Day for Visiting Kasumigaseki" hosted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, every year since 2000. In addition, the "Kansai-kan Open House" is held in accordance with a festival held by local authorities. The ILCL holds collaborative events with neighboring institutions in Ueno Park, e.g. museums, art galleries, and a zoo.

< Members of the NDL staff giving a "Book talk" and storytelling for the "Kansai-kan Visiting Day," 2013 >

4. Conclusion – For Providing Attractive Information

The first thing that is important in planning and undertaking cultural activities is to always consider the level of comprehension and satisfaction of the people who receive information through exhibitions and events. The second is to maintain a flexible attitude. For example, when exhibitions are held, the understanding and interest of visitors could be further deepened by holding lectures and symposiums at the same time, and by combining exhibitions in paper and in digital format.

Furthermore, public relations activities must enable not only the visitors to the library but a larger audience to understand its various activities and roles, including cultural activities. While it is necessary to take advantage of processes that fit in with the library's purpose, questions of whether the amount of similar duplicated information has been excessive and the public relations become too complicated. It is most important to always put oneself in the shoes of the target, and to bear in mind the comprehensibility and usability of the public relations.

Copyright (C) 2015 National Diet Library of Japan


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