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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 85, February 2016

Special topic: Preservation and Conservation of library materials

National Diet Libraryís Preservation and Conservation Activities and the IFLA/PAC Regional Centre for Asia

By Kaoru Oshima, Director, IFLA/PAC Regional Centre for Asia


1. Introduction

The National Diet Library (NDL) of Japan was designated as the IFLA/PAC Regional Centre for Asia in 1989. Since then, the NDL has been active in various ways to promote preservation and conservation activities not only within Japan but also in Asia. This article introduces the preservation and conservation activities of the NDL as a national library as well as the IFLA/PAC Regional Centre for Asia.

2. Preservation and Conservation Activities at the National Diet Library

The NDL is the sole national library of Japan. Thus it is responsible for the long-term preservation of the nationís documentary heritage.

2.1. Preservation Division

The Preservation Division of the Acquisitions and Bibliography Department is in charge of preservation and conservation of library collections. As of the end of 2015, the Division consists of one director, one assistant director, and 15 members including conservators and administrative staff. In addition, there is a scheme to have staff members outside the Preservation Division who have knowledge of preservation and conservation and engage in research.

The major roles of the Preservation Division are: to formulate and implement plans on preservation of library collections; to repair and bind library collections; to conduct research on preservation, conservation and training; to cooperate with related organizations; and to do secretarial work for the IFLA/PAC Regional Centre for Asia (details are to be stated later).

In FY2014, some 7,000 items were repaired and mended by the Preservation Division staff while minor repair of some 23,000 items were done by other divisions. In addition, some 22,000 volumes were bound or repaired by outside contractors.

The Preservation Division has annually conducted a group training program at the NDL called "Preservation and Conservation Training Program" intended for all librarians in Japan. The NDL also dispatches its staff members as lecturers for training courses in response to requests from libraries in Japan. In addition, the NDL started a remote training program entitled "Basic Idea of Preservation and Conservation" on the Internet in 2006, to respond to the needs of librarians nationwide, covering the theory of preservation and conservation as well as repair techniques.

To raise awareness and provide up-to-date information on preservation and conservation issues, the NDL holds a "Preservation Forum" once every year. For example in 2015, we held the Forum on the subject: Exhibitions of library materials: how we can minimize damage to library materials when exhibiting. The Forum attracts many librarians and other professionals who share the concerns on preservation and conservation each year.

< Preservation Forum >

2.2. Main Activities for the Past 10 Years 1

The NDLís preservation and conservation activities are carried out based on the principle of preventive preservation. Preventive preservation refers to the range of direct and indirect actions to prevent deterioration and prolong life spans of library materials, rather than taking actions after materials get damaged. In the past 10 years, emphasis has been put on some activities stated below in addition to the daily repair works.

  1. Environmental control
    Japanís summer, June through September, is a period of high temperature and high relative humidity, which make library materials prone to mold infestation without appropriate care. Thus we have worked hard to prevent mold by the measures based on the idea of IPM (Integrated Pest Management). We monitor temperature and humidity regularly by using data loggers in the stacks. We have established an NDL-Wide Council for Environment Control so that we can share the information across the library and take necessary action immediately. As the average temperature has been rising due to the greenhouse effect while the government calls on cutting back on electricity, keeping mold away from the stacks has become a more and more difficult task which requires careful monitoring and watching.
  2. Mass deacidification treatment
    Acidification of paper used in books published from the late 19th century has been recognized as a serious problem in libraries since around the 1980s. The NDL conducted a survey of the pH value of paper used in newly-acquired books from 1986 until the rate of neutral paper used in books published within Japan exceeded 95% in 2007. In the meantime the NDL tested the two methods of mass deacidification that are currently available in Japan, namely Dry Ammonia Ethylene Oxide Process (DAE) and Bookkeeper (BK) in FY2009. The result proved the safety and effectiveness of both methods. Thus the NDL started mass deacidifiation from FY2013 using the two methods. In FY2014, 1,600 items were processed.
  3. Disaster preparedness
    Since the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the NDL has put more emphasis on disaster preparedness and compiled more manuals for disaster risk reduction. The NDL cooperated in projects of rescuing tsunami-affected library materials. One example is "Yoshida-ke monjo," historical documents designated as prefectural cultural property of Iwate. The NDL conducted conservation work on a total of some 70,000 pages in two years. The work has finished, and "Yoshida-ke monjoĒ were sent back to the Iwate Prefectural Museum in September 2014. The NDL has been striving to provide as much help as possible to other areas hit by disasters.
  4. Digitization projects and preservation of digital information
    The NDL has been engaged in digitization projects since around 2000 for the sake of preserving original library materials. As of July 2015, nearly 2,500,000 items have been digitized. Although digitization has made library collections more easily accessible for users and protected the original materials from further deterioration by use, it was also revealed that sometimes the original materials can be damaged though the digitization process. The NDL has been tackling this problem, for example, by having conservators watch and give advice on how to treat materials during digitization.

In addition to conducting digitization of materials, the NDL has collected born-digital information, and its volume has been steeply increasing, including websites and e-books. Digital information is much more fragile than paper. This is because the lifespan of digital media is very short compared with printed materials; internet resources tend to vanish very often; the use of digital information requires specific playback equipment, e.g., PC, OS or application software, which are at risk of becoming obsolete. Since FY2002, the NDL has been conducting studies for ensuring long-term preservation and usability of digital information.

3. IFLA/PAC Regional Centre for Asia

In 1989, the NDL was designated as the IFLA/PAC Regional Centre for Asia (PAC Asia). In 1990, a policy called "Preservation Cooperation Program" was formulated, which urges the promotion of various cooperation activities to contribute to preserving the worldís cultural heritage. In accordance with this program, the NDL aims to promote preservation and conservation activities not only in Japan, but also particularly in other Asian countries through the following activities:

  1. Provide information and raise awareness
    • Collect and provide information related to the preservation of materials
    • Draw up and distribute publications
    • Hold symposiums and workshops
  2. Provide training and technical support
    • Give training on different aspects of preservation
    • Dispatch lectures
  3. Other
    • Promote domestic preservation activities
    • Facilitate international preservation activities

To give you some idea on what PAC Asia has been doing, we would like to introduce part of its activities.

To provide information and raise awareness on preservation and conservation, the PAC Asia has been distributing IFLA publications related to preservation. For example, PAC Asia has translated and/or published some of the IFLA publications, such as "IFLA Principles for the Care and Handling of Library Material." Moreover, the IFLA/PAC International Centre had been publishing International Preservation News (IPN), which ceased publication at the end of 2013. PAC Asia used to distribute each issue to libraries/institutions in 11 Asian countries/regions. We also contributed many articles to IPN so that we could provide information based on our experiences for other libraries. We also maintain PAC Asia website "Preservation and Conservation" to provide useful links, manuals, and so on. Some manuals are translated into English.

To raise awareness, PAC Asia has held international meetings and symposiums around 20 times by inviting foreign colleagues. For example, in 2006 the PAC Asia held the Preconference of the IFLA Seoul Congress at the NDL in conjunction with the Preservation and Conservation Section and the Asia and Oceania Section of IFLA. After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the PAC Asia invited colleagues from the PAC Centres of Australia, China and Korea to hold a forum on the subject of Disaster Preparedness.

As for training and technical support, we have received trainees from abroad: so far 37 trainees from 10 countries/regions. Each country/region has its own issues, thus we try to offer the training that is best suited to the country. We also dispatch lecturers on request: so far 20 lecturers to 12 countries. Providing training abroad means that the materials and tools used in the training sessions must be prepared in that area. This sometimes presents some difficulties. However, we try our best to provide training which is meaningful to the greatest extent by reflecting the situation of each country.

< Trainees from the Indonesian Center for Agricultural Library and
Technology Dissemination (ICALTD) with NDL staff members, 2013 >

< NDL staff giving a lecture at a workshop held by the SEAMEO SPAFA (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts), Thailand, 2012 >

Asiaís economy has been booming, and libraries in each country have become more and more active every year. Thus awareness of preservation and conservation of library materials has been growing. PAC Asia has received various inquiries on preservation and conservation matters from the Asian region, and we try to answer them in the most responsive manner possible. Asia is a vast region, with a great range of climate, culture, and language. So there is no uniform answer that solves the various problems. PAC Asia will continue to try its best to contribute to solve problems and raise awareness of preservation and conservation in Asia.

1 To read about the activities before 2004, see Kanebakoís Article "Preservation and conservation policy of the National Diet Library and future direction" Newsletter140.pdf?contentNo=1&alternativeNo=#page=5

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