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CDNLAO Newsletter

No. 95, February 2020

CDNLAO Meeting

Research Activities at the National Library of China: An Introduction

By Chen Xiaofan, National Library of China Children's Library

1. Introduction

To some extent, the vitality of a library lies in its research capability. A strong research ability enables a library to prosper in the face of challenges and to better fulfill its mission in inheriting civilization and serving its community. The National Library of China (NLC) has been sparing no effort to encourage all kinds of research related to every aspect of library development. To achieve this purpose, the NLC established specific divisions to take charge of its research activities. As the division responsible for coordinating and managing the operation of the Library, the Coordination & Operation Management Division presides over most of the research projects at the NLC. In 2000, the NLC's Research Institute was established (named the Library Development Institute before 2007). The year of 2008 witnessed a significant growth of the Research Institute when the Secretariat of the National Technical Committee for Library Standardization and the Office of the NLC Postdoctoral Scientific Research Workstation were set up within the Institute. So far, the Research Institute mainly focuses on library and information science, literature study, the NLC's history and decision-making reference.


< The Website of the NLC Postdoctoral Scientific Research Workstation >

The following parts of this article will depict a general picture of the NLC's research in the last few years. The spotlight of this article will be cast on six major fields of the NLC's research and some achievements which have been made in recent years.

* The papers mentioned below are available on the China National Knowledge Infrastructure website.

2. NLC's Six Major Research-Fields

The NLC's research has been making great progress in the last few years. The following statistics only reflect the data from 2013 to 2017. As revealed in National Library of China Yearbook 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014, the number of newly-initiated research projects has increased to 178 while the number of completed research projects amounted to 124 during this period. Meanwhile, the number of monographs published added up to 184 and the number of papers published was 1860. The chart below shows the numbers of research projects (initiated and completed) and monographs and papers published in each year. It needs to be clarified that most of these research projects usually took more than one year to be accomplished. Accordingly, the number of completed research projects for each year only indicates how many research projects were finished in these respective years.

  Projects Initiated Projects Completed Monographs Published Papers Published
2017 24 47 20 374
2016 43 33 26 330
2015 56 20 25 334
2014 49 14 47 333
2013 6 10 66 489

Figure 1. Numbers of Research Projects (Initiated and Completed)
and Monographs and Papers Published in Each Year i

Further analysis has discovered that these projects fall into six major areas. They are:

  • Category One: Research on library history and development strategy,
  • Category Two: Collation and research on prefaces and postscripts of ancient books,
  • Category Three: Literature study of the NLC's collection,
  • Category Four: Research on preservation and protection of ancient books and rare books,
  • Category Five: Research on personalized services via digital library and new media,
  • Category Six: Research on information organizing.

The respective percentage of research projects under each category is shown as follows:

The considerable proportions of category three and six in newly-initiated research projects may be owed to the fact that the collection and information lie in the core of library business.

For completed research projects, the first and the sixth categories make up 51%. The next part of this article will deliberate on the specific content of each research category and some achievements which the NLC has made in its research activities.

2.1 Research on Library History and Development Strategy

The first research category refers to historical research on the development of libraries in different periods and strategic research on macroscopic, overall and key issues in library development to ensure a scientific development of Chinese libraries. It mainly covers those studies on legal systems and macro polices related to library, library transformation in the context of the information era, library strategic planning and service systems.
These recent years have witnessed an excellent harvest in this research category. In the area of historical research on library development, the breakthrough achievement must go to the publication of A History of Chinese Libraries (2017). Initiated in 2011, this research project took six years to be finished on the basis of the cooperation between the scholars from the NLC and Peking University, Wuhan University and Sun Yat-sen University. It is the first general history of Chinese libraries, a summary of achievements and lessons in library development in the different historical periods which could be dated back to the pre-Qin period. In consideration of political, economic and technical factors, it describes Chinese libraries' characteristics and their developing paths and rules.


< A History of Chinese Libraries published in 2017 >

As to research on the library legal system, the NLC has done thorough legislative research to support the establishment of the Public Library Law of People's Republic of China. Its research has covered the study of library legislation outside China, the purpose of the legislation, the objects of legal regulation and the basic concept of public librarianship development (such as digital library construction, information processing system and corporate governance system, etc.). After three public drafts, the Public Library Law was adopted on November 4, 2017 and has been effective since January 1, 2018.


< The Public Library Law of the People's Republic of China >

Apart from the above two achievements, the NLC's research on library strategic planning and its service systems also has obtained positive results, such as Li Xiaoming and Wen Quan's "Survey on the Public Library Service for Children in the Internet Environment" (2013) and Shen Xiaojuan's "The 13th Five-Year Plan for the Development of National Library of China" (2016).

2.2 Collation and Research on Prefaces and Postscripts of Ancient Books

On the basis of its vast ancient collection, the NLC carries out research on the prefaces and postscripts of ancient books and then collates or re-organizes those antiques based on different themes.
In spite of a decrease in the number of research projects under this category, the NLC's collation and study on prefaces and postscripts of ancient books should not be neglected for prefaces and postscripts offer significant materials to profoundly understand the value of those historical treasures and to vividly reveal Chinese book-collecting history. Due to its significance, some projects of this category have received support from The National Social Science Fund of China. One example is Zhang Furui's "Collation and Research on Prefaces and Postscripts of Chinese Ancient Books in Mainland China" (initiated in 2010).

2.3 Literature Study on NLC's Collection

With its extensive collection as the research object, the NLC undertakes an extensive literature study. The NLC, with an interdisciplinary methodology in mind, combines the study of literature with research on the history of academy, culture and society. By this means, the historical value and the cultural value of those collections could be unearthed.
Just as demonstrated in the above charts, the NLC is persistent in the study of its vast collection. Each year, this category has a substantial number of projects newly initiated as well as completed. Some examples include Zhang Tingyin's "The Materials for Composing Genealogical Records and the Grass-roots Men of Letters' Criticism of Ancient Literature: With Some Reference to the Genuineness of the Materials" (2012) and Wang Qingyun's "Study on Modern Aviation Documents in China——Taking National Library Aviation Documents as an Example" (2019).

2.4 Preservation and Protection of Ancient Books and Rare Books

As stated in its function description, the NLC serves as "a national center for preservation and conservation of ancient books...... The major responsibility of the NLC includes......national coordination of document preservation and conservation work" ii. Consequently, this category of research is viewed as an indispensable part in the NLC's research activities.
In the last few years, the NLC's preservation and protection of ancient and rare books primarily focused on the above-mentioned aspects. On the technical aspect, the paper "Factors Affecting the Aging of Paper and Mitigation Measures" (2018) serves as an excellent example. Furthermore, Zhao Wenyou and Lin Shitian's "The Achievements of the 'China's Project of Ancient Books' Preservation and Conservation': Ancient Books Digitization Centering About the Construction of 'The Resource Bank of Chinese Ancient Book'" (2018) and Dong Xiaoli and Li Chunming's "The Regenerative Protection of Ancient Books by Means of Digital Resources Management" (2017) share some inspiring experiences and instructive opinions on the application of digitalization in ancient books protection. In regard to the promotion of ancient books through publishing and innovative services, Nan Jiangtao's "Summary of the 40-Year Ancient Book Photocopy and Publishing since China's Reform and Opening-up" (2018) and Xiang Hui's "The Practice of Libraries' Talking About Chinese Stories: A Case Study on Special Exhibition of National Precious Ancient Books" (2018) provide worthwhile examples.

2.5 Research on Personalized Services via Digital Library and New Media

The National Digital Library of China, a vital part of the NLC, tries to offer personalized services to its users with the usage of intelligent information technology and new media technology. Accordingly, the research on personalized services via digital library and new media takes up a considerable proportion in the NLC's research activities. Being active on the frontlines of digital library service systems and technology, the NLC aims at exploring more innovative methods, technology and applications to better understand and to better satisfy the demands of users.
Nowadays, the research on customized service for digital libraries has become an important focus in the field of library and information science throughout the world. The NLC has made efforts to figure out an efficient way to improve the quality of information services and to optimize the utilization of information resources. In recent years, the NLC has made great progress in this area. On the aspect of innovative personalized services, Zhang Hua and Wei Dawei's "Research on Personalized Information Recommendation Service of Digital Library for National Library" (2019) comes up with some instructive suggestions. This research is based on the "National Library Open Course" project. As stated in its abstract, "By combining the business scenarios of the 'National Library Open Course' data resource pool the users implicit interest information mining is introduced to deepen the digital library personalized information recommendation service mode……effectively improving the user experience and resource utilization efficiency of modern digital libraries." iii Another excellent example in this respect is Wei Dawei and Dong Xiaoli's "Innovation and Upgrading of Block Chain Technology Driven National Digital Library" (2018). As the authors suppose, with the use of cloud computing, Big Data and the Internet of things, block chain "conforms to the characteristics of modern public cultural service systems such as innovative, open and time nature." iv Hence, this paper resorts to the application of block chain technology to upgrade the public cultural services of digital libraries and to promote their modernization. In the area of new media services, the NLC has made great headway. Some of the achievements include Wei Dawei, Zhang Wei and Sun Qian's "Cultural Resource Display & Services in Digital Libraries Based upon Open Internet OTT TV Platform" (2014), Dun Wenjie, Sun Yigang and Zhu Xianzhong's "The Characteristics of Internet TV and the Innovation of Library Service" (2015), and Xie Qiang and Liu Shuhua's "Research on Service System and Platform of E-book in Libraries"(2018).

2.6 Research on Information Organizing

The NLC has paid much attention to the research on information organizing. This sort of research can be further divided into three aspects, namely, research on the theories, practice and development trends of information organizing. To be specific, the theoretical research focuses on the basic concepts of information resources and their historical development, etc. while the practical studies explore those problems related to techniques, rules, processes, standards and tools of information organizing. The third aspect touches on the exploration of new technology, new methods and new trends in information organizing within the current digital context.
As demonstrated in the above statistics, this category accounts for one of the largest proportions in the NLC's research. Some of the published papers will be presented as follows. On the theoretical research, some instructive findings include Quan Genxian's "Academic Heritage of Study of Modern Chinese Theoretical Bibliography" (2013) and Gu Ben's "UNIMARC in China and the Publishing of Chinese Edition of UNIMARC Manual: Authorities Format" (2014). With respect to practical study, Meng Meng and Huang Qing's " The Practical Application of RDA in Chinese Periodical Cataloging" (2017) and Luo Chong's " Explorations and Practices of RDA Localization in the National Library of China" (2018). As to development trend exploration, Song Yunfei's "A Brief Analysis on the Development Trend of CNMARC Format in the Network Environment" (2016) would provide some innovative opinions.

3. Conclusion

To sum up, the NLC has indeed made remarkable progress in research, both in its quantity and quality. This development is owing to the great significance the NLC has attached to its research activities. It provides sufficient funds and abundant resources to encourage all kinds of research by librarians and scholars. Some foundations have been set up to financially support the research. For example, the Wenjin Publishing Foundation has been established to back up the publication of those excellent research outcomes. The Young Librarian Research Foundation also serves as an incentive to stimulate the research motivation among those young librarians. It does make sense that a sustainable prosperity in the NLC's research will be promised with efforts from all aspects.

i Data from National Library of China Yearbook 2018 [R]. Beijing: National Library of China Publishing House, 2018: 198, 261-265
Data from National Library of China Yearbook 2017 [R]. Beijing: National Library of China Publishing House, 2017: 174, 257-262
Data from National Library of China Yearbook 2016 [R]. Beijing: National Library of China Publishing House, 2016: 194, 273-277
Data from National Library of China Yearbook 2015 [R]. Beijing: National Library of China Publishing House, 2015: 168, 243-246
Data from National Library of China Yearbook 2014 [R]. Beijing: National Library of China Publishing House, 2014: 174, 253-254
ii Quoted from the website http://www.nlc.cn/newen/newVisitUs/nlcIntroduction/.
iii Zhang Hua and Wei Dawei. Research on Personalized Information Recommendation Service of Digital Library for National Library Open Course [J]. Research on Library Science. 2019 (17): 54-61
iv Wei Dawei and Dong Xiaoli. Innovation and Upgrading of Block Chain Technology Driven National Digital Library [J]. Library Theory and Practice. 2018 (5): 98-103


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