« 発信箱:ペラペラよりも=玉木研二(論説室) | トップページ | 反ドーピング―草の根レベルへも啓発を »

2008年12月31日 (水)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 30(IHT/Asahi: December 31,2008)

EDITORIAL: National Diet Library


Sixty years have passed since the founding of the National Diet Library, the only national library in Japan.


"Truth sets us free," says the preamble to the National Diet Library Law, defining the ethos of this important institution. This passage can be found engraved at the counter of the library's main building in Tokyo's Nagatacho district.



The library was established in 1948, just a few years after the end of World War II, as part of efforts to create a democratic society in Japan where people gather, understand and discuss a wide spectrum of information without bias.

The institution was entrusted with the task of collecting and analyzing necessary materials as a basis for this process.


The library builds and preserves a comprehensive collection of books, newspapers, magazines and audio and visual recordings published and created in Japan. It also collects various materials from overseas.


The library's primary task is to support legislative activities through the use of these resources. Another important role of the institution is to preserve these resources as cultural assets and make them available to people to help support their lives and research activities.


The National Diet Library has changed its operations dramatically in recent years. Its electronic functions have been enhanced so that anybody with Internet access can now search the library's vast bibliographic database and read minutes of Diet sessions online.



Users can even read about 150,000 books published in the Meiji and Taisho eras (1868-1926) on their computer screens.


The library also offers a service that allows users to search for materials at the National Archives of Japan and other libraries.


In addition, the National Diet Library publicizes reports on key public policy issues, providing various arguments, historical facts and the situations in other countries related to the issues.


The already-huge amount of materials available at the library is growing rapidly.


Makoto Nagao, a former president of Kyoto University who last year became the first chief librarian without a Diet background, has been actively promoting these programs and projects.


But new challenges for the library have emerged.


The library's work to support legislators has rapidly grown in scale. In fiscal 2007, which ended in March 2008, the library handled about 45,000 requests for materials and analyses made by Diet members, more than double that of fiscal 1995. The rise was due mainly to the sharp increase in legislative initiatives by lawmakers.


But the library's work force has not grown at the same pace, with only about 190 employees dealing with the heavier workload.


The library clearly needs greater manpower to accomplish its vital mission of providing information and advice for lawmakers from a position different from that of bureaucrats.


The library also lacks certain capabilities in gathering materials.


The amount of administrative and academic information published only on the Internet is increasing, and the Web pages of local governments can disappear at any time. But the library must gain permission each time to collect and preserve such data because it has no legal authority to do so freely.


Legal revisions are needed to allow the library to gather and preserve materials published by public organizations without obtaining permission. The range of materials for such operations should also be widened.


Another challenge facing the institution is the preservation of manga comic magazines, which attract the interest of many overseas researchers.


The ink on manga magazines tends to smudge rather quickly, causing the pictures to blur. Under current copyright rules, preserving manga publications in digital form for wide availability requires permission from various parties concerned. It would be a tall order and require tremendous clerical costs.


We hope a system can be created to deal with this problem flexibly while paying due attention to the copyright issue.


The National Diet Library is an intellectual asset of the people. We have a duty to expand and bolster the functions of the institution for future generations.


Necessary measures should be taken as soon as possible.



« 発信箱:ペラペラよりも=玉木研二(論説室) | トップページ | 反ドーピング―草の根レベルへも啓発を »





« 発信箱:ペラペラよりも=玉木研二(論説室) | トップページ | 反ドーピング―草の根レベルへも啓発を »