Newsletter No. 54 (July 2009)

A Report on the Library Panel at the JSAA biennial conference in Sydney, 13-16 July 2009

Michelle Hall (University of Melbourne) and Mayumi Shinozaki (National Library of Australia)

A panel was organised to discuss library issues, particularly those of e-resources.  The panel was titled “Recent Developments in Japanese Research Resources” and it consisted of the following papers:

  • ‘What is Currently Available in Australia, and What is  Needed Now?’ Michelle Hall and Mayumi Shinozaki

  •  ‘Latest Developments from Online Database Products’ Keizo Hirayama and Masaji Tanaka

  •  ‘What you should know: Using Japanese Visual Images for your teaching, research and publications’ Eiko Sakaguchi

There was a very good turn out with the tutorial room at UNSW full. We asked if it would be alright if the presenters (from Japan) spoke in Japanese, and we got the assent of the audience. There were one or two English-only speakers, but they were happy to listen and get the gist from us later.

First I spoke about the trials and tribulations of obtaining and using Japanese language e-resources.  I listed some databases which are used in Australia, such as:


I also spoke about the recent comprehensive research done by members of ALIM (Asian Libraries in Melbourne) on which Asian studies databases were subscribed to and by whom, across the country. The results can be seen at: http://alim.monash.org/

I also considered the inevitable comparisons which are made between Japanese (un)availability of many full text databases, and the riches which are available to our Chinese and Korean counterparts. This is especially noticeable as students are used to using full text databases in English, and they are often surprised at what is not available from Japan.

There is also the aspect (in the University setting) of students’ language skills. I find that often students who are learning Japanese do not reach a level where they are able to use Japanese language databases effectively until quite late in their university career – say, Honours, or postgraduate level.  Until then, students often require me to sit with them and help with their choice of keywords, search strategy, etc, which can be very time-consuming and unempowering for the student.  Postgraduate students and staff are usually fine.

One area I think there is a great need is for English language historical materials about Japan to be put into electronic form. For example, at the University of Melbourne we have a microfilm version of a few years of “The Japan times and mail”, which was an English language newspaper for the expatriate community around Yokohama and Tokyo in the mid to late 1800s onward. This sort of information would be very useful for a great many undergraduate students, and make access to historical information on Japan much easier.

Next, Mr Hirayama from Kinokuniya spoke about the databases currently available from Japan, and distributed some very useful lists of databases both free access and proprietary materials. It was heartening to hear of the plans for full text historical databases going back to the mid-1800s, as well as image archives.

Mr Tanaka spoke about JapanKnowledge, a database to which we subscribe at Melbourne University, and which is very full of all sorts of information. Most important was the ongoing packaging of different options into several (cheaper!) packages.

While it may be somewhat unconventional to have the vendors speaking about their products in an academic panel, it was very useful to have them as they know their products better than we who use them, and they were able to answer some very specific questions. It was also a very good idea to have the invited speakers to give their presentations in Japanese, as they were able to speak more fluently and provide much more detailed overview than they said they would have in English. They were also much more relaxed and enjoyed their own presentations!

We were very interested to hear from the vendors about a new development: Google announced it is going to digitise Japanese books as part of their project Google Book.  To defend against this action, the NDL (National Diet Library, Tokyo) was given a big budget this year by the Japanese Government.

The NDL is planning to digitise 700,000 pre-1968 books and serials from its collection size of 9 million titles. The budget for digitisation this financial year is about 100 times more than last year: 12.6 billion yen. They have to finish the project within two years. 

 It is planned to digitise the works as flat files with no OCR conversion. The Japanese government amended the copyright law in April 2009, so that titles held in the NDL can be digitised without agreement from the copyright holders.   For the moment, the digitised texts will only be able to be viewed within the three NDL buildings. This applied particularly to journals / magazines. Even if access to some digitised materials is only limited to on-site users, it will be a huge development in resources’ availability for scholars.  It is to be hoped that eventually access will be more open to other libraries, too.

The NDL is also planning to clear all the copyrights for pre-1945 books, within this year. More information can be found here:
(This topic was brought up during the presentation, but further details were obtained later by Ms Shinozaki and included in this report.)

Ms Shinozaki spoke briefly to draw the thread of both presentations together, and to speak of her experiences at the National Library of Australia.

Finally, Ms Sakaguchi gave a very useful and timely paper about the Image Use Protocol (IUP) which has been developed by the NCC (The North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources) in the US.  She spoke about the difficulty of getting permission to reproduce images from Japan, and the issues of copyright which are involved. The page from the NCC is:  http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~ncc/imageuse/index.html and the pages include prepared template letters in both Japanese and English which can be used to request permission. While Australian copyright laws are not the same as those in the US and Japan, it is important we adhere to the local rules and gain the appropriate permissions. This is an invaluable resource which will make the process very much simpler.

The panel was very interesting and I think very useful to all who attended. I am sure all the presenters would be happy to answer specific queries about their papers. Please contact them at:

Ms Michelle Hall hall@unimelb.edu.au
Ms Mayumi Shinozaki mshinza@nla.gov.au
Mr Hirayama and Mr Tanaka can be contacted through Mr Fukamachi at Kinokuniya in Sydney  fukamachi@kinokuniya.co.jp
Ms Eiko Sakaguchi eikos@umd.edu

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