The concept of “local collection” includes both materials that have been created in the past and kept to the present day, and materials that are currently being created in a region. Specifically, it includes a variety of materials: printed materials―including materials published by administrative authorities―such as books, magazines, newspapers, maps, and pamphlets; materials recorded as photographs, films, microfilms, and magnetic or optical media; and actual materials such as documents, works of art, and museum materials.
A nationwide survey was conducted for the first time in Japan in order to clarify how those materials are being handled at regional libraries at the prefectural or municipal level and at other institutions that collect, preserve, and provide materials.
Surveys of libraries, archives, museums, and administrative information centers were carried out by the questionnaire method. In addition, these were supplemented by interview surveys conducted at libraries, archives, museums and other institutions in Akita, Okinawa, and Shiga prefectures.
The Library Law defines public libraries as general institutions that collect, preserve and provide materials. The survey results show that libraries aim to be institutions that collect, preserve and provide printed materials such as books, magazines, newspapers, and maps. Well-established libraries have collected a certain amount of historical materials as well as printed materials, but they lack the managerial resources to utilize such materials. Regarding contemporary materials, few libraries are working actively to utilize these for local revitalization or resolving issues facing citizens.
At the level of prefectures, ordinance-designated cities, and prefectural capital cities, progress is being made in the sharing of functions, with historical materials allocated to archives and museums, materials published by administrative authorities allocated to administrative information centers, and literary materials allocated to literature museums. At the municipal level, both historical and actual materials are preserved not only in museums but also in resource centers and centers for the compilation of municipal histories, in a mutually complementary fashion.
Since almost all prefectures and cities and nearly half the towns and villages in Japan possess libraries, these libraries may be regarded as providers of local collection. Actually, the survey results show that most libraries are functioning in this way.
Only a limited number of libraries possess a bibliographic function for local publications. However, the survey reveals that an increase in the number of libraries that utilize the OPAC retrieval function and publicize different bibliographic tools on the Internet will enable a system which allows people to obtain regional bibliographic information relatively easily.