No.290 2006年12月20日



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 Over the country’s special history, there are many unique characteristics of Vietnam’s library system that may be different from developed countries especially since 1954. Its consequence is creating many barriers to both the development of the library system as well as library-using culture of the Vietnamese. This report will briefly explain about the situation.



 Vietnamese library system development path can be divided into 4 main periods which are:


2.1. Old history (930 – 1853):

Vietnam regained the independence from China in the end of 10th century, the first libraries were setup by both bourgeois and feudal dynasties to store Buddhist canonical texts and prayer books which are all in Chinese characters, their services were limited to the ruling classes.



2.2. Under French colonialism (1853 – 1954):

During this time some libraries were formed for the French and Vietnamese officials. The organising, processing and general library techniques followed traditional methods of the day. Types of libraries included public libraries, academic libraries, specialised libraries and provincial libraries. The main collections were basically in French, and the biggest library in this period is Central Library of Indochina first setup in 1919 located in Hanoi.



2.3. The Second-Indochina war (1954-1975):

Vietnam was separated into two parts: the North ruled by the socialist government and the Communist Party, while the South was dominated by a non-Communist government and the Americans. Therefore, libraries in this period developed under two different political systems: a capitalist colonial society in the South and a socialist society in the North. In the South which having American support for training, finance and facilities, library techniques was based on Anglo-American methods; all libraries applied either the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) or the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) schemes; foreign collections were mainly in English. In contrast libraries in the North which receiving essential support from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, applied the Soviet classification scheme: Bibliotechno Bibliograficheskaya Klassificatsiya (BBK); foreign collections were mainly in Russian.



2.4. Modern period (1975-now):

This also has 2 sub-periods including close-door time until 1985 and open-door time after that made different images which will be discussion in Section 4. The library system is now well developed including 8 sub-systems, which are: public, social science, technology and science information, academic, educational, health, agricultural and military library system.





3.1. The public library system:

This is the largest library system in Vietnam. It includes the National Library of Vietnam in Hanoi (the biggest), General Science Library in Ho Chi Minh City (the second biggest); 53 libraries in provinces and cities; 500 libraries in districts and towns; and more than 2.000 libraries, reading rooms, and rural area bookshelves in such diverse locations as villages, cooperatives, farming units, clubs and cultural institutes (Du, 1995b). According to Hung (1994), there were approximately 3.000 staffs in the public library system at the end of 1995. The total number of books and magazines was about 20 million volumes for all public libraries at the end of 1995 (Du, 1995b).



3.2. The social science library system:

This system includes social science libraries and information institutions in Vietnam, and it is mamaged by the Social Science Commission. It has responsibility for providing information services of social sciences and the humanities and guiding library techniques to libraries in the system (such as the libraries of literature institutes, historical institutes and language institutes).



3.3. The technology and science information system:

This system includes libraries and documentation and information services in the fields of economics, technology and the environment. It is administered by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE). The National Centre for Scientific and Technological Information and Documentation (NACESTID) occupies the highest position in this system.



3.4. The academic library system:

The academic library system consists of the libraries of more than 100 colleges and universities in Vietnam. It is organised by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET). In addition academic libraries are all members of the Academic Libraries Union (ALU). In recent times collections of some academic libraries have grown substantially, so that they are now a significant part of Vietnam’s national library resource.


3.5. Other library systems:

  • Educational libraries are available at nearly 12.500 schools and training centers country-wide servicing 12 millions students and learners. Generally, libraries in this system are administrated by three groups: central libraries of ministries of education and training in cities, provinces and districts; libraries of teachers’ colleges and universities; and libraries of primary schools (grades 1 to 5), secondary schools (grades 6 to 8), and higher secondary schools (grades 9 to 12).
  • The Health library system is organised by the Ministry of Health, and its central library is that of the Medical University. The system includes 87 libraries of medical institutes, centres, hospitals, and universities and colleges of health or medicine. Users of this system numbered about 60,000 in April 1994, including people with all levels of qualification in health or medicine (Loc and Binh, 1994).
  • The Central Library of Agricultural Science administers the agricultural library system, which covers libraries of institutes and institutions, centres, and universities and colleges of agricultural science. The Ministry of Agriculture supports the system financially.
  • The Central Military Library controls the military library system. This system covers libraries of all military institutions, such as libraries of corps, companies, the General Politics Office and the Ministry of Military Affairs. In 1994 the Central Military Library had collections of more than 30 million books and 1,500 periodical titles, and it had about 10,000 users (Trong, 1994).

 According to Hung (1994) and Du (1995a) the total staff of the various library systems in 1995 numbered 23,092.



 Two basic factors have influenced library development in Vietnam in the modern period. The first was the change in the national economy from a centralised to a market structure that created new information requirements. The second was the collapse of Communist allied-nations which has ended the flow of Russian language collections to Vietnam’s libraries.

 While library users in Vietnam today are interested in the latest information on trade, banking, patents and high technology; libraries cannot provide such information. Before 1985 libraries were designed to support socialist thought, Marxist and Leninist ideology, and agricultural production. More recently, collection development has begun to focus on social and technological books, particularly in English and French.



 Over the last ten years Vietnamese libraries have faced many difficulties. These include limitations of finance and poor skills in information technology. Most libraries have old collections, poor infrastructures and out-moded. Today, however, the government appears to be taking some remedial action and recognizes that libraries have an essential place in the country’s ambitious development programme. The investment in and promotion of library and information services have now begun to serve the needs of social, economic and technological development, scientific research, and education and training.

 According to Vinh (2005), future development of Vietnam’s library system should urgently focus on Modernization and Standardization to get prepared for this new millennium. In order to make good contributions to the national economic development, Vietnamese libraries should have the right tools to organize their collections for effective retrieval and exchange. For such progress to occur, library standardization is crucial

Nguyen Hoa Binh: Graduate School for Creative Cities, Osaka City University

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