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CA1938e – New Trends of Research of Library History Targeting Japan

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Current Awareness
No.337 September 20, 2018


New Trends of Research of Library History Targeting Japan



In this article, I reviewed the literature of library history that was published from 2008 to 2017. Traditionally, research on Japanese library history had three main points. Methodology, research on library history after the war, and biographies of librarians. In addition to this, in the past ten years, new trends have emerged with attention to libraries other than public libraries, using historical documents, and analysis from the viewpoint of library users. It is noteworthy what results future trends will produce.


This article reviews literature of library history research on Japanese libraries released primarily in Japan from 2008 through 2017 (10 years), following a review of research literature on library history published by MIURA Taro (See CA1673) in Current Awareness No. 297 (September 2008). This article contains important book reviews only. As for research compiled in a book after its relevant thesis is released, the book is covered in this article. Miura organized literature published from 2002 to 2011 in 2012 (1) ; therefore, this article omits duplicated literature as much as possible.

Regarding research of library history, the number of theses and books has increased significantly in the past 10 years as a result of hard work by the Japan Association of Library and Information History and others. In addition, it can be said that major changes surrounding libraries had a considerable impact on library history research, such as the 2008 revision of the Library Law (See E799), the reorganization of librarian course subjects, the spread of electronic media since 2010 (called “e-books first year”), the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and the 2014 revision of the School Library Act (See E1597).

This is the reason why this article reviews the literature, entitled “New trends of research of library history.”

Miura organized the tendency of library history research into three points as follows: (1) the methodological question of library history research, (2) the historical evaluation of library history in Japan after the Second World War, and (3) the attention to people (See CA1673). The author has no objection to this arrangement. From a contemporary perspective, this is not a phenomenon peculiar to around 2008, but rather it seems a group of problems to be selected inevitably for the library history research to develop an academic appearance. This is because many of the results of the library history research published in the decade after 2008 were also developed in this frame. Therefore, in this article, I would like to touch on the new trends after summarizing the three points above.

1. Reexamining research methods of library history

IWASARU Toshio published Nihon toshokanshi gaisetsu (Nichigai Associates, Inc.) in 2007, which was one of the turning points, followed by active debates about methods of library history research. KAWASAKI Yoshitaka and others arranged the doctrinal history of library research mainly on the United States (2) . Regarding Japan, Miura is organizing the doctrinal history of the early days of the Modern Japanese Library (3) . In addition, TERADA Mitsutaka indicated in a special lecture on library history research that it is a problem for us to limit the scope of library history to modern times and beyond(4) . In this way, more discussions call for a large-scale approach from pre-modern times, which can be described as a feature of the last decade.

The following are the library history research of pre-modern Japan published in response to these trends. TAKEUCHI Satoru referred to the transfer of books between China, South Korea, and Japan, and showed a large sketch from the ancient times to the Edo period(5) . OGAWA Toru clarified the sutras held in Todaiji Temple and the activities of school monks(6) , and INABA Tsuguharu introduced the historical materials of the Eisei Bunko, which was ancestrally owned by the Hosokawa family (7) . HAYASAKA Nobuko summarized her many years of research on the Aoyagi Bunko in Sendai (8) . TAKAKURA Kazunori discussed the Goyoin Bunko, the Toyomiyazaki Bunko, the Isawa Bunko, and more based on his research on book collectors(9) .

As for the library history of pre-modern Japan, other books such as NAGASAWA Kozo’s Bakufu no Fumikura(10) and SHINDO Toru’s Toshokan to edojidai no hitobito(11) were published.

2. Historical evaluation of Japanese library history after the Second World War

As for the second point, which is the historical evaluation of library history in the post-Second World War period, many research results were published such as Gendai nihon no toshokan koso(12) compiled by KON Madoko and TAKAYAMA Masaya. OGUSHI Natsumi’s autobiographical recollection of library history(13) and KANNA Kenji’s research on library history of Okinawa(14) were published. Since 2011 was the 40th anniversary of the publication of Shimin no toshokan and 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Hino Public Libraries (Tokyo), relevant discussions also appeared(15) (16) (17) (18) . One of the characteristics may be that attention has been paid to library architecture(19) . Looking not only at Japan but also at the world, the number of publications of photobooks containing photos of beautiful libraries increased(20) , and the understanding of historical libraries deepened.

Furthermore, discussions related to librarian training courses deepened remarkably in connection with the revision of the Library Act in 2008 and the related course change of the librarian training course in post-Second World War library history research. SHIBATA Masami describes the history of the librarian training system based on a detailed chronology(21) , and SHIHOTA Tsutomu discusses the status transition of matters related to library history in ministerial ordinance subjects(22) . SATO Masaaki’s examination of the relationship between education for librarianship in the Kyushu region and the West Japan Academy for Library Science can be placed in the genealogy of such discussions(23) . TONEGAWA Kimiko compiled research on specialized staff of university libraries as a book (24) .

In this context, it is worth noting the publication of Toshokan jyohogaku kyoiku no sengoshi: shiryo ga kataru senmonshoku yosei seido no tenkai, which was supervised by NEMOTO Akira, and compiled by NAKAMURA Yuriko, MATSUMOTO Naoki, MIURA Taro, and YOSHIDA Yuko(25) . This book not only provides an overview of library information science in the post-Second World War, but also serves as a basic document collection for library information science education with a wealth of documents.

3. Interest in people

Many results have been produced for the third point, interest in people. The publication of Toshokan jinbutuden: Toshokan wo sodateta nijyunin no kouseki to shogai (Name index of the “Biography of librarianship: life and achievement of 20 people promoted libraries”) (Nichigai Associates, Inc.) in 2007 raised the level of subsequent library history research; MATSUZAKI Hiroko prepared the name index of persons who appear in the book(26) , and improved the convenience of searching the book.

OGAWA Toru, OKUIZUMI Kazuhisa, and OGURO Koji discussed SANO Yuzaburo, HAMAHATA Eizo, TADOKORO Ryosuke, and MORI Hiroshi in their book titled Jinbutsu de tadoru Nihon no toshokan no rekishi (27) . NAKAYAMA Airi also discussed Sano(28) . Regarding ARIYAMA Takashi, a meeting was held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth, and a record book was published(29) .

Toshokan jyohogaku kyoikuronso (30) by the Kyoto Toshangaku Kenkyukai is a collection of articles compiled in commemoration of the 90th anniversary of IWASARU Toshio’s birth, and includes discussions in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. As for prosopography, WATANABE Shinichi’s theory on ONO Noriaki and MATSUDA Yasuyo’s theory on ANESAKI Masaharu is noticeable.

NAGASAKA Kazushige discussed TOKUGAWA Yorimichi, who was the president of the Japan Library Association(31) .

Senzenki gaichi katsudo toshokan shokuin jinmei jisho written by OKAMURA Keiji(32) is also a well-researched work. Also, Toshokan jinbutsu jiten compiled by the Japan Association of Library and Information History(33) will be indispensable for future research on library prosopography.

4. New trends of research of library history

In library history research over the last decade, several trends that differ from the past have been observed. In the following, I would like to reorganize the new trends from the three perspectives of “relativization of the historical view which centers on public libraries,” “excavation of historical materials,” and “user’s perspective.”

4.1. Relativization of the historical view which centers on public libraries

Since 2010, electronic media such as e-books have spread rapidly, and after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, more users have come to use SNS such as Twitter widely. It is widely accepted that modern libraries have been developed centering around public libraries, but the advent of electronic media has forced a major transformation of what public libraries used to be. In this regard, various attempts have been made in the last decade to position the development of libraries other than public libraries in the library history.

ISHIYAMA Hiroshi also discussed the history of university libraries in Genryu kara tadoru kindai toshokan: Nihon toshokan shiwa(34) and showed that there are multiple origins of the modern library.

Other than the public library, school libraries become the subject of historical review. In particular, NAKAMURA Yuriko analyzed the acceptance of the American library model in Japan during the occupation period(35) ,; and IMAI Fukuji is trying to clarify the problem from a long-term perspective of the formation of US school library theory in the first half of the 20th century(36) with continuing Nakamura’s discussion. As for school libraries in post-Second World War, SUGIYAMA Etsuko has published a discussion referring to Okinawa as an example(37) (38) (39) . In addition, TSUMURA Mitsuhiro analyzed the actual activities of the school library associations of high schools in Japan(40) .

Regarding university libraries, IWASARU Toshio is discussing WADA Mankichi, the director of the Tokyo Imperial University Library(41) ; the publication of KAWAMURA Shuntaro’s Tokyo teikoku daigaku toshokan: Toshokan shisutemu to zosho, bukyoku, kyouin(42) has great significance.

Discussions on the national library are a little weak compared to those on school libraries and the university libraries, while there is consideration by ITO Tatsuya about the free system of the Tokyo shojakukan(43) (44) . In addition, NAGAO Munenori discussed TANAKA Inagi’s “national library” concept(45) .

As for specialized libraries and hospital libraries, SHIBATA Takayuki, YAMASHITA Michisuke, et al. published Hansen byo toshokan: Rekishi isan wo kousei ni(46) . In addition, although it is positioned as an addendum to Toshokan jinbutuden: Toshokan wo sodateta nijyunin no kouseki to shogai (Name index of the biography of librarianship: life and achievement of 20 people promoted libraries), SAKATA Yoko, who is involved in services for persons with disabilities, discusses HONMA Kazuo’s activities as a librarian(47) .

WACHI Tsuyoshi raises issues regarding the re-evaluation of private libraries while touching on MORI Arinori’s library concept(48) .

4.2. Progress of excavation of historical materials

As a new trend of library history research, the view that relied on printed materials such as library newsletters and autobiography has been reviewed over the past 10 years, and the use of unprinted historical materials such as business documents has been actively promoted. In this regard, OKUIZUMI Kazuhisa said, “library history research moved from the time when we relied solely on published documents to the time when we use primary documents or search historical materials that have not been revealed so far.” (49) The increased interest in primary documents may be related to the heightened awareness of document conservation activities following the Great East Japan Earthquake(50) .

Surprisingly, despite the fact that public libraries are part of the administrative services, public records have not been used in conventional research. It was of great significance that DONKAI Saori analyzed the requirements of private university libraries in the Taisho era, making full use of historical materials such as Kobun ruijyu(51) . Ando Tomoharu examined the formation process of the School Library Act using the Fukagawa document, which is the primary document of Ministry of Education officials(52) .

Attention has also been focused on libraries’ operational documents. OGURO Koji clarified the dynamics of confiscation of forbidden books from the 1920s onward using a diary of the Ueda City Library (Nagano Prefecture) (53) , and this could be pioneering research exhibiting activities of censorship held in Nagano Prefecture thereafter. Yoshida Akiko actively excavates and introduces historical materials(54) regarding the Tokyo Municipal Library, raising the research level significantly.

The Chiyoda Public Library (Tokyo) has played a significant role such as publishing a research report on books consigned by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2011(55) and organizing operational materials (Hitotsubashi surugadai toshokan gyōmu shiryō) of the Tokyo-shiritsu Hitotsubashi Surugadai Toshokan, which is the precursor of the Chiyoda Public Library, in 2015. Since then, libraries in each region are reviewing collections and compiling chronicles at the same time. NAGAO Munenori has organized the features of major publications from the viewpoint of a collection of documents in library history (See CA1856). Among monographs of library history in recent years, Tsushima shiritsu toshokan hennen shiryou shusei: 1895-2015(56) compiled by the Tsushima City Library (Aichi Prefecture) is worth noting. SONODA Shunsuke et al., who were in charge of compiling the book, discuss the method for discovering related documents remaining in the library(57) . The enhancement of “monographs of library history”, which is the basic document, should contribute to the development of library history research as a whole.

Thanks to the development of the method of oral history, interview records of the library staff were compiled constantly. In addition to the testimony of BUNGO Reiko, who was involved in the CIE library during the occupation period(58) , and the interview about OKADA Kenzo of the Hakodate Library (Hokkaido) (59) , NAKAMURA Yuriko and others also enthusiastically interviewed people related to school libraries(60) .

Based on documents held by the Vanderbilt University Library in the United States, MAEKAWA Kazuko discussed the influence given by Frances Neel Cheney, who was in charge of reference education at a training course for professional leaders in 1951, to SHICHI Kakuro and MIYAKE Chiyoji(61) . YOSHIDA Yuko considers the history of the Toshokan Tanki Daigaku based on the related documents of the junior college (62) .

Not only excavating historical materials but also reprinting them so that they can be used by other researchers is steady but valuable work. SUZUKI Hiromune’s publication of WADA Mankichi’s Tosho ten’etsu ki(63) and the Bunpo bunken ruijyu series, library history related literature energetically reprinted by Kanazawa Bunpokaku, greatly contribute to the development of the library history research base. It is also noteworthy that YONEI Katsuichiro discovered new documents such as the Shinkyo Toshokan as part of his research on KUSUDA Gorota(64) .

In addition, OKUIZUMI Kazuhisa’s Kindai nihon kokyo toshokan nenpyo: 1867 to 2005(65) contains important items regarding Japan’s library history from the pre-Meiji Restoration to 2005; Thus, it has become a must-have reference tool for future research.

4.3. Research from users’ perspectives

In addition to this, as a new research trend, a shift in perspective can be pointed out, i.e. reexamining library history from the perspective of library users, instead of those of libraries and librarians.

For example, ITO Tatsuya analyzed the library articles contained in Seiko, a magazine in the Meiji era and clarified the actual state of library use during the period(66) (67) . The discussions of the manners of library use by DONKAI Saori and WATANUKI Toyoaki(68) can also be considered as an attempt to reexamine the library from users’ perspectives. TAKANASHI Akira is also reexamining the library history(69) (70) . In addition, NAKANISHI Yutaka introduces MITAMURA Engyo’s actual usage of libraries(71) . Partly because of attention to libraries from literature researchers, OSAWA Satoshi(72) and HIBI Yoshitaka(73) republished materials about libraries one after another.

It is believed that these trends were influenced by recent US library history research, especially a series of research conducted by Wayne A. Wiegand. Regarding the position of his library history research, KAWASAKI Yoshitaka’s arrangement is very suggestive(74) , and the new library history research, which is also integrated with the trends of Japanese reading and reader research, will be involved in future development(75). It is noteworthy that MIYAMOTO Ai published a research article(76) to reexamine the Tokyo Municipal Library in the 1930s from the perspective of female users while utilizing the above-mentioned Hitotsubashi surugadai toshokan gyōmu shiryō as those indicate the direction of new library history.

5. Other trends

Other remarkable results have also been shown in individual research. Regarding the prewar period, there are SHINDO Toru’s book selection theory(77) and YONEI Katsuichiro’s study of KUSUDA Gorota(78) . SHIMAZAKI Sayaka discussed educational association libraries that were rarely covered in library history, referring to a case in Shiga prefecture(79) .

Research on libraries in modern Japanese colonies has also progressed. With MURAKAMI Miyoji’s Mantetsu toshokanshi kenkyu(80) and OGURO Koji’s research book on Japanese-Chinese library history(81) , it can be said that the understanding of modern library history has deepened. It is important that TOMOTANI Jun’ichi’s Nihongun sesshu tosho: chugoku senryochi de sesshushita tosho no yukue(82) discusses issues of wars and libraries. KOBAYASHI Masaki, who proposed the necessity of considering the issue from the perspective of international law, made a book review(83) .


While many achievements have been announced, people who have led library history research for a long time, such as ISHII Atsushi, ISHIYAMA Hiroshi, IWASARU Toshio, TAKAKURA Kazunori, and TOMOTANI Jun’ichi passed away in the last decade, which was a great loss to the field. It is a mission for the successors to critically inherit the academic traditions established by their predecessors and further develop them.

In the above, I introduced library history related literature published from 2008 to 2017. Due to space limitations and the author’s competence, overseas library history and library circumstances were rarely covered, but it is certain that library history related literature has increased significantly over the last 10 years. It is a proof of the fact that the last decade was a major turning point for libraries. When we face a complex situation with no prospects, it is natural that we come to have interest in history to reflect on our activities and understand the true nature of the problem.

This transformation is not over yet. In 2018, the field of library history research continues to show ambitious results. The National Diet Library (NDL) celebrated the 70th anniversary of its opening in the year, and various projects such as commemorative magazines and exhibitions were planned. I would like to continue to pay attention to how the trends discussed in this article will evolve in the next 10 years, and whether new research trends will emerge that are completely different from the past.

*Notes are not being translated and remain in Japanese language.

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[Accepted on 2018-08-10]

Written by NAGAO Munenori
Faculty of International Humanities, Josai International University
Translated by the Branch Libraries and Cooperation Division,
Administrative Department, National Diet Library