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E1155e – Status of Libraries in the Aftermath of the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake (Preliminary Report)

The original article published in Japanese ( )

Current Awareness-E No.190

17 March, 2011

Status of Libraries in the Aftermath of the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake (Preliminary Report)

On March 11, 2011 struck a magnitude 9.0 earthquake with its epicenter off the coast of Sanriku. Named the Great East Japan Earthquake, the disaster caused damage to libraries in Eastern Japan, particularly in the Northeastern Japan known as Tohoku. This report summarizes status of the library community in Japan and abroad in the aftermath of the disaster, based on information through March 16, 2011. Please note that information provided below are not exhaustive due to the difficulty in retrieving information on damage among libraries in regions that suffered substantial destruction from the earthquake.

  • Impact to Libraries

Miyagi Prefectural Library and Fukushima Prefectural Library released damage situations of public libraries in respective prefectures. According to these reports, cracks in buildings and broken glasses were observed in several libraries, while some suffered from damage triggered by the tsunami. Damage situations in individual public libraries are substantial. For example, Miyagi Prefectural Library and Iwate Prefectural Library announced to close until March 31. Fukushima Prefectural Library and Ibaraki Prefectural Library also announced to close for the time being.

University libraries also suffered considerable impact. Tohoku University and Tohoku Gakuin University confirmed to close the school until late April. Miyagi University of Education Library and University of Aizu, among others, announced a closure for the time being. Fukushima Medical Library Center for Academic Information Services announced to close until the end of March.

Due to the planned outage that began on March 14 in the Kanto region, National Institute of Informatics (NII) suspended its services including CiNii, Webcat, and NACSIS-CAT/ILL. Several libraries also responded by shortening hours of opening or by closure.

In National Diet Library, part of the storage in the Tokyo Main Library suffered damage. Access to materials is partially being suspended.

  • Communication and Information Exchange among Librarians across Japan via Wiki and Twitter

A wiki site titled “savelibrary@wiki” was launched on March 12. With cooperation from librarians across Japan, the wiki provides information on damage situations across libraries and on assistance needed by affected libraries. In Twitter, information are being communicated and exchanged through the use of hushtag “#jishinlib” (jishin means earthquake in Japanese).

  • Provision of Disaster Related Information at Public Libraries

Many libraries, including Shizuoka Prefectural Central Library and Tottori Prefectural Library, released websites that provide information about the earthquake. Some websites are useful for confirming safety of affected people. Saga Prefectural Library and Fukuoka Prefectural Library are exhibiting newspaper articles on the earthquake and related documents. 

  • Provision of Academic Information to Students and Researchers in Disaster Affected Areas

Kyushu University Library, Kagoshima University Library, and Hokkaido University Library, among others, announced to provide the same service available for their students to students affiliated with institutions in disaster affected regions upon their visit to hometowns. Students are not only permitted to use the facility, but also to lend books and to use public wireless LAN. University of Tokyo Library announced its decision to provide access to electronic journals with which the university has contracts to, to researchers and medical personnel affiliated with universities impacted by the disaster.

  • Messages from Abroad

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO), Council on East Asian Libraries (CEAL), International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), and the European Association of Japanese Studies (EAJS) announced on respective websites its preparation to provide as much support as possible, along with condolences for the victims.

Written by Research and Information Section
Library Support Division, Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library

Translated by Okada Aya