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E1640e – Thinking about the Future of Libraries in Fukushima

The original article published in Japanese ( )

Current Awareness-E No.273

24 December, 2014

Thinking about the Future of Libraries in Fukushima


A forum “Thinking about the Future of Libraries in Fukushima” was held at the 16th Library Fair & Forum (PACIFICO Yokohama) on November 6, 2014. In Part I titled “Libraries in Fukushima Prefecture Today (福島県における図書館の今),” the author looked back on situations from immediate aftermath of the disaster through today to create an opportunity to reconsider the role of libraries as hubs for information. Discussed were types of information that libraries needed after the disaster as well as types of information that libraries were asked for. Also discussed were efforts that libraries should make for livelihood of residents facing new phase as municipalities undergo reconstruction. In Part II titled “Libraries in Municipalities Accepting Residents of Evacuation Order Zone (避難指定区域の住民の受け入れている自治体の図書館について),” municipal governments of Aizuwakamatsu and Iwaki reported cases of assistance for evacuees. These two municipalities have accepted several residents under evacuation due to the nuclear accident. Discussed at the symposium were situations of library services and problems that emerged.

●Summary of Part I

Four “information” are important keywords in the process of reconstruction from the disaster. The first information refers to those used to communicate with governments to grasp the situation, which functioned largely immediately after the disaster. The second type of information is on damage of other libraries. This was necessary for resuming operations of library networks. The third type of information is about one’s own library. Providing information about opening and closure of libraries influenced residents’ daily lives. The fourth information is records of the disaster. This is still an ongoing type of information.

Turning attention to evacuation, 120,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture continue to be under evacuation. Although the number has decreased since its peak in October 2012, statistics of children under evacuation is notable. While the number of evacuees outside Fukushima Prefecture is much larger than those who evacuated within the prefecture, the numbers reverse when looking only at children. One would speculate that this must have no small effect on the usage of prefectural library. More recently, developments in environmental arrangements including decontamination has encouraged new moves among evacuees. In particular, there is a prediction of an increase of population inflow to Iwaki City, adjacent to evacuation order zone. Assistance may shift from direct services to individuals to provision of assistance to municipalities.

According to a survey by Reconstruction Agency, over 60 percent of residents of Okuma Town and Futaba Town located within difficult-to-return zone have no intention to return to their hometowns. 25 percent of them have expressed concerns on educational institutions. The survey does not directly refer to libraries, but resuming library operations must have as much significance as reopening schools. According to interviews with board of education of municipalities under evacuation (conducted by the author), libraries are not included in municipal reconstruction plans, and there is no prospect of resuming library operations. However, there are piles of issues to be considered, including rescue of damaged materials and complementing collection of materials currently behind.

●Summary of Part II

Aizuwakamatsu City Library, accepting evacuees mainly from Okuma Town, reported on lending of materials to individual evacuees, simplification of address confirmation, provision of materials to evacuation centers, library tours for Okuma Town Elementary and Junior High Schools, and acceptance of students for a class on workplace experience. Major achievements have been made in investigation learning using libraries among students at Okuma Elementary School.

Iwaki City Library expanded its library service and implemented evacuation-related registration in response to the disaster. The library reported on expanding the scope of such registration from evacuees to supporters such as volunteers and workers at nuclear power plants. Also reported were publicity to municipalities under evacuation.

In the symposium, both municipalities pointed out that presence of high awareness and preparation for services covering broad areas before the disaster led to smooth acceptance of evacuees. Also discussed was the challenge of responding to changing trends of evacuees, which the author had pointed out in Part I. Inflow of evacuees to Iwaki City is expected to increase, while those coming into Aizuwakamatsu City are predicted to decrease. The event closed with an overview that local public libraries should play the central role in providing close support to evacuees. Efforts may include partnering with or succeeding assistance projects of Fukushima Prefectural Library.

Written by Yoshida Kazunori
Fukushima Prefectural Library

Translated by Okada Aya