You are here

Home»English Article

E2497e – Response to COVID-19 by Public Libraries in Japan: Research by the National Diet Library

The original article published in Japanese ( )

Current Awareness-E No.435

26 May, 2022

Response to COVID-19 by Public Libraries in Japan: Research by the National Diet Library


Since FY2002, the National Diet Library (NDL) has been conducting research on libraries as well as library and information science as part of its library support program (see E1781e).

The purpose of the research in FY2021 was to investigate how public libraries responded to the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19). By organizing and sharing the results, we aimed to contribute as a reference to the library community at large.

This research was conducted in cooperation with the Japan Library Association (JLA). A research group was organized to administer the research: Agata Teru (Professor of Asia University Faculty of International Relations, Member of the JLA Committee on Issue Investigation), Otani Yasuharu (Research group chair, Professor of Aoyama Gakuin University College of Community Studies, Member of the JLA Committee on Issue Investigation), Kishida Kazuaki (Professor of Keio University Faculty of Letters, Chair of the JLA Committee on Issue Investigation), Shimada Manabu (Professor of Kyoto Tachibana University Faculty of Humanities, Former Director of Setouchi City Library), and Yoshii Jun (Adjunct Lecturer of Tsuru University, Senior Researcher of Library Research Institute Co.Ltd.(株式会社図書館総合研究所)).

An online questionnaire was administered to all public libraries across Japan, including branches. June 1, 2021 was established as the reference date. Of the responses from 2,075 libraries, those originally not intended as a research target was excluded and 2,022 were analyzed. In the process of designing the questionnaire, we referred to previous surveys conducted by saveMLAK and the JLA Public Library Division. Questions were tailored to capture situational changes over time, given the prolonged circumstances of the pandemic. After confirming the responses to the questionnaire, interviews were conducted to one central library that had not closed at all, as well as two central libraries that had installed both “book sterilizers” and “electronic library services.” We appreciate all the public libraries that cooperated to the questionnaire and the interviews.

Here are the summary of results.

Almost all public libraries in Japan (97.3%) were closed at least once due to COVID-19. Actions taken to prevent the spread of infection centered on measures related to library facilities and equipment (disinfection, ventilation, installation of partitions, reducing the number of seats, and others) and requesting users to wear masks.

No significant increase was observed in the number of libraries that began to offer remote lending services such as “postal lending and delivery services.” This finding implies that public libraries in Japan prioritized to keep the facilities open and to encourage users to come and use the libraries. Libraries have not adopted expansion of remote lending services. Exception was observed in an increase in the number of libraries offering e-books and e-journals.

Regarding fiscal impact on libraries, no significant budget cuts were found overall, although there were some expense items that experienced increases or decreases. About two-thirds of the libraries responded that they implemented (or were planning to implement) measures utilizing Temporary Local Revitalization Grant for the Novel Coronavirus Disease. Teleworking (including working at home) by library staff was implemented to a certain extent in prefectural libraries. However, the percentage was lower for municipal libraries. This suggests the difficulty of flexibly changing the work styles of library staff.

A report summarizing the research results was published in February 2022 and distributed to libraries in Japan and abroad. An electronic version was also made available on the Current Awareness Portal and the National Diet Library Digital Collections. While the COVID-19 pandemic has not come to an end, we hope that this report will be used as a reference in reviewing measures taken by Japanese public libraries as of June 2021 and in considering future countermeasures. Detailed statistical analysis of the questionnaire responses are scheduled to take place in the future.

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

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

国立国会図書館関西館図書館協力課. 公立図書館における新型コロナウイルス感染症(COVID-19)への対応. 国立国会図書館. 2022, 238p., (図書館調査研究リポート, 19).
“covid-19-servey”. saveMLAK.
“公共図書館部会”. 日本図書館協会.
関西館図書館協力課調査情報係. 図書館及び図書館情報学に関する調査研究とは. カレントアウェアネス-E. 2016, (300), E1781.