The Power of Relationships

(Not sure why, but my Internet access is back on my computer! Not sure how long it will last, but I’m taking advantage of it while I can.)

I’m a firm believer that building relationships is key to being successful.  General marketing is important in order to make others aware of your services, but relationships are essential to keep users coming back.  Judging by my visits today, I would say that the Japanese libraries fully understand this as well.

National Diet Library

The National Diet Library, which is Japan’s parliamentary library, is well-known for their digitization projects.  However, the focus of my exchange is on how libraries provide services to their users. 

Public users may come into the NDL and use the library’s collection in their research.  Users can search the online catalog for materials and then use them while inside the library.  They have special reading rooms (for example, one is for humanities while another one is for sciences) where visitors can go to receive research assistance.  Remote users are also able to use the collection by registering with the NDL and then make use of their copy services. 

They are also making use of technology to some degree, beyond their digital collections.  They have created a website that is a topic-based research guide to to assist users in beginning their research, which is common in our US libraries.  What I found most interesting, however, is a website where librarians can share information.  Although many individual library systems have something similar to this in the states, this website is open to all Japanese libraries.  Libraries can register for the site and then post experiences they have had in assisting their users and the solutions they used to help them.  Although the site can only be updated by registered libraries, it is open to the public to read, essentially making it a knowledge database for professional development but also akin to a frequently asked questions that the public can reference.

Chiyoda City Public Library

This library is very unique public library in many ways.  The Chiyoda Ward has 43,000 full-time residents.  However, they have determined that they’re daytime population is anywhere from 850,000 to 1 million people due to people coming in to work or go to school in the area.  The library’s mission is to be the “Gateway to Chiyoda” and has worked hard to build relationships with their users, but also the businesses in the area. 

First, the layout of the library is divided into two.  You enter the first floor of the library by elevator.  If you turn right you enter an area that is designed to accommodate the library’s many business professionals.  There is a designated cell phone area, couches arranged in a way to allow small groups to meet, and reference materials dealing with business subjects, particulalry the publishing industry (more on this in a moment), computers with research databases are available, and red paint has been used as an accent color.

Turn to the left and you enter the area that caters to the residential users.  Comfortable places to sit and read have been provided, a concierge desk is used in place of a reference desk, casual reading materials and computers with Internet access are available, and green has been used as an accent color.  In addition to this area, there is a second floor with a large children’s section enclosed by glass so children can play and have storytime.  The library also has its books related to parenting in this area so the parents can stay with their children while they use a collection area they are interested in.

The library has also built relationships with the area’s publishers and used bookstores.  First, there are 19 local publishers in the humanities areas.  The library has a large display dedicated to the books that they own in their collection from each of these publishers.  For each publisher, they have an overview or quote from the publisher themselves, the library’s books available for check-out, and then informational materials from the publisher (i.e. catalogs of books available for purchase).  The library is also down the street from the Jimbou-ka area, which is a used bookstore district.  Rather than compete with these booksellers, a website was created where the public can search for books that the sellers might have in stock.  The library recognizes that they have limited space, so if a user cannot find the book they’re looking for in the library, a staff member helps them use the Jimbou-ka website to see if the book is available for purchase.

Finally, there is the Chiyoda Web Library, which is their collection of eBooks.  Although I have plenty to say about this tool, I am running out of time and will discuss this in another post in order to do it justice.  There is so much to tell!

When I continue, I will also talk about an unexpected visit to the Goethe-Institut Bibliothek.

Right now, I’m running off to the Library Fair and Forum in Yokohama!

One Response to “The Power of Relationships”

  1. Jeff M Says:

    The relationship between the Chiyoda library and the bookstores/publishers seems like a great idea. The library on a whole apparently reflects the extremely facilitative aspect of Japanese culture. Japan is more of a “group” culture as opposed to an “individual” culture. I’m very curious as to how this reflects in library services development and innovation in both countries.

    I’m also wondering about the balance between events or programming as opposed to this type of arrangement, as compared to libraries in the US?

Leave a Reply