The construction of the UK Union Catalogue of Japanese Books began in 1991 when NII (National Institute of Informatics, formerly NACSIS) in Japan offered free access to its NACSIS-CAT (online cooperative cataloguing system) files for a project of the Japan Library Group (JLG) designed to improve access to Japanese materials in the UK.
The aim of the project was to compile an 'original script' union catalogue of printed Japanese materials held in the UK, and at the same time contribute towards a worldwide catalogue of Japanese books within the NACSIS database.
The UK Union Catalogue of Japanese Books was the first international project for NACSIS-CAT. The original members of the project were the JLG core member libraries, including the British Library, and the University Libraries of Cambridge, Oxford, Sheffield and Stirling. Later the School of Oriental and African Studies (London) joined soon afterwards.
Since then, other libraries with new collections have also joined the project. These include the libraries of the Japan Foundation London Language Centre, the British Museum, JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) London, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, the Needham Research Institute, and Edinburgh University Library (which received the Stirling collection after that was closed).
As a result of significant and rapid changes in the IT environment in the past 20 years our approach has been empirical. In general, help and support has been forthcoming both from NII and from local IT specialists (in particular those at Cambridge for the J-BISC initiative and the PCAT development, and those at Oxford for the Allegro configuration). During its evolution, the union catalogue has been available in various formats, including an online version available on telnet, a CD-ROM version produced and updated quarterly by NII, a web catalogue, and the Allegro system.
Meanwhile having noted that great strides were also being made by European colleagues using the NACSIS-CAT in their retro-con cataloguing task, the UK project group began to consider the possibility of expansion of the UK union catalogue to a European-wide one. This was proposed at and endorsed by the 2003 conference of EAJRS (European Association of Japanese Resource Specialists), and was subsequently raised later in November at the meeting of the German-speaking library group (Arbeitskreis Japan-Bibliotheken), where a general consensus was reached.
Following the receipt of agreement from all NACSIS-CAT member libraries in Europe, NII kindly made the arrangements to prepare the European data, and their bulk import into the allegro catalogue was carried out in August 2005. After that weekly ftp updates from NII included all European data as well. Thus the Oxford version of the NACSIS union catalogue became a European one, and the Cambridge catalogue remained as the UK union catalogue.
NACSIS-CAT user group meetings and training workshops are regularly held in cooperation with NII. Two colleagues from UK were sent to NII to be trained as European NACSIS-CAT trainers, and have already provided valuable training sessions at member libraries as well as NACSIS-CAT clinic Q&A workshops organized during the EAJRS annual conferences.
The latest development is the creation of the CiNiiBooks portal site which can be used for access to the UK union catalogue and the European union catalogue databases respectively (see below). The CiNiiBooks is a replacement of the NII Webcat developed by NII, and we would like to express our profound gratitude to NII for their longtime support and resourcefulness in meeting the particular needs of Japanese collections in the overseas environment.
URL for the CiNiiBooks Portal site : http://www.jlgweb.org.uk/union_cat.html