History of the Japan Library Group

The Japan Library Group in the United Kingdom was founded in 1966. The original members of JLG were Cambridge, London, Oxford and Sheffield Universities as well as the national collections in the British Museum Library and the National Lending Library, both of which became part of the British Library in 1973.

The Group's founder Chairman was Professor Geoffrey Bownas of the University of Sheffield. The present Chairman is Mr Hamish Todd, Asian & African Studies, The British Library, who succeeded Mr Noboru Koyama, Head of the Japanese Collections of Cambridge University in April 2008. The Secretary is Ms Fujiko Kobayashi, SOAS, University of London.

In addition to its UK activities the JLG has close working relationships with its European counterparts, notably the European Association of Japanese Resources Specialists (EAJRS). The JLG has been heavily involved in EAJRS since its inception – in fact EAJRS grew out of a initiative proposed at a Japanese Studies Colloquium organised by the British Library in 1988. The two organisations have collaborated on a number of projects as mentioned below.

From 1975 to 1993 the JLG was fortunate to receive a regular grant from the Japan Foundation Endowment Committee (JFEC) which allowed it to launch 'The Co-operative Acquisition Scheme' for the acquisition of monographs. The basic aim of the scheme was to ensure that all desirable volumes be acquired by at least one library in the UK.

The scheme reduced duplication of purchasing and enabled a degree of specialisation to take place. In 1993, the scheme had to be discontinued in the wake of a policy decision by the JFEC to concentrate its limited resources on support for research rather than activities such as the JLG scheme. However, JLG members continue to collaborate on an informal basis to maximise resources available for collection development.

One of the JLG’s major achievements has been the creation of the Union Catalogue of Japanese Books. In 1989, a dedicated satellite link was established between the British Library and the National Centre for Science Information Systems (now NII), Japan's main research centre for academic information/networking, which holds more than 5 million bibliographic records.

At the founding workshop of the EAJRS held in Berlin in October 1989, a proposal to compile an online union catalogue by deriving records held in the NACSIS cataloguing system (NACSIS-CAT) was put to Hiroshi Inose, Director General of NACSIS. Thus the pilot phase of the UK Union Catalogue of Japanese Books project started. After two decades of development The UK Union Catalogue contains more than 225,000 records from 11 libraries. Such was its success that The European Union Catalogue of Japanese Books was developed. The latter is also replaced with the access link in the CiNiiBooks portal site.

Another JLG initiative was the Bridge to Japan website which was originally started by Mr Chris Dillon at the Daiwa Foundation in 1995. The pioneering website provided structured access to a wide variety of online Japanese information resources and was maintained until 2012 when it was superseded by sites such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA)'s Web Japan.

As part of its work to improve access to Japanese library collections, from 2007-2009 the Japan Library Group played a lead role in organising a series of three workshops at Tenri University Central Library to develop the expertise of librarians responsible for Japanese rare books and manuscripts outside Japan. These Tenri Antiquarian Materials Workshops were attended by 19 librarians from European and North American libraries and museums and provided valuable training in the cataloguing, handling and conservation of these important materials. Such was the demand for this type of training that a further Tenri Antiquarian Materials Workshop was held in 2013 attracting 20 participants from 6 countries. The Overseas Japanese Materials Study Group (OJAMASG) has been set up to continue the collaboration developed by the workshops.

With the increase in electronic resources in the field of Japanese Studies, JLG members have become active participants in the European Consortium for the Sustainable Development of Japanese Electronic Resources (CEDDREJ). This co-operation with other European libraries has made it possible for participating institutions to negotiate consortium deals with vendors and publishers.