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Campus Now

Spring Verdure Issue (May)


A Treasure of Knowledge: Waseda University Library

Interview with Tetsuo Kato, Library Director

We discussed the programs and future issues of the Waseda University Library with Library Director Tetsuo Kato.

An enriched and evolving university library as an essential element of education and research

Professor Tetsuo Kato
Director of the Waseda University Library
Doctorate from the Faculty of Law (Legal Studies/Waseda University)

A pioneer of modernization for libraries

—Could you please discuss the value and history of the Waseda University Library?

The collection of the Waseda University Library exceeds 5 million books. This scale is top-class, vying for first or second among all university libraries in Japan. Of course our library has a long and storied history, but we have also implemented advanced measures for the modernization and information-orientation of the library. For example, our WINE search system allows users to search our collection database from anywhere at any time. The WINE system has been in operation since more than 10 years ago. We have also completed a Database of Japanese and Chinese Classics in which material from before the Edo Period has been converted into electric format. Normally, users must perform complicated procedures before being able to view ancient books. However, as long as internet connection is available, our database allows users to view the contents of valuable materials at any time and from any place. Furthermore, the Waseda University Library database is provided to the international database organization OCLC, thus making our database publicly available throughout the world.

—The spread of the internet has led to not only an enhancement of the library database, but also to an increase in electronic journals and other electronic books. It has become possible to view the contents of such material from computer terminals. In the future, how will the library respond to such changes in the future?

There is no way that libraries can avoid the issue of the computerization of books. This problem applies not only to university libraries but also to public libraries. Libraries have limited space in which to house their collections, and libraries must respond to the spreading trend of digital books in society. In 50 years, libraries will have become electronic libraries. Despite possibilities to the contrary, I believe that libraries will continue to serve as facilities which allow users to directly interact with collected materials, as well as useful facilities for searching information.

Strengthening the library's role as the core of education

—What do you think is the mission of a university library?

A university library is the core of education and research. In the past, university libraries have operated under traditional values and have tended to emphasize the aspect of research support.

Speaking from my personal experience as dean of an undergraduate school, when seriously considering the education of my school's students, I questioned whether the students were sufficiently utilizing the library as part of their studies. Therefore, I felt the desire to further emphasize the role of our library as an educational function for undergraduate and graduate students. I devised organizational measures to achieve this goal.

Libraries in the United States have come to this realization a long time ago. University libraries in America are operated with the understanding that efficient use of libraries by students and undergraduate students will lead to an increase in the quality of education. It is important that the libraries of different undergraduate schools work together and that libraries become an essential part of normal preparation and review for classes, as well as an indispensable part of self-study.

Therefore, our library has established two main themes and has worked to enhance the educational functions of the library. One theme is the support of study. A “Study Support Partnership Committee” was established two years ago. Through partnerships between the library, undergraduate schools and graduate schools, this committee has examined methods for further utilization of the information possessed by the library. Our library has also strengthened support for study by linking with organizations promoting educational infrastructure throughout the university. Such organizations include the Open Education Center, the IT Center, the Remote Education Center, the International Affairs Division, and the Writing Center. Specifically, as an advanced program, our library plans study support programs together with instructors, assistant instructors and research associates in the School of Political Science and Economics, the School of Culture, Media and Society, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the School of Fundamental Science and Engineering, the School of Creative Science and Engineering, and the School of Advanced Science and Engineering. Through classes such as practical lessons for 1st year undergraduate students, our library actively promotes activities for enlightening students on topics such as using the library database.

The second theme is the enhancement of library services. In April 2009, the General Viewing Section was formed through reorganization and the User Support Section was newly established. All library staff act as Academic Liaisons and fulfill the vital role of connecting the library with users and with undergraduate schools. In addition to the enrichment of reference services, liaisons actively participate in study support and reference support associated with library information literacy in undergraduate schools and graduate schools. We give careful consideration for library services which are easy-to-use and benefit the user, and we seek to establish an easily accessible library.

Libraries are the life of a university

—Could you please discuss the issues confronted by university libraries, as well as measures for the resolution of such issues?

One issue is financial constraints. The spread of electronic journals has also caused an increase in associated costs. Our library has always implemented a variety of measures and worked to establish a workable budget. Library materials must be collected in a way that maximizes our limited budget, and we must always be conscious of our library's role as the core of education and research. One aspect which I believe will remain unchanged in the future is how the status of a university library is based upon the breadth of its collection of precious books. However, I believe that library collections will be viewed as a common asset of society as a whole, thus resulting in the sharing and supplementing of collections through library partnerships in the future. In that respect, I am confident that the Waseda University Library is capable of making great contributions to society.

Another issue is the cultivation of library staff. A university library is responsible for supporting the needs of users, as well as for supporting study and research. When considering this entire range of activities, a variety of expertise is required for the professionals who support a library. I believe that an issue in the future will be the development and cultivation of young professionals who specialize in library services.

—What meaning does a library have for you?

To put it simply, a library is the life of a university. Since assuming the position of Library Director, I feel even more strongly that a library is the foundation of university education and research. From the perspective of faculty, the process of writing a thesis or report while using materials located at the library is an extremely important process. Not only is this process associated with our research, but it also contributes greatly to the formation of students as human beings. The mission of a university is to impart young people with knowledge. Fulfillment of this mission is made possible when students use libraries to search for a variety of materials and then achieve academic and research success using the materials. The experience of studying at our library will be of benefit to students once they enter society. Also, nothing makes me happier than when alumni return to use our library.

Professor Tetsuo Kato
Director of the Waseda University Library
Doctorate from the Faculty of Law (Legal Studies/Waseda University)

After graduating from the Waseda University School of Law I, completed the Doctoral Program at the Waseda University Faculty of Law. Specializes in civil law and bankruptcy law. In 2002, assumed the position of Dean of the School of Law. Also served as Dean of the Faculty of Law from 2004 to 2006 (while also serving as Dean of the School of Law. Assumed the position of Library Director from 2006. Has served as an appraisal member for the Law Examination of the Ministry of Justice, as well as a program officer at the JSPS Research Center for Science Systems. Current holds positions such as a member of the MEXT's Scientific Technology Council, visiting professor of the National Institute of Informatics (NII), and a member of the Supreme Court's Advisory Council for the Appointment of Lower Court Judges (Tokyo).