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7th CDNLAO Meeting: China Country Report
The National Library of China (NLC) Advancing Towards the Twenty-first Century
Zhang Yanbo, Deputy-Director of NLC
The Metropolitan Library of Beijing, the predecessor of NLC, was founded in 1909 with the approval of the Qing Government. It was formally opened to the public in 1912. In 1916 the library was designated as a national library due to the fact that it proceeded to accept from Chinese publishers the deposit copies of home publications. Many famous scholars, such as Miao Quansun, Liang Qichao, Cai Yuanpei and Yuan Tongli have been curators and have made great contributions to the development of libraries in China.
At present, NLC covers an area of 13.53 hectares with a floor space of 172,000 square meters, including the branch library located in Wenjin Street. Up to the end of 1997, the total collection of the Library amounted to over 21 million volumes (items) and employs nearly 2000 staffs, ranking first in Asia and fifth in the world.
NLC's collection has a long history. The present Chinese ancient and rare books of the total collection account for 270,000 and Chinese thread-bound books for over 1,640,000. There are a large number of maps and atlases (both in Chinese and foreign languages), and Chinese minority maps. In addition, the library has a collection of more than 35,000 inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Yin -Shang Dynasty (c.l 6th-11th Century B.C.) and 16,000 volumes of the precious Dunhuang Manuscripts. It is also appointed to collect doctor's theses across China, official publications of the United Nations and foreign governments. NLC, which has the largest number of foreign books and materials in China, has a collection of literature and materials in 115 languages, accounting for 45% of the total. In recent years, audio-visual materials, microfilm strips and CD-ROMs are constantly provided for the public. During the past few years, the collection of NLC has been increasing with an annual growth of 700,000 volumes or items.
NLC has 30-odd reading rooms with more than 3,000 reading seats and the capability of receiving 7,000-8,000 readers per day. It offers readers open access to 80% of the collection every day the year round. In 1997, the library received 1,520,000 readers and they borrowed 6,500,000 volumes of materials. The NLC's website is available on the internet and Chinanet round the clock. In May 1998, NLC adjusted its service structures so as to meet readers' increasing demands.
Digitizing and Networking
As early as the late 1970s, NLC began using computers. In the past 20 years, the Library has made great progress in digitizing and networking, and accumulated rich experience. The initial step of digitizing and networking started in computer cataloguing. With regard to the fundamental research and standard-making work, NLC focuses on character setting coding of Chinese character processing and the making of machine-readable cataloguing of Chinese books.
In 1980, the State Bureau of Technological Supervision promulgated Standard GB 2312 for Character Setting Coding of Chinese Characters, which laid foundations for the cataloguing of Chinese books.
The making of bibliographical forms is the basis of establishment of machine-readable catalogue database. In the early 1980s NLC began using LC MARC to catalogue western books on trial. In 1985 NLC set about drawing up CNMARC (China MARC Format), and in 1989, CNMARC came out formally. Revision was made according to UNIMARC in 1991. After revision again, the Ministry of Culture issued it as the National Standard. The establishment of CNMARC has set a standard for computer cataloguing, and will be of great significance for establishing information network of bibliographies meeting international standard. NLC has now completed its bibliographical database for Chinese books.
NLC is the national bibliographical center all the time. Since the end of 1988, it has initiated the making of national machine-readable bibliographical database. And it distributed its data in the early 1990s. At the end of 1995 NLC developed National Bibliographical CD-ROMs of China and distributed them. From 1995-1998, NLC created a bibliographical database for books that were published during 1949-1987 together with three other libraries in China. Now there have been accumulated 800,000 bibliographical records of Chinese books in China national bibliographical database.
Union cataloguing is the inevitable trend in information time. in January 1998, Center for Union Cataloguing of China was set up in NLC on the basis of resource sharing among libraries, supplemental priority, mutual benefits and development. Nearly 30 public libraries, university libraries and specialized libraries have taken part in this program. At present, this center has sought to solve some technical and operational problems at the realization of Union Computer Cataloguing.
In order to share resources further and make full use of library information, a contract was signed on November 5^ 1998 between NLC and Beijing and Qinghua Universities. It will allow students and teachers in the two universities better access to NLC's services. Under the co-operative agreement, the Library will buy books and magazines that are not available in the country's top two universities and the universities will offer technology to help digitize the Library and upgrade out-of-date equipment.
Great efforts were made in networking construction in 1997. And NLC completed subsidiary networks in NLC in the same year. Cataloguing systems for Chinese books, management system for Chinese newspapers and magazines, multimedia CD-ROM network system, retrieval system facing the public and management system for circulation of reservation have been provided for the public. NLC's website has now data capacity up to 50 GB on Internet. These data are available round the clock, winning enthusiastic approval of readers. Readers can not only retrieve as many as seven bibliographical indexing databases, such as national bibliographies and catalogues for Chinese serials, but also read a large quantity of materials with whole text. According to statistics, the monthly visiting readers of October 1998 on NLC's website have been up to 1,840,000, ten times of those who went to NLC reading on the average.
Exchanges and Cooperation
The 21st Century is a more open one with global integrity. Libraries in the world are facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities because of the rapid development of information technology. Strengthening exchanges and cooperation in the world sphere is becoming the common agreement of more and more countries. NLC is playing an important role in international library exchanges and cooperation.
As a member of the international Book Association and International Organization of Standardization Technology for Literature, NLC has created personnel and material exchanges with many national libraries in the world. It has exchanged books and materials with 1292 libraries in 117 countries or regions. During the past two years, NLC has paid more attention to promoting international exchanges on the basis of new information technology, while continuously consolidating and developing traditional exchanges and cooperation between libraries. There are various cooperative programs.
1. Cooperative project of establishing Center for Sino-Australia Electronic Information between NLC and Australia National University Library.
In March 1994, Colin, Curator of Australia National University Library paid his visit to China. He put forward developing information exchanges and cooperation between the two libraries through Internet. The two libraries signed a contract in December 1994 subsidized by Sino-Australia board of directors, in 1995, computer communication devices were installed. And the Training of technical personnel for administration of networking communication began. We set about the arrangement, translation and data entry of bibliographical data for Chinese serials. In 1997, a mirror-image website was set up on Australian side. At present, thousands of people from dozen countries have visited this website. The successful cooperation of this program has provided precious experience in developing international exchanges and cooperation through internet.
2. Cooperative project between NLC and Administrative Bureau of National Library of Singapore.
In October 1997, NLC and Administrative Bureau of National Library of Singapore reached agreement on cooperation. The two sides agreed to cooperate in library work, literature services and information transformation so as to realize resource sharing and further strengthen current cooperation and friendship. Concrete schemes of cooperation were made in visiting personnel, personnel exchanges, materials purchasing and literature information service through computer networks. By initial exchanges, NLC has got rich experience of library networking construction of Singapore and Singapore has obtained computer acquisition of Chinese books, cataloguing and retrieval technology, it laid solid foundation for further cooperation.
3. Cooperative letter of intent on international Dunhuang Database Project between NLC and the National Library of Britain.
NLC has kept good cooperation and personnel exchanges with British National Library for a long time. The International Dunhuang Database Project is a large-scale data base project. NLC, as the major collector of Dunhuang literature, is responsible for arrangement of Dunhuang literature. At the invitation of the National Library of Britain, NLC has joined in this large-scale data base project with other libraries. Developing international cooperation on certain concrete program will be one of the most important means in library cooperation.
Prospects of the National Library of China
The tide of information technology revolution provides the library with both favorable opportunities and challenges, so the library will seek to quicken its steps from traditional to modernized library in the fields of automation, computerization and networking.
The revolution of digitizing and development of networking are deeply affecting all aspects of social culture and economy and bringing globalization of information transformation. NLC is seeking to take an active part in international library affairs, realize exchanges and cooperation with the field of library on a world-scale by using networking technology in the light of down-to-earth attitude, and let the world know more about China and China know more about the world. NLC, as the national library, must make full use of its rich literature resources and information technology, advancing its steps in digitizing and networking.
Last updated Thursday 29-May-2003