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18:29 | May 14 | 2012

The Lighthouse shines for everybody

12 thousand people visit Shanghai Library every day.

We learned a lot from our 15 days long visit to the Celestial Empire: about the future-minded country and its old culture, as well as about its technologically advanced libraries.

Both digit and paper
Chinese libraries are modern multifunctional hi-tech intellectual and cultural centers of unusual architectural design with bright halls and open access to the holdings. Their huge buildings are beautiful, and they offer maximum comfort to both readers and staff. All rooms intended for client services have minimum number of blind walls; there is a lot of glass and air. They are equipped with excellent modern tools – from transformable furniture and book lifting machines to wireless Internet. Subscription is free of charge everywhere, and so are library and information services. Traditional paper information carriers are cleverly combined with digital technologies and electronic resources. Whatever aspect you look into you get a sense of both state support and understanding of libraries’ significance as they represent an important social institution. Education is an important value in China, and libraries are regarded as a necessary element of the training and education system.

One card for all
The last thing on our program was the legendary city of Shanghai, an internationally important center of business and a “showcase” of a kind of the modern China. What impresses is an organic combination of traditional and new elements in the city’s architecture and appearance, the elegance and the sheer number of all kinds of skyscrapers, the rational way in which multi-level road junctions are organized, clean streets and well-cared-for parking zones, the smart way in which life (including the metro system) is organized in this super-large megalopolis with a population of 23 million people.
As to the Shanghai Library, one just can’t help being impressed by its size. The 24-story building itself looks like a tower – a giant lighthouse – and is one the city’s ten cultural symbols. It is one of the largest libraries in China, with 33 reading rooms, 20 specialized chamber halls, two exhibition rooms, two conference halls, and a museum of manuscripts written by famous Chinese cultural figures.
A priority area of its activities is creation of a high-tech electronic library of the new millennium. The library has a modern computerized multifunctional management and service system. A unified system for providing services to members of central Shanghai libraries – a Single Library Card – has been created. Automated self-service areas have been introduced – users’ registration and book borrowing/return registration points. On-line services are accessible 24 hours a day using remote telecommunication tools, including the possibility to place orders and service extension requests via Internet.
Document holdings include 50 million units of storage, more than 150 various databases. A digital collection where rare books and scientific and technical publications are represented has been created and is continuously being appended with new items. The library is open seven days a week; 12 thousand people visit it every day with a Single Shanghai Municipal Libraries Card. And the requested publication waiting time is only 10 – 15 minutes. This has been made possible through installation of hi-tech equipment (first of all, an automated conveyor book delivery system and an illuminated information panel).

A mammoth as a memento
On arrival we were met by a lady from International Center and her interpreter. What they knew about Yakutia, they said, was that it is a cold Russian region populated by nomadic people. Although it was early in the morning and a Buddhist holiday, there were relatively many visitors in the library, mostly young people.
The Center holds items written in 15 world languages. We visited the Russian holdings’ room. There is a file with Russian language newspapers that were published in Shanghai since 1920s. Using the searching system I found two books on Yakutia (Okladnikov A. P. “Yakutia Prior to Joining the Russian State”, M.; L., 1955 – 1963; Zakharova T. V. “The History of Yakutia’s Libraries”, Ya., 2004). I found a fairly large number of books about peoples of Siberia.
We presented the library with 4 books about our region and a mammoth ivory souvenir. Our Chinese friends were very pleased with the book on mammoths.
We came back home extremely excited about the immensity of what we had seen, and we fell in love with this unique country.

Tamara Semyonova

 

The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) National Library
The National Library was founded on September 14, 1925 by a decision of the extended meeting attached to the Council of People’s Commissars of the Yakut ASSR. 99 scientific, state, social organizations and bodies of Moscow, Leningrad and other cities contributed to formation of its collection. This work was done under the guidance of the USSR Academy of Sciences Commission for studying the productive forces of the Yakut ASSR.
In the summer of 1926 the Yakut National Library started to lend books to selected institutions and bodies, scientists, economic sectors specialists, members of the USSR Academy of Sciences expedition.
The fast growth of the Library’s holdings was facilitated by the fact that since 1927 it had been entitled to a mandatory copy of any local publication, and since 1931 it had been included in the list of libraries that were entitled to receiving a mandatory free copy of any publication in RSFSR. In 1949 the practice of providing a mandatory free copy was discontinued, and the Library started to receive a mandatory copy of any publication issued in RSFSR and relevant to the Republic’s profile on the commercial basis.
Today, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) National Library is one of the largest libraries in the North-East of the Russian Federation; it is a scientific institution that undertakes research in library science, bibliography and history of the book, as well as an organizational, methodological and coordination center for all the libraries in the Republic whatever systems or bodies they belong to.
35 thousand people access the National Library’s holdings every year. Over one year period they borrow more than 860 thousand books, magazines and newspapers. The Library has 11 reading rooms with 400 seats.
Upgrading the Library’s status to that of the National Library of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and implementation of automated library and bibliography processes open a new era in the Library’s development.