Supporting afflicted people and libraries of the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake

Detailed description of damage to libraries in Tohoku region

Published on 1 May 2011

Author(s): National Diet Library Newsletter

Type:  News No. 177, April 2011

Overview of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

On March 11, 2011, the Tohoku (north-east) region of Japan was hit by an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude and subsequent tsunami. The disaster affected library communities in north-eastern Japan. Tokyo and the western parts of Japan, however, have not sustained significant damage from the jolts.

The Tokyo Main Library of the National Diet Library, apart from books scattered in the stacks, has been operating more or less normally from March 15 on.

The following is the general outline of the aftermath reported as of April 7.

Libraries affected

The prefectural libraries of Miyagi and Fukushima reported damage suffered by public libraries in these prefectures, such as broken windows, cracked buildings or hit by a tsunami. The prefectural libraries of Iwate was closed till March 31, while the one in Miyagi will be closed by the middle of May, and those in Fukushima and Ibaraki have been forced to shut down regular service for some time in the future.

University libraries such as those of Tohoku University and Tohoku Gakuin University have announced closure until late April. Some, like those in Miyagi University of Education and the University of Aizu, have no prospect of reopening in sight.

In addition, the planned electricities outrage effected in the Kanto region forced the National Institute of Informatics to suspend its online services and many libraries to cut opening hours or to close altogether.

Online communications by librarians

savelibrary@wiki (now transferred to saveMlak@wiki  was created on March 12 so that librarians around Japan can share information on damaged libraries and see what sort of support they need.

Earthquake-related information offered by public libraries

Libraries such as prefectural ones in Shizuoka and Tottori have uploaded web pages with earthquake-related information. Those in Saga and Fukuoka mounted exhibitions of earthquake-related materials.

Approach for providing earthquake disaster-related documents and preserving materials

The followings are the approaches of library-related institutions in Japan.

  • Japan Library Association (JLA): Related documents of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake are provided on the website.
  • Nippon Association for Librarianship (NAL): Documents on disaster recovery and crisis management for libraries are provided on the website.
  • Network for Historical Materials: Calling for preservation of historical materials which might be lost in the chaos of the disaster.
  • Film Preservation Society: Consultation services are open in cooperation with a professional companies on treatment of original audio- visual recording media.
  • Agency for Cultural Affairs: “Project for rescuing cultural heritage damaged by Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake” is going to be set up to urgently preserve affected movable cultural assets and to prevent disposition and dissipation of precious cultural assets.

The National Diet Library provides a website on information and links on the restoration of materials held by libraries and archives.

Academic information service for students and scholars in the affected region

University libraries of Kyushu University, Kagoshima University and Hokkaido University and the University of Tokyo Library System offer services more of less on a par with those for their own students and staff to those who hail from the vicinities of said universities and are belonging to the universities in affected the region.

Academic information service for healthcare professionals and researchers at/of disaster area

Databases and e-books on medical literature are provided for healthcare professionals working in the afflicted area. The following are the actions of library community.

  • Japan Medical Library Association: Starting to provide medical literature free, with the cooperation of publishers, to universities, hospitals, staff of medical related institutions and healthcare professionals conducting rescue and reconstruction activities.
  • Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST): Providing database on science and technological documents for free to institutions and organizations related to disaster response (until June 30, 2011).
  • University of Tokyo Library and Kyoto University Library Network: Academic databases and electronic journals are provided without charge to researchers and healthcare professionals in the afflicted areas with the cooperation of publishers (until April 30, 2011).

Supporting document supply of libraries

The JLA announced “Request for cooperation on library activities to support afflicted people: time-limited restriction on the right of public transmission to afflicted area” on March 25, 2011. This is a request for right holders to cooperate on giving permission to transmit photocopies which libraries produces by e-mail and fax, and to transmit photocopied documents necessary for reading picture books to children and the elderly in the afflicted areas. Several institutions acted upon the announcement.

  • Japan Book Publishers Association: Announcement was made on April 5, 2011 asking for understanding and cooperation of the JLA’s announcement to each member publisher.
  • Public libraries such as the Fukui Prefectural Library and the Niigata Prefectural Library: Introducing books and documents on recovery and reconstruction, transmitting photocopies by e-mail and fax are planned to start. Note: The NDL also started the service on April 11.

The Japan Committee for UNICEF: “Children’s Mini Library Project,” a project to deliver picture books and children’s books to afflicted areas. Similar approach by Japan Book Publishers Associations, Japan Magazine Publishers Association and Japan Publishers Club. 30,000 books have already been delivered through the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The Japan School Library Association is also planning to accept donations of new books to deliver to afflicted areas.

Messages from abroad

Organizations such as UNESCO, Council on East Asian Libraries (CEAL), International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), European Association for Japanese Studies (EAJS), expressed sympathy and readiness to support in their websites. The NDL also received numerous supporting messages from IFLA and libraries the world over.

This article is an abstract of the article in Japanese of the same title in Current Awareness-E No. 1155 and 1161 (March/April 2011).

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