Collaborate with other libraries to inspire change
"Attending OCLC Research Library Partnership meetings is one of the most effective ways for us to stay informed of advances in other libraries. We absorb so much and bring it back to make change happen faster. We were so surprised that those three days made such a difference."
Mita Media Center Manager
Librarians from Keio University Library in Tokyo became inspired by what they learned at a 2013 OCLC Research Library Partnership workshop, Past Forward! Meeting Stakeholder Needs in 21st Century Special Collections. The university's Mita Media Center Manager Hideyuki Seki, Chief Executive Shigehiko Kazama and University Librarian Shunsaku Tamura attended the workshop, which focused on new ways to provide researchers with access to special collections.
"We used to be very protective of our rare books," Hideyuki said. Mita Media Center has a large collection of rare books, but the staff members were so focused on preserving them for future generations that they hesitated to allow users to access them. At the Past Forward! event, however, "they were naturally discussing how to make use of rare books, for users or classes. That was a very impressive experience for us," Hideyuki added.
Seeing how library users in Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which hosted the event, accessed their special collections illustrated to Hideyuki and his colleagues that they could make their collections more open for use. "There were so many classes performed inside the library," he noted. He also admired "their way of making the rare books seen by the users." The Keio staff attended an event workshop on outreach for special collections, including how to use the collections for teaching, fundraising and connecting the library to the mission of the university.
"We believe that allowing students to see the real treasures with their eyes and touch them with their hands provides a very inspiring and significant experience in their early stages of scholarship—a positive experience that directly contributes to the university's scholarly mission."
The Past Forward! workshop inspired Keio staff to encourage access to their rare books and special collections. "After we attended the workshop," Hideyuki explained, "we started to think that 'special' applies not only because the materials are rare. It's special because it's related to the university's mission." The library changed the name of its Department of Rare Books to the Department of Special Collections and "started many many discussions" about the department's expanded scope, he said. The library now actively promotes its special collections to faculty members and welcomes undergraduate classes to meet in the library.
These changes have allowed the library's special collections to align more closely with the university's mission and have increased the resources available to university faculty and staff. But the librarians haven't lost sight of their original preservation goal. As Hideyuki explained, "We think that the balance is very important—the balance between outreach and preservation."
- Keio University is the oldest institute of higher education in Japan, founded in 1858
- The Mita Media Center (Keio’s main library) marked its 100th anniversary in 2012
- The collections of the Mita Media Center total 2.8 million items (all six Keio libraries have more than five million)
- Keio University Library is a Google Books Library Project partner and has contributed 80,000 books to HathiTrust
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