Dear EAJRS members, dear friends
I hope you have spent a pleasant and peaceful Christmas and end of year, and have safely and happily made the transition into 2017. The year we have just seen off was, as always, a memorable year, perhaps a little more memorable than usual, but in the end we will only be able to tell from hindsight whether it was really that more epochal than the previous ones. For EAJRS the 27th conference held in September in Bucharest remains one of the best memories of the past year. “International Cooperation between Japanese Studies Libraries” was the main theme, but we heard fascinating presentations on various topics in the most pleasant environment of the Biblioteca Centrală Universitară Carol I. We are most grateful to the Japanese Language and Literature Department, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, of the University of Bucharest for acting as host, and in particular Ms. Steluta Maxim, librarian at the Library of the Japanese Language and Literature Department, who acted as our local organizer. I want to thank the staff and the numerous students who came to welcome many of us at the airport, and escorted us to our hotel. It was delightful to hear presentations by participants from various Central and East European countries, from Russia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and naturally Romania. It was indeed very satisfying to see that there were numerous presentations by scholars and experts from Romania.
At the Bucharest conference we heard a keynote speech by Mr. Noboru Koyama, for many years librarian in charge of the Japanese collection at Cambridge University Library, but also a scholar in his own right, a founding member of the EAJRS, and a staunch supporter of the association throughout its existence. His subject The development of resources for Japanese studies: from kokugaku to Japanology, took us on a panoramic perspective, as only someone with his background and long-standing career can do.
I take the opportunity to thank the resource providers, both the public or non-profit institutions and the commercial vendors, for their presence, for organizing the workshop and for their support in general. The workshop they organize every year and the updates they provide, constitute a major contribution to the conference and boost the skills of the users of resources.
As of 1 April 2016 the National Diet Library has a new head librarian: Dr. Sawako Hanyû. Last December I had the opportunity to pay her a courtesy visit. Setsuko Noguchi, chair of the North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources, while in Tokyo for the Toshokan sôgôten, had arranged for an appointment on my behalf. Thus I had the opportunity to discuss with Dr. Hanyû, vice-librarian Mitsuaki Amino, and some of the staff members the issues that over the last years have increasingly been felt as impediments to the smooth access from overseas libraries to NDL digital holdings. I reiterated our long time aspiration for more digitization and unimpeded access to resources on Japanese studies especially for overseas scholars, as well as our strong wish to see accessibility via the InterLibrary Loan system enhanced by adopting the electronic method.
The leadership of the NDL is keenly aware of the anomaly that resides in the disparate conditions for researchers either working inside Japan or abroad, but, as is well known, they are facing constraints imposed upon them by the Japanese copyright law, and therefore, for the ultimate and definitive solution, we have to await a legislative initiative, which is in the process of being prepared, if I am well informed. In the meantime however, the leadership of the NDL is doing what it can to contribute to definitive solution. In her New Year greetings, Dr. Hanyû refers to the principle of "universal access" incorporated in the National Diet Library's new vision for the next midterm plan. Increased demand for access to the library materials from patrons in countries all around the world figures prominently in that new plan.
Another logistical or practical problem that causes much concern is the fact that digitization of Japanese journals and magazines is lagging behind in comparison with e.g. China and Korea. This lag, combined with copyright issues, results in a high threshold when it comes to accessing these materials. The upshot is that librarians and information specialists overseas have to rely on the time-consuming procedure of requesting printouts of articles or sections of articles to be sent by mail to the overseas user. In contrast most Chinese and Koreans journals and magazines are digitized, and are readily accessible in many overseas academic libraries, where they can be read instantly, printed out and downloaded. This is cause for frustration and irritation.
As agreed upon at the Bucharest conference, this year’s conference, the 28th EAJRS conference, will be held at the University of Oslo from 13 through 16 September 2017. The local organizer, Naomi Yabe, has been working hard to make all practical arrangements with her university, colleagues and outside partners, as well as file the applications to various prospective supporting bodies.
She has secured the support of the Japan-related researchers in her university, who will give a few presentations about Japanese studies in Norway and the Nordic region, and is also expecting some participants from the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. Widar Halén, curator and section director of the National Museum in Oslo and one of the main curators of the exhibition Japanmania, which was held in Helsinki, and Oslo last year, and will move to Copenhagen this year, is also committed to give a lecture. In addition, we expect to invite three information specialists from Japan, depending upon the amount of funding we will be able to secure. I am sure it will be an exciting conference, one that will enable us to learn much more about Japanese Studies and resources in Northern Europe.
We are eagerly looking forward to the conference in Oslo, and we hope to see you in great numbers in that fascinating venue. There remains much to be done to further the cause of EAJRS, and we count on your continued support and dedication. In the meantime, on behalf of the board of the EAJRS, we wish you and all who are dear to you, a happy and fruitful New Year 2017.
W.F. Vande Walle, chairman EAJRS
Leuven, 5 January 2017