Yuriko Nakamura, Ph.D. candidate • Graduate School of Education, University of Tokyo
and Yumi Kitamura, Librarian, The Center for Southeast Asian Studies • Kyoto University
|MultiMedia Schools • May/June 2002|
Editor's Note: It is my pleasure to introduce to you three young women with whom I have been working for the past year. Inspired by what they learned while earning MLIS degrees at the University of Hawaii,they are now attempting to introduce the American concept of school librarianship in Japanese schools.They hope someday to be able to tell us about the well-founded librarianship unique to Japanese culture.
School Libraries in Japan
Current Japanese school libraries were somewhat influenced by American librarians, who came to Japan and helped establish new school libraries right after World War II. The idea of librarianship was also brought to Japan at this time. However, it did not weave well into the school libraries, primarily because of the very conservative Japanese teaching/learning style. Japanese education had centered on memorizing facts from textbooks and did not require students to use a library or the librarian's help for their studies.
Two different types of librarians emerged in Japanese schools during the past 55 years. One is called shisho-kyoyu (teacher-librarian), who is a teacher with the shisho-kyoyu certificate. This position is legally defined in the School Library Law of 1953. However, there are currently only about 600 shisho-kyoyu (see Table 1). Shisho-kyoyu are also subject teachers, and most of them do not work in the library on a daily basis.
The other librarian at school
is called gakko-shisho (school librarian). The gakko-shisho performs
the clerical tasks of maintaining the school library and is not allowed
to teach students. Certainly, there have been difficulties in coordinating
the roles of these two positions for the establishment of professional
school librarianship. However, everyone knows that we have to work together
to promote the development of school libraries.
Introducing the Internet: An Opportunity
for School Librarians
Unfortunately, in Japan, school librarianship is not regarded as a profession or philosophical belief backed up by rich knowledge and solid skills acquired through an MLIS education. We were concerned that the stagnant situation of the school libraries in Japan would never change if no one tries to become a coordinator to integrate all the personnel and resources we have now to move forward. Somebody needs to point the way.
It just so happens that every school in Japan will be connected to the Internet this year, and that the School Library Law was amended in 1997 to appoint at least one shisho-kyoyu in each school with more than 12 classes by April 2003. More than 25,000 shisho-kyoyu will be officially appointed in 2003 (see Table 2). We saw great opportunities in these movements. People are paying attention to the Internet and its possibilities. And newly appointed shisho-kyoyu could assume the leadership role to use the Internet effectively as a strong research tool at schools, if they are willing to take the step. There is huge momentum to solve some fundamental problems and issues surrounding school libraries.
We planned a symposium to introduce the theories and skills necessary to make good use of Internet resources in school libraries. Luckily, we were able to get cooperation from other members who would reinforce the program contents. Associate Professor Nemoto at the Graduate School of Education, University of Tokyo, agreed to become our supervisor and advisor for the symposium project. Professor Horikawa at Shimane Women's College willingly accepted our invitation to participate. Two doctoral students at the University of Tokyo, Mr. Yoshikane and Mr. Koga, also joined the project.
At our initial preparation
meeting, we agreed to put priority on children's needs and provide the
symposium attendees with necessary theories and skills to create a school
library media program to achieve this goal. That was another concept we
had learned in the U.S.: "user-centered library service." We proposed to
discuss what the school library professional should and can do for student
The symposium included six short presentations and a guest speaker, who talked about her experiences as an American school librarian. Three commentators gave their insights on the symposium theme from their backgrounds and experiences. Mr. Koga was pursuing his MLIS in the U.S. at the time and was therefore unavailable for the symposium, but he provided us a chapter on copyright issues for the symposium text.
The symposium was quite successful for a first-time trial. We asked the attendees to fill out a questionnaire in order to collect feedback. Forty-seven answers were returned. One was very satisfied with the symposium content, 39 were satisfied, and six were somewhat satisfied. Several people commented that they were encouraged by hearing the experiences and stories from our guest speaker, Janet Murray, about the application of librarianship knowledge and skills to everyday work. Multiple respondents said that the demonstration of practical skills was very useful to them. We also learned that now they need sample lesson plans integrating the Internet resources and want information on what kinds of new problems can be expected when introducing the Internet to school libraries in the near future.
Some people said that the
symposium content was overwhelming for a 1-day study, and that the content
should be made into a series of lectures or workshops. We must not overlook
the frustration and anxiety that school library practitioners will experience
in assuming this new role and responsibility. Personnel management and
issues need to be discussed in the future as well.
Several people joined the listserv maintained by Nakamura after the symposium. They are the ones who are eager to exchange ideas and experiences with their colleagues. Hot topics include automation projects in school libraries, collaboration with subject teachers, and the difference between research assignment approaches in the past and today. We will build a database reflecting the information gathered through the listserv discussion.
American librarianship may
not have been fully implemented in Japanese school libraries when it was
first introduced 55 years ago, but it is now rediscovered and redefined
in this era of technology. This time, we hope it will be interpreted by
the practitioners so that it will root and grow to become uniquely Japanese
Communications to the authors may be addressed toYuriko Nakamura,Department of Lifelong Education Planning, Graduate School of Education, University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan; e-mail: email@example.com.
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