Japanese Librarians Learning from American School Librarianship
by Chiaki Sakai, MLISUniversity of Hawaii
Yuriko Nakamura, Ph.D. candidateGraduate School of Education, University of Tokyo
and Yumi Kitamura, Librarian, The Center for Southeast Asian StudiesKyoto University
MultiMedia Schools  • May/June 2002 
In a slide used in the library skills symposium in Japan, Professor Teruyo Horikawa compared the current movement toward cross-curricular education reflecting information literacy skills (left) to John Dewey's conception of the school library in "The School and Society" (1899) (right).

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.
—Janet Murray, Associate Editor, MultiMedia Schools
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
The three of us studied library and information science at the University of Hawaii from 1997 to1999. We learned what American librarianship means. We had opportunities to see and hear what librarians were capable of doing with their knowledge and skills and passion. The experience in the U.S. totally changed our image of 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 learning.

The Symposium
After nearly a 1-year preparation period, we held our first symposium, "Updating Knowledge and Skills of School Library Practitioners for Introducing the Internet," on January 26, 2002. About 80 people attended the symposium. That was more than we had expected. It was very encouraging to know so many people had become interested in our project. Most of the participants were secondary school teachers. We also had some university librarians, library school instructors, and library school students.

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.

Looking Ahead
We are in the process of digesting the feedback from symposium attendees and commentators in order to reflect the real needs of practitioners in our future plans. We are hoping to keep this project ongoing. One of our next goals is to revise the symposium text and formally publish it so that we will be able to reach more school library practitioners.

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 school librarianship.

Updating Knowledge and Skills of Japanese School
Librarians for Introducing the Internet

A symposium presented at the University of Tokyo, January 26, 2002

Symposium Project Members: Akira Nemoto, Teruyo Horikawa, Yuriko Nakamura, Yumi Kitamura, Takashi Koga, Chiaki Sakai, Fuyuki Yoshikane

Symposium Web site: http://piano.p.u-tokyo.ac.jp/~yuriko/symposium.html

The Program

Opening Remarks
Associate Professor Akira Nemoto (Graduate School of Education, University of Tokyo)

"Introduction of the Internet into School Libraries and Needs for Continuing Education of Shisho-Kyoyu"
Yuriko Nakamura (Ph.D. candidate, Graduate School of Education, University of Tokyo)

"Promoting Information Literacy for the School Library"
Professor Teruyo Horikawa (Shimane Prefectural Shimane Women's College)

"Pioneering Technology in the School Library"
Janet Murray (Information Specialist, Nile C. Kinnick High School, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan)

"Introduction of the Internet and its Policy Making"
Yuriko Nakamura

"Searching Skills for the Internet"
Fuyuki Yoshikane (Ph.D. candidate, Graduate School of Education, University of Tokyo)

"Evaluating the Information on the Internet"
Chiaki Sakai (MLIS, University of Hawaii)

"Software Evaluation by Librarian-Teachers"
Yumi Kitamura (Librarian, The Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University)

Discussion Time with Three Commentators
Michiko Kobayashi (Supervisor of School Education, Ichikawa-City Educational Center, Ichikawa-City Board of Education)
Associate Professor Isao Murayama (Faculty of Education, Shizuoka University)
Mr. Moriyuki Morita (Book Selection Director, Japan School Library Association)

Table 1. Officially Appointed Shisho-kyoyu in Japanese Schools (As of May 1, 1999)
Elementary School  319
Junior High School 176
High School 64
Special Education Schools 15
Total 574

Table 2. Shisho-Kyoyu Appointment Plan for 42 Prefectural and City Governments (As of January 2000)
Year ---> 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Total
Estimation for Elementary Schools  258 478 1,553 2,261 9,652 14,202
Percent 1.8 3.4 10.9 15.9 68.0 100
Estimation for Junior High Schools 148 561 740 1,110 4,378 6,937
Percent 2.1 8.1 10.7 16.0 63.1 100
Estimation for High Schools 76 208 266 486 2,740 3,776
Percent 2.0 5.5 7.0 12.9 72.6 100
Estimation for Special Education Schools 12 22 90 176 637 937
Percent 1.3 2.3 9.6 18.8 68.0 100
Total 494 1,269 2,649 4,033 17,047 25,852
Percent 1.9 4.9 10.3 15.6 67.3 100

Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau, the Ministry of Education, August, 2000 [http://www.monbu.go.jp/news/00000558/gakuto.pdf]


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: pp77028@mail.ecc.u-tokyo.ac.jp.

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