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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

The National Library of China Towards the 21st Century

Sun Beixin


Gao Fan

The National Library of China


Mankind is striding into the twenty first century and our society is forging ahead towards the information age. As is well known to all, the approach of the information society is bound to follow the skyrocketing in book prices; new electronic publications are mushrooming and the ways of accessing information are changing dramatically. The traditional library is confronted with serious challenges . However, the development of high technology, widespread applications of computers, optical disks and network technology as well as the emergence of various kinds of databases have all provided good opportunities for the survival and development of traditional libraries of different types. As a national deposit center and a national bibliographic center, the National Library of China (NLC) is n ow transforming itself from a traditional library into a modernized library to greet the 21st century.



Mankind is striding forward into the twenty first century and our society is forging ahead towards the information age. Information is an important resource and treasure, It is also the most active productive force created by the people of today, and has exerted a great and far reaching influence on the economy, technology and social development. To produce, store, process and transmit informatio n will become an important industry in the information age. Informative level is a great mark for the level of modernization and overall national power of a country. To speed up information development is a necessity trend to the social and economic development in the certain historical period.

As is well known to all, the library is the richest information treasure bowl of human knowledge and cultural wealth. Library should make its own choice and answer in meeting the charge and challenge of new technology revolution.

The approaching of the information society is bound to follow the skyrocketing in book prices, saturation of space of stack, new electronic publications are mushrooming, and it is difficult to meet the many demands with traditional of processing, service and administration. Nevertheless, the development of high technology, widespread applications of computers, optical disks and network and emerge nce of various kinds of databases have all provided good opportunities for the survival and development for traditional libraries of different types. As a national deposit center and a national bibliographic center, the National Library of China (NLC) is now transforming itself from a traditional library into a modernized library. The National Library of China in the 21st century will incorporate the following centers:

The National Library of China will pursue the following objectives:

I. To Build Information Resources

As we know, to build information resources is a foundation for information development. The National Library of China is not only a comprehensive research library, it is also a national deposit center, and a national bibliographic center. Its functions are collecting, processing, storing and transmitting information, and using library collections and various facilities to serve for the leading bo dies of the central party, government and the army, as well as the key scientific research projects, production units and ordinary users and appropriately serve which the society and the general public as well. The National Library of China is also known as the Beijing Library was It's formally opened in 1912, though it has only more than 80 years history, but its collection dates back more than Seven hundred years, to the Southern Song Dynasty. There collection totals 19580 thousands vols. National Library of China accepts legal deposit copies of publications in China. Top priority is given to the collection of all publications on diverse media throughout China and overseas publications on China. Meanwhile, we collect some overseas publications of high academic value by purchase, donat ion or international exchange. National Library of China also collects doctoral dissertations of People's Republic of China and publications of the United Nations and other international organizations. We collect all forms of publications, including monographs, periodicals, newspapers and rare books in Chinese and foreign languages, microforms, A/V materials, CD ROM, etc. Up to now, National Libr ary of China's annual take numbers 600,000 700,000 copies per year. To build information resources is the basis of information services, among which the acquisition of books and periodicals is a key to our work. Over the next five years, we will do some research and discussion on information building as listed below:

The National Library of China will become the final base for publications inquiry and lending in our country and a main information source in China.

After building transmission of information sources, processing of the information is a necessary condition for information and service. NLC will emphasize its own advantages in collection and create a series of databases in a planned way. This is a basic requirement for progressing the information superhighway.

In order to share data resources, in recent years, the National Library of China has worked out a series standards on bibliographic data. These include "Zhongguo tu shu guan fen lei fa"(Chinese Library Classification), "Han yu zhu ti ci biao" (Chinese Subject Thesaurus) and "Zhongguo fen lei zhu ti ci biao" (The Chinese Classification Subject Thesaurus).We also have finished "Han zi shu xing biao zhun" (Standards for Attributes of Chinese Characters) which has been appraised by the state. This has laid an important foundation for processing of information in Chinese characters. "Zhongguo ji du mu lu tong xun ge shi (China MARC Format), "Zhongguo ji du mu lu gui fan ji lu ge shi (Gui fan shu ju kuan mu zhu lu gui ze (Bibliographical Description for Authority Records) have created the envi ronment for the realization of Chinese bibliographic data resource sharing.

To date, besides purchasing 40 titles of CD ROM of Databases, we have also built 25 titles of Databases, the biggest of which is the Chinese National Bibliography Database. In the New Chinese Books Database there have been over 270,000 bibliographical records since 1988. It uses the standard CN MARC format and has been released internationally on diskettes since 1991 and on CD ROM since 1995. The NLC will complete the following databases on CD ROM in the twenty first century.

  1. "Zhongguo guo jia zong shu mu shu ju ku"(China National Bibliography Databases) including Xin shu shu mu shu ju ku (New Chinese Books Bibliographic Database), Jian guo yi lai hui su shu mu shu ju ku (China National Bibliography Retrospective Database 1949 1987) with 300,000 bibliographical records, Min guo shi qi zong shu mu (General Catalogue of Publications in the Republican Period, 1911 1 949) database, Zhongguo shan ben shu mu (National Bibliography of Rare Books in China) database, Zhongguo pu tong gu ji shu mu shu mu shu ju ku (General Catalogue of Chinese Ancient Books) database, and the associated Zhong guo ren ming yu tuan ti ming cheng gui fan shu ju (Database of Authority Files of Chinese Personal & Corporate Names), Zhong guo zhu ti yu fen lei gui fan shu ju ku (Database of Authority Files of Chinese Subject Headings and Classifications).

  2. Zhongguo tu shu guan xin xi shu ju ku (Database of Libraries in China). It is a national database of libraries, which comprises more than 3000 different kinds of libraries information databases and will be opened for use in July, 1996.

  3. Zhongguo nian jian shu ju ku (Database of Chinese Yearbooks)

  4. Zhongguo bo shi, shuo shi lun wen quan wen shu ju ku (Full text Database of Chinese Doctoral Dissertations & Master Theses).

  5. Guan cang song, Yuan shan ben quan wen shu ju ku (Full Text Database of Rare Books of the Song & Yuan Dynasties Collected in National Library of China).

  6. Guan cang xin fang zhi ren ming shu ju ku (Database of Personal Names in Newly Compiled Local Gazetteers).

Meanwhile, the National Library of China will create more digitized databases based on large scale digitized optical disk document storage and retrieval system. Various databases to meet different kinds of needs will also be created as our resources of information services and to form the characteristics of NLC's information services. Then the NLC will become not only one of the main information sources in China, but also in international data center for the access of Chinese documents in the world.

II. Automation Building

Automation building of the National Library of China is central to the development program by the end of this century. It mainly includes both different and overlapping spheres: such as automation of acquisition and cataloging processing, retrieval services, support system, administration of official business and so on.

By the end of the 90s, NLC, according to modern information technology, plans to use the UNIX system, distributed database system and client server network system. Then following the common standard of international libraries information technology, a good foundation will be laid for approaching the international environment smoothly in the future.

Up to now, the NLC has made considerable inroads into the development of applied software, especially the Chinese books retrieval system which opened to the readers in March 1, 1996. We are going to develop and use Wen Jin system combined with ACOS system. After trial using the combined system, it will be revised and amended as necessary, then it will be opened to the public. Readers will be able to retrieve the collection information of the NLC on the computer terminal.

Besides the development of Chinese books applied software mentioned above, we also use other libraries' applied software of the world for acquisition, cataloging and retrieval for foreign languages books, such as Western languages and Japanese. After sharing foreign data sources and software, we will have achieved twice the result with half the effort.

III. Network Building

After carrying out the policy of reform and open door for more than ten years, the Chinese economy has developed rapidly, and the information market has sparked vigorous demands which never existed before, so network building is an important way for information services, as well as being a necessary condition for approaching the superhighway. NLC's Electronic Reading Room opened to the public in March 1995, providing electronic information access services to readers. The reading room has all kinds of information with about 196.9 GB, which includes 40 titles of 300 CD ROM indicated as follows: biology, medical science, computer science, engineering, mechanics of materials, food science, commerce and trade and social science. There are a total of nearly a hundred million records in all, wh ich provide two types of information services as below:

  1. 16 authoritative CD ROM databases on a Novell network. There are 9 sets of CD ROM towers with 90 CD ROM drives. Users can search any of the selected databases on any of the 20 workstations and then print or download whatever they want.

  2. Full Text Image Retrieval System of IEEE/IEE publications on an IPO workstation. There are about 220 CD ROM's including over 100,000 articles.

The current situation in relation to the CD ROM network in the Electronic Reading Room is:

  1. It has connected with the network of exchange data of the PLA (People's Liberation Army).(64 KB/second)
  2. It has connected by wireless with the network of the Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications and Military Medicine Academy. (2MB/second)
  3. It has connected with more than ten Institutions' network through phone; such as Tianjin Nankai University Library, Life Science Institute of Beijing University, Zhejiang University, Zhejiang Industry University, Shanghai Huadong University of Science and Engineering, Xi'an Institute of Foreign Language, Ningbo Science and Information Technology Institution and so on.
  4. There also more than 30 provincial and municipal libraries are planning to connect to this Electronic Reading Room.

The CD ROM network in the Electronic Reading Room is now connected by cables to PST (Public Switch Telephone Network) developed by the Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications and Packet Switching Network of People's Liberation Army (PLA), and is connected by wireless to CERNET (Chinese Education and Research Network) of the State Education Commission, CHINANET, the Internet of China, and CEICNET o f the Ministry of Electronics Industry, which is also connected to the PLA Medical Information Network and IHEP (Institute of High Energy Physics, Chinese Academy of Science) Network. NLC is now trying to be connected to the networks of CAS (Chinese Academy of Sciences), National Information Center, etc.

These links not only open the door for information interchange of the NLC and other institutions in China or all over the world, but also enable NLC to become one of the main information sources and network gateways on the national information super highway.

IV. Staff Training and Further Education

In order to realize the great target of the NLC in 21st century, and to develop and use information sources effectively, it needs support by qualified personnel. How to train qualified information technicians to meet the needs of time is a great challenge for us.

Firstly, we lack the personnel with both knowledge of information technology and librarianship who are also good managers and familiar with the market. Secondly, the library has more staff who do traditional document processing than information sources development, and even fewer technicians who are engaged in communications, databases, multimedia, networks, information collecting and processing . So it is essential to train staff to improve document development and information service.

NLC will plan to do the following for staff training and further education:

  1. First it needs change idea and receive new technology NLC will run lectures, invite some experts of libraries at home and abroad to introduce library science development and high and new technology applied in the libraries.

  2. Technical ability training Staff should be properly trained for computer, network, CD ROM and multimedia.

  3. Set up a training examination system
    We should train staff before they are assigned to jobs which are important posts including reader service posts.

  4. Reader's propaganda and guide
    With the changing of the methods of library services, NLC will provide propaganda and guides to readers for using the modern library.

Above are the projects and programmes of the NLC from 1996 toward the 21st century. We should work together with one heart, grasp the opportunity so that the NLC can be counted amongst the world advanced libraries with a new posture towards the 21st century.