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V Development of World Libraries

The Development of East Asian Libraries in North America

Eugene W. Wu

Abstract The development of East Asian libraries in North America is of recent history. Prior to World War II there were only some half dozen East Asian collections in the United States and Canada. But that number began to increase rapidly after the War. With the establishment of new East Asian collections at universities, problems concerning collection development, cataloging, and personnel began to be a common concern. A series of efforts led by the American Library Association (ALA), the Library of Congress (LC), and the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) led to the developing of national cataloging standards for East Asian materials, and the eventual founding of the Committee on East Asian Libraries (later renamed Council on East Asian Libraries, CEAL) of the Association for Asian Studies to better coordinate cataloging, collection development, and personnel training, and later on the introduction of automation in East Asian libraries. This essay is an attempt to trace that development by stage, with tributes paid to two pioneers in that development: Dr. A. Kaiming Chiu, the founding Librarian of the Harvard-Yenching Library of Harvard University, and Dr. Mary C. Wright, the founding Curator of the Chinese Collection at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Some comments are also made on the application of technology in East Asian libraries.

Keywords CEAL ALA AAS LC RLG OCLC CCRM East Asian libraries

A. Kaiming Chiu Mary C. Wright

The Beginning

The development of East Asian libraries in North America is of recent history. Prior to World War II there were only some half dozen East Asian collections in the United States and Canada. But that number began to increase rapidly after the war, and problems concerning management and operation became a matter of common concern. In 1948 a group of concerned scholars and librarians gathered at the annual meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) in Atlantic City to discuss these problems.[1] Although it was an informal meeting, the discussion that began at that time eventually led to a concerted organizational movement that made possible the phenomenal growth of East Asian libraries in North America, particularly in the United States, in the last six decades.[2]

This library development followed closely the spread of East Asian Studies in North America in the postwar years. Before that time a few universities had offered some courses on East Asia (then referred to as the Far East), but full-fledged study of East Asia, in all the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, did not develop until after the end of the Second World War. The war in the Pacific, the transformation of Japan into a democracy, the communist revolution in China, and the Korean War contributed to a heightening of American awareness of the importance of East Asia in a changing world, and of the need for better understanding of their histories and civilizations. The universities, with generous foundation and government support, responded by expanding their teaching and research programs on East Asia, and today, after sixty years, East Asian studies in the United States is probably the largest and most comprehensive in the Western world. A concomitant development in this academic enterprise was the building of library resources. Although several American libraries had begun collecting in the East Asian languages long before World War II (the Library of Congress began as early as 1869, Yale started in 1878, Harvard in 1879, UC-Berkeley in 1896, Cornell in 1918, Columbia in 1920, Princeton in 1926, and Chicago in 1936), they all experienced their greatest growth after 1945. A number of today's major collections, such as those at Michigan, Stanford (incorporating the former collections of Hoover Institution), University of Washington, and UCLA, came into being only in the late 1940s; and others such as Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, in the 1960s.

With the establishment of new East Asian collections at universities, problems concerning acquisitions, cataloging, and personnel began to be a common concern. That was the reason for the 1948 Atlantic City meeting. Those present were looking for cooperative solutions to these problems. A decision was made at that meeting to create an informal committee, to be named the National Committee on Oriental Collections in the U.S. and Abroad, to explore possible ways to achieve that purpose. It is instructive to note that the problems they discussed – acquisitions, cataloging, and the training of personnel—are still among our concerns today, albeit in a different context from that of sixty years ago. In all likelihood we will continue discussing them for years to come. This reminds us once again that the basic mission of the library—building collections and providing service—never changes, only the way that mission is carried out. The informal committee created in Atlanta was replaced a year later, in 1949, by an official Joint Committee on Oriental Collections, sponsored by the Far Eastern Association (the predecessor of the Association for Asian Studies) and the American Library Association (ALA).[3] This was the first time in the history of American libraries that an official body was established by the library and the scholarly communities to address the problems associated with East Asian library collections in the United States. The significance attached to this new development can be seen in the composition of the Joint Committee, which comprised three members appointed by the Far Eastern Association and three by the American Library Association. Representing the former were Arthur H. Hummel, Chief of Orientalia Division, Library of Congress; Osamu Shimizu, Head of Japanese Section, Orientalia Division, Library of Congress; and Elizabeth Huff, Head of East Asiatic Library, UC-Berkeley. The latter was represented by Warner G. Rice, Director of the University of Michigan Library; Charles H. Brown, Director of Library, Iowa State College; and Robert B. Downs, Director of the University of Illinois Library and UI's Library School. Howard Linton, Curator of the East Asian Library at Columbia University, who belonged to both associations, became the executive secretary. It was an auspicious beginning. Among the salient accomplishments of the Joint Committee in its three-years of existence was the agreement by the Library of Congress to reproduce for purchase unedited Chinese and Japanese catalog cards sent in by cooperating libraries under a new program named Oriental Card Reproduction Project. It was not cooperative cataloging, to be sure, but a mechanism for catalog card exchange, as it were, which did not exist before.[4] The Joint Committee ceased to function in 1952, but the recognition that no meaningful cooperative development of East Asian libraries in the United States would be possible without a satisfactory solution of one of its basic functions of a library, namely cataloging, prompted ALA to appoint in 1954 a Special Committee on Cataloging Oriental Materials under its Cataloging and Classification Division. In 1957 the name was changed to Special Committee on Cataloging Far Eastern Materials of the American Library Association because the Special Committee was spending most of its time working on problems involving materials in the Far Eastern languages. Because of the importance of its work this Special Committee was made in 1958 a standing committee of ALA under the name Far Eastern Materials Committee.[5] In the same year, the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), at the urging of East Asian libraries, also established a Committee on American Library Resources on the Far East (CALRFE).[6]

  • [1] Elizabeth Huff, “The National Committee on Oriental Collections, 1948–1952,”: Library Resources on East Asia: Reports and Working Papers for the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Committee on American Library Resources on the Far East, Association for Asian Studies, Inc., at the Palmer House, Chicago, March 21, 1967 (Zug, Switzerland: Inter Documentation Company AG, 1968) pp. 16–17. Also, Edwin G. Beal, “The Committee on East Asian Libraries: A Brief History,” Committee on East Asian Libraries Newsletter, no 41 (Sept. 1973), Appendix I, pp. 42–43
  • [2] According to 1957 statistics, the earliest available data on East Asian libraries, 20 libraries reported a total holding of 2,490.000 volumes. Those numbers increased to 50 libraries with a total holding of 17,900.000 volumes, not including serial titles or materials in electronic format. For detailed annual statistics from 1957 seelib.ku.edu/ceal/stat/
  • [3] Huff, op. cit p. 42
  • [4] ibid.
  • [5] G. Raymond Nunn, “Development of Cooperative Cataloging and Resources for East Asian Collections, 1954–1963,” Library Resources on East Asia: Reports and Working Papers for the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Committee on American Library Resources on the Far East…p. 18
  • [6] ibid. p. 19. Also, Beal, op. cit
 
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