National Diet Library (NDL) (国立国会図書館)

The National Diet Library (NDL) provides services for members of Japan's Diet in their research and study, as well as the executive agencies of the government and the general public in Japan. The NDL is also the only legal deposit library in Japan that acquires all materials published in Japan and preserves them based on the Legal Deposit System.
The name in English is:


The NDL, an organ of the State, belongs to the Diet, a legislative body of Japan, and serves as a parliamentary library with the primary objective of assisting in the legislative activities of the Diet. The NDL also possesses a function as the only national legal deposit library in Japan, and provides services to the executive and judicial agencies of the government as well as to the general public.

Its facilities consist of the "main libraries," which include the Tokyo Main Library (Nagata-cho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Prefecture) and the Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library (Seikadai, Seika-cho, Soraku-gun, Kyoto Prefecture), as well as the "branch libraries," including the International Library of Children's Literature (Ueno-koen, Taito Ward, Tokyo Prefecture), the Toyo Bunko (Oriental Library) (Honkomagome, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo Prefecture) and 26 libraries in the executive and judicial agencies of the government, etc.


The NDL has its origins in the following three libraries: the Library of the House of Representatives and the Library of the House of Peers, both of which were established in each house of the Imperial Diet under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan; and the Imperial Library established under the Ministry of Education. The libraries of the House of Representatives and the House of Peers have their origins in the libraries of each respective house, as established in 1891, while the Imperial Library developed out of a bibliotheca established in 1872.

After World War II, the Constitution of Japan, which came into force in 1947, defined the Diet as the sole law-making organ of the State, and that the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors, which comprise the Diet, should consist of "elected members, representative of all the people" (as the member of the Diet). An expansion of the parliamentary library as a research organ for Diet members was deemed vital for the democratic operation of the Diet and for assisting Diet members to fully perform their legislative duties. As a result, Article 130 of the National Diet Act (Act No. 79 of 1947), which came into force along with the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan, stipulated, "The National Diet Library shall be established in the Diet by a separate law so as to assist Diet members in their research and study." The Diet Library Act (Act No. 84 of 1947) was enacted at the same time. This resulted in the establishment of the National Library, which combined the libraries of the House of Representatives and the House of Peers; however, the structure appeared to be insufficient as a means to assist Diet members in their research and study.

Given this, a library mission from the United States of America was invited by the Diet, and the National Diet Library Act (Act No. 5 of 1948) was enacted based on the advice of the U.S. library mission. As the Act came into force under the strong influence of the U.S. library mission, it was decided that the NDL should be established based on the U.S. Library of Congress, combining the functions of a national library (national central library) and a parliamentary library, and having the Legal Deposit System for the purpose of acquiring and classifying a comprehensive collection of materials published in Japan.

Along with the enactment of the Act, preparations for the establishment of a national library progressed, and the National Diet Library was established on February 25, 1948, with Tokujiro KANAMORI, a constitutional scholar who had served as the minister of state at the enactment of the Constitution of Japan, as the first chief librarian of the NDL.. Subsequently, Masakazu NAKAI, an aesthetics scholar who had been the chief librarian of the Onomichi City Library, was appointed the first deputy chief librarian of the NDL.. The NDL was officially opened to the public on June 5, 1948 in a temporary building using the former Akasaka Detached Palace (Akasaka rikyu), which is now known as the State Guest House (or the Geihinkan).

In the following year (1949), pursuant to the policies specified in the National Diet Library Act, the NDL merged with the National Library in Ueno (the name was changed from the Imperial Library in 1947), which housed publications deposited in accordance with the Publishing Act (Act No. 15 of 1893, an act to abolish the Publishing Act and Newspaper Act (Act No. 95 of 1949)). As a result of this, the NDL became the only national library in Japan, both nominally and virtually. The collections and facilities of the former Imperial Library were preserved untouched in Ueno, and it became the NDL Ueno Branch Library, one of the branches of the NDL.

The construction of the NDL Main Building had been delayed since the establishment of the organization, but the discussion progressed based on the Act on the Construction Committee for the National Diet Library (Act No. 6 of 1948), which was promulgated along with the National Diet Library Act; thus it was decided that the Main Building should be built on the site of the former Embassy of Germany (Nagata-cho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo Prefecture) located directly north of the Diet Building. A design submitted by Kunio MAEKAWA was selected in the architectural design competition for the Main Building (now known as the Tokyo Main Library). Upon the completion of the first phase of library construction in 1961, the new building began to house the collection of books. The collection of books included a stock of approximately a million volumes previously housed in the NDL's temporary main library in Akasaka, which consisted of those transferred from the libraries of the houses of Representatives and Peers along with those acquired after the war, as well as approximately a million volumes previously housed in the Ueno Branch Library, most of which had been acquired prior to the war. Combining the collections of books from the two libraries, with their different histories, the NDL Main Library opened on November 1, 1961 with a total collection of 2,050,000 volumes.

The construction of the Main Library continued after the opening of the NDL. As the extension work progressed, the Diet Service Section--which was located in the Miyakezaka temporary building on the site of the former General Staff Office Building (now known as the Kensei-Kinenkan (Constitution Memorial Center) located in the north area of the front garden of the Diet Building)--merged into the NDL Main Library, completing the consolidation of the NDL's functions previously spread among three areas: Akasaka, Ueno and Miyakezaka. The construction of the Main Building was completed in 1968, seven years after the initial opening, thereby creating a facility that consisted of an administration building with six floors above ground and one floor underground, as well as a library building with 17 floors above ground.

As the collection steadily expanded and the number of library users increased during the 1970s, it became readily apparent that more space would be required. Consequently, it was decided to build an annex building directly north of the main building, and the annex was opened to the public in 1986. The annex was designed by Kunio MAEKAWA, an architect of the main building. With the completion of the annex, including four floors above ground and eight floors underground, with all of the underground floors allocated for the stack space, the NDL grew to a massive library that could accommodate a combined total of 12 million volumes. It was expected, however, that the NDL would reach its full storage capacity at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

This led to a plan, after the 1980s, to build the second facility of the NDL. It was decided that the second facility of the NDL would be built in Kansai Science City and that the new facility would share the responsibility of preserving the increasing number of collections with the Tokyo Main Library. It was also decided that the new facility would specialize in providing information corresponding to the development of telecommunications accompanied by the progress of computer technology, as well as services as a digital library for remote users. The new facility, named the Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library, was opened to the public in 2002. With the transferred collections of scientific and technological materials, materials in Asian languages and Japanese doctoral dissertations, etc., the Kansai-kan became a vital part of the NDL Main Library along with the Tokyo Main Library.

Around the time of the opening of the Kansai-kan, there was a plan to refurbish the facility of the Ueno Branch Library and use it as the International Library of Children's Literature. The International Library of Children's Literature, positioned as a national center for children's literature in charge of storing children's literature (library materials primarily targeting readers under 18 years of age) among the collection of books housed in the NDL, was partly opened in 2000 and was fully opened in 2002.

In recent years, while the NDL has focused on the expansion of the electronic library projects, there have been numerous movements related to the organization of the NDL, such as the following: removal of the "minister of state" status for the chief librarian of the NDL under the National Diet Library Act in 2005; a suggestion on the transformation into an independent administrative institution as part of the National Diet Administrative Reforms by the Administrative Reform Promotion Headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2006; and the appointment of Makoto NAGAO (a former president of Kyoto University) as the chief librarian of the NDL in 2007, the first appointment of a non-Diet member, etc.


The philosophy of the NDL's establishment is specified in the preamble of the National Diet Library Act, as follows: 'The National Diet Library is hereby established through the firm conviction that truth makes us free and with the objective of contributing to international peace and the democratization of Japan, as promised in the Constitution.'
A paragraph from its preamble, 'Truth Makes Us Free,' has been interpreted as an illumination of the NDL's principles, which state that libraries should guarantee freedom of knowledge for the Japanese people through the equal provision of materials, and should be the foundation for realizing a sound democratic society.

Though it is said that the National Diet Library Act was drawn up based on the original plan by the U.S. library mission, this preamble is believed to have been inserted by Goro HANI, a historian and a Diet member (who was then the chairman of the Steering Committee of the Library of the House of Councilors). The phrase 'truth makes us free' originated with Goro HANI. It is believed that when HANI was in Germany for his study, he was inspired by an inscription '(truth makes people free)' engraved on the library building of University of Freiburg (Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg), where he was studying; the origin of the verse is said to have been a phrase in the New Testament '(the truth shall make you free)' (8-32 of the Gospel according to St. John).

In the NDL Tokyo Main Library which was opened to the public in 1961, the phrase 'truth makes us free' drawn by KANAMORI, the first chief librarian, has been engraved in large letters on the wall of the book-catalog hall on the second floor of the main building. This phrase has been seen by many people and has become known as a principle not only of the NDL but also of libraries in general. This phrase had a significant influence on library movements and the development of libraries in postwar Japan.


The NDL, an organ of the State, belongs to the Diet, a legislative body of Japan, and is operated independently under the supervision of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the House of Councilors, as well as the Committees on Rules and Administration, which comprise the standing committees of both houses. The Chief Librarian of the NDL, who supervises the administration of the library, is appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the House of Councillors.

Under the National Diet Library Act, its organization consists of the main libraries and branches. The main libraries comprise the Tokyo Main Library in Nagata-cho, Tokyo Prefecture, and the Kansai-kan in Kyoto Prefecture; additionally, the two libraries share the responsibility for storing various materials owned by the National Library, except for those falling under the category of the responsibility of the International Library of Children's Literature. Also, the NDL Diet Branch Library, which belongs to the Main Libraries, is located inside the Diet Building.

The International Library of Children's Literature, the Toyo Bunko, and libraries in each of the executive and judicial agencies are classified as branch libraries. Among them, the International Library of Children's Literature is in charge of the preservation and provision of materials primarily targeting readers under 18 years of age, out of the materials published in Japan that have been acquired by the National Library based on the Legal Deposit System, as well as the materials published outside Japan that have been brought to the National Library via purchase and international exchanges. Therefore, the substantial nature of the International Library of Children's Literature is closer to a branch library belonging to the main libraries. Also, the Toyo Bunko Branch Library is a Library Service Department of the Toyo Bunko, which has been designated as a branch of the NDL and placed under the organization of the National Library, deposited by the Toyo Bunko, a library and research institute dedicated to Asian studies.

The libraries in the executive and judicial agencies, or the executive branches of the Japanese Government and the Supreme Court of Japan, will be explained in detail in the section covering the services to the Executive and Judicial agencies of the government; moreover, by designating libraries affiliated to the executive agencies and courts as branches of the NDL in a system, the NDL, as the only national main library in Japan, and other libraries mentioned above have been integrated within a single network. Though established by the executive agencies or courts, these libraries are in a special position as branch libraries of the NDL, comprising a part of the NDL organization along with the main libraries.

The main libraries, consisting of two separate facilities in Tokyo and Kansai, have some 900 staff and are subdivided into departments.
The only special department established pursuant to the National Diet Library Act is the 'Research and Legislative Reference Bureau.'
In addition to the library services for the Diet, the Research and Legislative Reference Bureau provide research services as requested by the Diet. Such research is conducted mainly by senior specialists with a special position for conducting highly advanced research in the fields of interest of the standing committees of both houses.


The NDL's services are comprised of the following three main areas:

Services for the Diet
Collects, analyzes and provides materials required in the preparation of legislation.

Services to the Executive and Judicial agencies of the government
Provides library services and establishes branch libraries in the Executive and Judicial agencies of the government and the Supreme Court of Japan.

Services to the General Public
Services that users from the general public receive directly or indirectly through other public libraries
Services to prefectural and other local assemblies, as well as government officials, are included in this category.

Though the NDL's original mandate was to serve the Diet, as obvious by its name "Diet Library," services to the general public are also important functions of the NDL. The service to the general public is to function as a Japanese National Library; thus the NDL is engaged in acquiring comprehensive collections of materials published in Japan based on the Legal Deposit System, and to create a national bibliography. Also, the NDL is focused on collaboration among libraries as well as international cooperation; it exchanges publications internationally, provides international lending, copying and reference services along with training for foreign librarians who deal with Japanese-language books as part of international cooperation.

Services for General Public Users

Services for users from the general public consist, among others, of on-site use, indirect use through the user's nearby library, and a provision of digital library via the Internet, which will be explained in detail below.

In on-site user services, meaning the services for users who physically visit each of the NDL service points (i.e. the Tokyo Main Library, the Kansai-kan, the International Library of Children's Literature, etc.), enormous amounts of materials possessed by the NDL are made available based on user request, except for rare books that require special approval for viewing and materials whose usage is limited for special reasons. Though the holdings of the NDL are held in three separate libraries, it is possible for a user to order materials held in a particular library to be sent to another library where the user wants to read such materials (inter-site request).

Using the indirect user services, general public library users can order materials that are not available at their local library from the NDL's comprehensive collection of books or make use of the NDL's reference service (reference research conducted by a librarian) to resolve an issue that could not be resolved at their local library.

The Interlibrary Loan is a system in which a user can use materials held in the NDL through the user's nearby public library, university library or a reference room (institutions that have applied for and have been approved as registered users of the NDL's Interlibrary Loan Services only). However, because this is an interlibrary loan the borrowed materials cannot be taken outside the library where the materials have been loaned, nor can the materials be copied or duplicated by any means in accordance with the Copyright Act, which prohibits library materials from being copied or duplicated outside the library that holds such materials.

Given that the NDL's main principle is to preserve materials, unlike many neighborhood libraries, the materials held in the NDL cannot be lent out to any individual, even for on-site services. Also, because the NDL holds an enormous amount of materials, and the scope of its services encompasses the nation as well as foreign countries, there are many restrictions and inconvenient points for individual users. As a result, when a user wants to obtain a specific material, there are many cases where it is easier to obtain such material from a nearby public library or a university library; therefore, it is said that a user should use the NDL only for the material that cannot be found in other libraries.
In reference to such nature of the NDL, it is often said that 'the NDL is the final resource for materials.'

Services for the Diet

The NDL's services for the Diet include legislative research specific to the parliamentary library, in addition to general library services such as the provision of materials and loan services.

The reading rooms dedicated for the Diet members are situated in the Tokyo Main Library and the Diet Branch Library inside the Diet Building, as well as the Diet Members' Study Room, which is attached to the Diet Members' Reading Room in the Main Library. It is said that the Diet Member's Reading Room and Study Room are used by Diet members for the study of policies, as well as for confidential talks among politicians. Additionally, loan services are available for Diet members and Diet staff primarily in the Diet Branch Library; but unlike loans to other libraries there is no restriction on the number of books to be loaned to Diet members and Diet staff.

The main body within the NDL organization that provides the services for the Diet is the Research and Legislative Reference Bureau (referred to as the "Research Bureau"), as specified in Article 15 of the National Diet Library Act. The Research Bureau shall conduct research for the Diet and collect and provide materials related to legislation, pursuant to the same Act.

For that purpose, in the Research Bureau there are divisions assigned to research execution for the Diet and the provision of materials related to legislation. The divisions of the Research Bureau are mostly divided into smaller groups by topics that correspond to the structure of the standing committees of both houses, and legislative reference activity based on requests from Diet members and anticipatory research on current issues are conducted.

Also, separately from the collection and classifications of materials by the NDL for services for the general public, the Research Bureau gathers and classifies materials so that the latest information can be used to assist the legislative activities. Other Services for the Diet conducted by the Research Bureau include the management and provision of parliamentary and regulatory related materials among the general materials housed in the NDL; the preparation of indexes of laws, regulations and bills; and the creation of database for the minutes of the Diet, etc.; these services have been made available to the general public in the reading rooms of the NDL, through publications, via the Internet, etc.

Services to the Executive and Judicial agencies of the government

Another main service provided by the NDL is for the Executive and Judicial agencies of the government. The NDL provides them with lending, copying and reference services of library service materials, through branch libraries in the Executive and Judicial agencies. The affiliated libraries of the Executive and Judicial agencies of the government (Cabinet Office Library, branch of the NDL; Supreme Court Library, branch of the NDL, etc.) deposit materials published by the agencies to which they belong, and collect and store the materials necessary for their duties; although these libraries are operated under the budget of each agency, they are included in the NDL organization as branch libraries of the NDL. Also, branch libraries comprise a network centered around the main libraries of the NDL; they exchange materials published by agencies, lend the materials and collectively provide joint training for librarians.

The chief librarians of the branch libraries of the Executive and Judicial agencies are appointed from among the administrative and technical officers, but the position of appointment is given to the chief librarian of the NDL, who is a staff of the Legislative branch of the government. As described above, the Branch Library System across the three powers is extremely rare among the national libraries of the world, and it is regarded as one of the most prominent characteristics of the NDL.

Acquisition and Classification of Materials

One of the primary functions of national libraries around the world is to mandate that all publications must be deposited in designated libraries based on the Legal Deposit System as stipulated in a law, etc., and to compile a comprehensive collection of materials published in their respective countries.

In the NDL, Japan's national main library, it is mandated that copies of all publications must be sent by all government and municipal agencies, groups and individuals in Japan to the NDL, in accordance with the National Diet Library Law. The applicable publications include books, pamphlets, serials (magazines, newspapers and periodicals), musical scores, maps, microfilm materials, materials published in Braille, and electronic publications distributed in formats such as CD-ROM, DVD, etc. (including music CDs and gaming software). The number of copies required to be deposited is between two and 30 copies for publications of government and municipal agencies, while one copy is required for private publications.

The means for acquisition of materials other than by deposit are by gift, purchase and the international exchange of publications. Old books, rare books, old materials that do not fall into the category of deposits, duplicates of frequently used materials as reference books such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, etc., and foreign materials that have been designated as useful materials for academic studies are acquired by purchase. International exchanges are used to acquire official materials of foreign government offices that are difficult to obtain from the national and parliamentary libraries of other countries, as an exchange primarily for copies of materials published by the government and municipal agencies of Japan, whose copies have been acquired through the Legal Deposit System.

Bibliographic data that describes the identification information for each material (including the title, author, publisher, year of publication, etc.) is created for each of the new materials acquired by the NDL, as described above. Also, the NDL's bibliographic data is registered in the catalogues after it is given a classification number by the National Diet Library Classification (NDLC), a unique classification for the NDL and a headline by the National Diet Library Subject Headings (NDLSH). Most of the catalogues are now available online via NDL-OPAC (National Diet Library Online Public Access Catalogue), and most of the holdings can be searched via the Internet.

The NDL's operation of library technologies such as establishment of its collection, etc., is largely based on the recommendations submitted by Robert Bringham Downs, a special advisor of the Civil Information and Education Section, GHQ/SCAP, in 1948 (the Downs Report). In the early days after the opening, Japanese and Chinese books were classified by the Nippon Decimal Classification (NDC) and Western books were classified by the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC), based on the recommendations of the Downs Report. However, because the NDC was not convenient for storing an enormous collection of books in the bookshelves, the NDLC was invented and adopted in the 1960s. Even after that, classification numbers based on the NDC have been included in the bibliographic data for Japanese books, for the convenience of other libraries that use the NDC regularly, as well as for users from the general public.

Provision of bibliographic data

As a rule, the acquisition of all publications continued by the NDL based on the Legal Deposit System, which, theoretically speaking, is the catalogue of materials housed in its libraries that comprise the NDL, such catalogue including the bibliographic information of all materials published in Japan. Comprehensive bibliographic information on all publications in Japan, for inclusion in the above-mentioned catalogue, is called a national bibliography. In the NDL, the bibliographic information of materials that arrive based on the Legal Deposit System is summarized once a week in the "Japanese National Bibliography Weekly List."

The "Japanese National Bibliography Weekly List" is published on the Internet and is issued and distributed as a booklet. Its contents are processed into a database for circulation as "JAPAN/MARC (Machine Readable Cataloguing)" and recorded on CD-ROM and DVD-ROM discs for sale. Its basic function is to ensure comprehensive, uniform indexing when searching materials published in Japan.

Also, when compiling a catalogue of materials they own, other libraries can copy-catalogue (create a catalogue of a library by copying bibliographic information) using the "Japanese National Bibliography Weekly List" without having to create their own bibliographic data. Though this has merits such as reduced effort for other libraries in creating catalogues and sharing bibliographic data among libraries, there is a time lag in the NDL's creation of a catalogue from the publication, which has been pointed out as a fault that makes the system unsuitable for searching newly published materials. This is an issue because most of the materials that other libraries acquire and make catalogues of are newly published books. For this reason most public libraries use bibliographic database created by private distributors rather than "JAPAN/MARC" when creating their catalogues. Therefore, "JAPAN/MARC" has not been used as a national bibliography for copy-cataloguing purposes.

The NDL has, since its opening, also compiled the "Japanese Periodicals Index" for circulation as well as the national bibliographies. This is a catalogue of articles of major Japanese periodicals, and is valued as a catalogue for periodicals that cannot be easily searched using other regular catalogues, even though its scope of indexing is primarily limited to periodicals with high demand for searching, such as academic periodicals, etc.


The basis of materials housed in the NDL constitutes the materials that affiliated libraries in both houses of the pre-war Imperial Diet collected to assist deliberations in the Diet, as well as the materials housed in the Imperial Library, which was at that time the only national library in Japan. Particularly, the materials housed in the Imperial Library comprise a collection of great value, including pre-war Japanese books, rare old books and Western books, which were acquired comprehensively based on the Legal Deposit System under the Publishing Act.

Because a full-fledged Legal Deposit System was introduced for the purpose of acquiring a comprehensive collection of materials published in Japan and compiling national bibliographies after the establishment of the NDL, as a rule all materials published in Japan have been stored within the NDL. Regarding foreign materials, the NDL collects primarily materials on humanities and social science, materials on science and technology, and materials on Japan, which are useful for academic study and reference research through international exchanges and purchases.

The stock of the NDL includes the unique and substantial collections that the library has acquired, including those from the days of the former Imperial Library. Many of these unique collections have great value as materials. Major collections include the following: stock of the old Han schools (schools of the feudal domains) and the Tokugawa Shogunate Succession Documents that were inherited from the former Imperial Library; the Ito Bunko (Ito collection) and the Shirai Bunko (Shirai collection), consisting of old books on herbalism; the Modern Political and Constitutional History, comprising materials on the modern political history, which were collected as a high priority considering the nature of a post-war national library as a facility for the Diet; the collection of official gazettes and statutes of Japan and foreign countries; the Ashihara Eiryo Collection, a collection of materials related to ballet and chanson inherited from the Ueno Branch Library; and the Nunokawa Bunko (Nunokawa collection) (the collection formerly possessed by Kakuzaemon NUNOKAWA), which concentrated on materials related to the history of publications and culture. The collection also includes books and magazines that had been banned in prewar days. The banned books previously housed in the Imperial Library are made available as part of the general materials, and the banned books previously held by the former Ministry of Home Affairs are categorized as valuable books and made available for reading with a certain level of restriction.

According to the statistics as of the end of fiscal year 2004, the NDL possesses 8,369,233 volumes of books, 176,961 titles of magazines, 10,351 titles of newspapers, as well as more than 12 million items of materials in various non-book formats, such as microfilm, maps, digital materials, etc.

Digital Library Projects

After the 1990s the NDL started to expand its digital library functions, primarily via websites on the Internet, in response to developments in telecommunications.

In 2002 the website was substantially renewed to coincide with the opening of the Kansai-kan. Functions of the 'NDL-OPAC' (National Diet Library Online Public Access Catalogue), a search-and-request system for the materials housed in the NDL, were expanded significantly, and it became possible to search most of materials in the possession of the NDL from any location worldwide via the Internet. The Japanese publications housed in the NDL make up a comprehensive collection of all the materials published in Japan, which are acquired through the Legal Deposit System, and its catalogues are an accumulation of the national bibliographies that have been compiled on a weekly basis. Therefore, the provision of bibliographic data through the NDL-OPAC is a service intended not only to deliver the information of the stock of the NDL but also to provide the general public with broad-based, comprehensive bibliographical data on every conceivable kind of material published in Japan.

The Japanese Periodicals Index also became available for searching on the Internet via the NDL-OPAC, and a database of the Index, which has been accumulated for more than 50 years since the opening of the NDL, is now available for a public use.

Other than the above, various kinds of digital library content have been made available to the public, including the 'Rare Books Image Database,' which reveals rare historical book and image data of Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) among the materials housed in the NDL; the 'Digital Library from the Meiji Era,' which provides scanned image data of the NDL's materials published during the Meiji period; and 'WARP' (Web Archiving Project) (project of selective accumulation of Internet-based information; formerly an experimental project of selective accumulation of Internet-based information), etc.

The Digital Library from the Meiji Era makes it possible for anyone, at any time or place, to access the digitized contents of materials published during the Meiji/Taisho period; thus its cultural and historical value as materials is deemed extremely high, although its scope is limited to the materials for which the copyright protection period can be confirmed as having expired, or materials with the approval of a copyright holder.

Through WARP, academic periodicals published on the Internet and the actual websites of government agencies, etc., are archived in the NDL's server and made available to the public over the Internet, upon obtaining the approval of the respective administrators of such contents. It is an experimental project that a library, in the same manner as paper-medium materials, collects, classifies, preserves and makes available to the public the digital information on the Internet (networked digital information) whose contents can be alternated by its administrators anytime and in any manner, unlike packaged digital information such as CD-ROM discs, the contents of which cannot be altered.

As a future project, it has been considered that the NDL, as a national library with the mission of acquiring a comprehensive collection of the nation's information resources, will also collect and preserve networked digital information circulated via the Internet. The Legal Deposit System Council, an advisory council to conduct research and deliberations on the operation of the Legal Deposit System, proposed that a system intended to acquire, preserve and provide the information on the Internet should be established in its report on "Concept of the Acquisition System for the Networked Electronic Publications," as submitted in 2004. Based on this report, the NDL is considering the institutionalization of a project to collect websites transmitted in Japan at a pace of approximately once a year, being automatic and non-selective, and to preserve and make available such websites under a certain restriction. The NDL revealed its plan to start with the acquisition of websites of a public nature with domain names such as,,, etc., and to make available such websites in its report on the 'Concept of Institutionalization of Acquisition and Utilization of Internet-based Information' in its revised edition. These developments caught the public's attention in 2004, in tandem with the "Proposal on Realization of the World's Most Advanced IT Nation" by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s Special Mission Committee on the e-Japan Focused Plan. However, the House of Representatives member Seiko NODA and the House of Representatives member Shunichi YAMAGUCHI, who suggested this proposal, left the LDP in 2005 (but rejoined later); it has also been pointed out that the NDL's future plan for the comprehensive collection of information could promote illegal acts through the circulation of obscene products, child pornography and privacy-infringing information, so it is said that the realization of the proposal will be quite difficult.

Usage of the NDL

This section mainly explains the case in which a general public user visits and uses the NDL Tokyo Main Library. For details on the Kansai-kan of the NDL and the International Library of Children's Literature, please refer to the article on each topic.

Visiting and Leaving the Library

Anyone 18 years of age or older is eligible to use services for the Tokyo Main Library and the Kansai-kan. On the other hand, the International Library of Children's Literature, which provides a wide range of specific services targeted toward children, can be used by anyone, except for the reference room for specialized documents related to children's literature.

The gate through which library visitors pass when entering or leaving the library is constantly monitored by several Diet members or outsourced guards. Upon entering the library, a user is required to obtain a user card, which is an IC card that is valid only on the day of issuance, from the User Card Issuing Machine; the card is required when searching, requesting, collecting and copying materials. When obtaining a user card, the user is required to input his/her name, address, telephone number(s), etc. However, if the user brings his/her registered user card (which is different from the user card; see the picture shown to the left), he/she can obtain the user card by inputting only his/her password. By using the card thus issued, a user passes through the gate that is similar to an automatic ticket gate at a train station. Because opaque bags such as briefcases cannot be brought into the Tokyo Main Library and the Kansai-kan, before entering the library the user is required to deposit his/her baggage in a locker located next to the entrance.

When a user finishes using materials, he/she is required to return all the materials to the counter where he/she received them before leaving the library. The user card is collected automatically when a user inserts the card into the gate and leaves the library. No one is allowed to leave the library without returning the materials.

Library Open Hours

Tokyo Main Library: 9:30-19:00 (17:00 on Saturday)

Kansai-kan: 10:00-18:00

International Library of Children's Literature: 9:30-17:00

Days Closed

Tokyo Main Library and the Kansai-kan: Sundays, national holidays, the third Wednesday of the month, and the Year-End/New Year holidays

International Library of Children's Literature: Mondays, public holidays (except Children's Day on May 5), the third Wednesday of the month, and the Year-End/New Year holidays

Arrangement and Reading of Materials

For the management of an enormous amount of materials, as a rule the Tokyo Main Library applies a closed-stack system for its materials, with which all materials are stored in a closed stack room that is not directly accessible by the user. For this reason the user is first required to search for the materials he/she needs on the NDL-OPAC (a search-and-request system for materials housed in the NDL) and then request the materials via the system. Based on the request data on the NDL-OPAC, the materials will be taken out from the stack room; however, it takes about 20-30 minutes before a user can collect the requested materials because enormous amounts of materials are taken out of the extremely large stack room. There is a limit to the number of materials that can be requested by an individual at one time.

The Tokyo Main Library consists of two buildings (the main building and the annex), but generally the counter on the second floor of the main building is in charge of lending books and the counter on the second floor of the annex is in charge of lending periodicals. Also, special materials rooms exist for special materials by topics, as well as for materials that are unique among national libraries. Because some of the materials in the special materials rooms are available in open stacks, users can read some of the materials on open shelves such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, statistics, almanacs, newspapers, etc., and hold them in their hands.

Nine special materials rooms are currently available in the Tokyo Main Library, as follows: the Business, Science and Technology Room (reference books on business and social science, science and technology; abstracts and indexes of science and technology) and the Humanities Room (reference books on general subjects and humanities; core journals of library and information science) on the second floor of the main building; the Rare Books and Old Materials Room (rare books, semi-rare books, Japanese old books up to the Edo period, Chinese old books up to the Qing dynasty, etc.) on the third floor of the main building; the Map Room (single-sheet maps and residential maps) and the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room (Kensei-shiryoshitsu) (documents and microfilms related to modern Japanese political history, microfilms of GHQ documents and materials related to Japanese immigrants) on the fourth floor of the main building; the Audio-Visual Materials Room (phonograph records, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, etc.) and the Electronic Resources Room (electronic resources such as CD-ROMs, electronic journals, etc.) on the first floor of the Annex; the Parliamentary Documents and Official Publications Room (parliamentary documents, official gazettes, statutes, court reports and treaties of Japan and other countries, publication catalogues, directories, annual reports, statistics of Japanese and foreign government offices and publications of international organizations, reference books on law and politics, etc.) on the third floor of the Annex; and the Newspaper Reading Room (Newspapers (original, reduced and reprinted edition and microfilm), newspaper clippings) on the fourth floor of the Annex. The Asian Materials Room, specializing in materials written in Asian and North African languages, was formerly situated in the Tokyo Main Library, but when the Kansai-kan was opened to the public it was transferred to the Kansai-kan with its collection and renamed as the Asian Resources Room.

Copying Services

A user cannot copy materials alone using a photocopier but is instead required to make a request at the Copying Center. Free copying by a user is not allowed in the NDL because the NDL has an obligation to preserve materials as a deposit library, and the NDL is required to confirm the portions to be copied because copying by library users in general is limited to the portion that can be copied without obtaining the approval of a copyright holder as specified in Article 31 of the Copyright Act. For this reason a user cannot copy full pages of the latest editions of serials and materials protected by copyright, even if they are valuable materials only available in the NDL.

Because self-copying is not available, it takes between 10-30 minutes before photoduplicates can be collected after a request for photo-duplication is made, depending on the level of usage. Due to the waiting time for the materials to be taken out from the stack room, combined with the waiting time required for photo-duplication, a considerable amount of time is required for a user to collect photoduplicates of target materials and the length of waiting time is one of the burdens for a user when using the NDL.

However, there are self-service photocopiers in the Kansai-kan, and the user can copy portions of reference materials by himself/herself. Even in this case the user is required to have the portion he/she has copied in materials confirmed by a library staff person.

Also, a registered user can look up and identify a material on the NDL-OPAC system via the Internet and request a copying service by mail by paying the actual costs only. Because the remote copying service is connected with the Japanese Periodicals Index system, it is possible for a user to specify the article to be copied within the searched magazines and request that a copy of such article be sent to him/her.

[Original Japanese]