National Diet Library Rapidly Digitizes Publications; Plans to Digitize 450,000 This Year

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The National Diet Library in Tokyo.

The National Diet Library in Tokyo is accelerating its digitization of publications in its inventory.

The library has earmarked ¥540 million from its budget this fiscal year for the digitization project, which includes books, magazines and newspapers. It plans to digitize 450,000 publications this fiscal year, 50,000 more than the previous fiscal year, and 250,000 publications from next fiscal year. It will also enhance the search system to improve usability and is considering expanding the criteria for books it will digitize — from those published before 2000 to include those published after.

The library is expediting digitization to preserve for posterity valuable books and documents that are difficult to obtain due to being out of print and other reasons. It also aims to share publications over the internet, making them accessible whenever and wherever, with the goal of promoting print culture.

Preventing deterioration of materials due to people handling them is another merit of digitization. Enabling multiple people to read the same publication simultaneously is another.

The digitization project was spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic drove many libraries to close temporarily in and after 2020, and this contributed to a revision to the Copyright Law being passed in 2021. The revision makes it possible for the library to provide digital documents to individuals. Since the new law was passed, individuals who have registered on the website have been able to read documents on personal computers and smartphones.

According to the library, of its about 46.85 million publications, 3.9 million have been digitized as of March. However, only 620,000 of them are available to everybody on the internet, while 1.79 million of them are only available on the National Diet Library’s website and other libraries. Additionally, 1.49 million books are available exclusively on the National Diet Library’s premises via its intranet.