Report from Masako Iwashita, 2016 Horner Fellowship Recipient

By Masako Iwashita

Note: this article translated from its original text in Japanese.

Sarah Kortemeier, UA Poetry Center; Masako Iwashita, Horner Fellow; Ping Situ, UA Library; Jeanne Pfander, UA Library; Alexandra Humphreys, ASU Library.

I have 11 classes about the library science in my university.  So, I will introduce some topics about librarians in Japan as follows.

A student who wants to be a librarian has to complete 15 courses necessary for a university. To be a librarian-teacher, that is a position for supervisor of school library in Japan, taking 5 subjects about library science is required in addition to complete qualifications of teacher.

The role of librarian is popular among young ladies in Japan. But most of  them cannot find their job as a full time work, but as a part-time work. Needless to say, librarianship is one of the professional administration. But the employment stability is less certain and almost all librarians are poor-paid. In addition, the post for librarian is rare. Furthermore, librarian’s work often seems to be considered as a feminine profession. Therefore, it is difficult to be a librarian as a permanent position. This is a big problem for me who teaches about library science.

By the way, a regional city (Takeo-city in Saga prefecture in southern western area of Japan) with population of 50,000 built a new library and it created much controversy because Takeo-city  outsourced the operation of the municipal library to the large private bookstore company. The company changed the collection development policy, so many antiquarian books were discarded as unimportant, as alternated, many popular books including second-hand books were introduced. Moreover, individual borrowers’ history lists were used as a data for the promotion database of the company and their histories are utilized as the point system, which can be used in another group company.

Many experts criticized the management of the library about the lack of privacy and the discard of antiquarian books. Though many people use the new library, and a lot of visitors from other cities visit the city. That is to say, a library brought the huge economic effect to a local city which suffers from depopulation with fewer children continuing to develop and the aging of population.

Masako Iwashita visiting Arizona as part of the Horner Fellowship.

Nowadays, many libraries in Japan are in the big change and the reformation. Fortunately, I got the Horner fellowship and I could visit many libraries for two weeks. So, I got off the plane at Phoenix with expectation that I could learn many things from libraries in the United States. I stayed at Tucson and Phoenix for each one week. I was very surprised at the University of Arizona. Librarians have their individual office rooms in the library and they also teach library science. It seems that librarians are treated as experts. The campus of the university is large and the facilities are also nice. There are several libraries in the campus of the university. When I visited one of the library, many students were using the library. They were discussing at the shelf area with white board.

I was also surprised about the number of the PC and many study room and the maker space. I had not seen “the maker space.” I only knew the name on the Internet. I saw a maker space for the first time. Students freely used personal computers, scanning machines, 3D printers, and sewing machines. They connected their imaginations to creativity and made real things. Whiteboards at the wall of the maker space were available to memorize their ideas when they flashed ideas into their minds. I think that the library may be a pleasant space for students. There was a counter on each floor, and many librarians were supporting students. In a collage, living books were displayed. I was shocked by the disparity in the library of the higher education between the United States and Japan. Moreover, I understand that the reason why the United States has overwhelming national strength. Maker space will be popularized in Japan in the future.

I think that the key of the future in Japan is education and employment of the young age. I also hope that Japanese government will distribute much more budget for education and libraries.

The public library was nice in the same way. It is enviable that there are many library branches. There are many child rooms in many public libraries in Japan, too. But there are no rooms for teenager. I thought that making the special place for young people was a nice idea. I was also surprised that the senior generation enjoyed Mahjong in a separated room at the public library. There were chess and backgammon on the table of the teens’ room. I think that Japanese libraries should have such casualness. People can get free tickets of museums in public libraries. Old catalog cases are utilized with various ideas. I got hints of many library services. In the children’s room, I saw a picture-story show ”Kamishibai” in Japanese, which is one of traditional Japanese storytelling methods. I am pleased that American children enjoyed reading with Japanese storytelling method. I got a lot of hints from American child service. In Phoenix, I visited the library for people with visual impairment. I appreciate that I could visit a full-fledged library.

The day we visited the school library was Halloween day. All of teachers, students and librarians were dressing up. It was amazing to see their dressing up. Every librarian at school library had a pleasant personality as well as Japanese school librarian. They kindly explained many things to me.

Masako Iwashita presenting at the 2016 AzLA Annual Conference.

I participated in the AzLA conference for three days. I was surprised that several Japanese manga were covered at the subcommittee. I enjoyed participating in the subcommittee. I made a presentation in English for the first time. The audience payed attention to my presentation with eagerness.

I learned some differences in the organizing of library conference. The most impressive thing was the award ceremony of Luncheon. When I spoke a appreciate speech, I felt like as if I was the winner of the Academy Awards. I have the commemorative shield of the Horner award that I received on display in my university laboratory.

My visit to the American library will be posted in the April issue of the Japan Library Association magazine. I will write newspaper articles entitled “American Library Now – From Arizona” in a local newspaper (3 series). The article will be posted at the end of this month. In Japan, many people are interested in American libraries. I saw the word “knowledge is power” at the AzLA library conference, which I often teach these words to my students. It is well known as the word by Francis Bacon and also known as the word by ancient Chinese strategist.  On my visit to Arizona, I got acquainted with many librarians. I learned a lot from them. At the same time, friendship with them is my great achievement this time.

I sincerely thank to many people. Honor Fellow Committee granted my request and arranged a lot of tours of the library. Many librarians supported my library visit and accepted me. In addition, many librarians and families were willing to accept my homestay.  If you come to Japan, please contact me. Our password is “AzLA.”

Masako Iwashita is the 2016 Horner Fellow.

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