A Detailed Examination of the Digital Shift at the National Diet Library in Japan

About National Diet of Japan

Strategic Partners

Published on May, 2023

  1. Introduction

The comprehensive report “The Digital Shift at the National Diet Library: Seven Initiatives for Connecting Information Resources and Intellectual Activities” sets out a strategic blueprint for how Japan’s National Diet Library (NDL) plans to navigate the seismic digital transformation influencing libraries worldwide. Spurred on by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, this global shift towards digitalization has become an inescapable reality, calling for a renewed vision and tactical adjustments from information dissemination institutions. In response, the NDL’s approach outlined in this report presents a concerted effort to integrate digital technology in its operations, allowing it to stay abreast of societal changes and adequately meet the evolving information needs of its users.

  1. Recognising the Digital Shift

The NDL’s awareness of the paradigm shift towards a more digital-oriented society is a critical first step in its journey towards transformation. The report highlights this awareness as the library sets out to bridge the gap between its rich information resources and the intellectual activities of its users in a digital age. Over a span of five years, the NDL plans to roll out seven comprehensive initiatives that will underpin its broader strategic plan, aptly titled ‘The Digital Shift at the National Diet Library.’ By recognizing and responding to the significant societal transformation resulting from advancements in information technology, the NDL exhibits a progressive stance poised to enhance its relevance and efficacy in this digital era.


III. Achieving Universal Access


A pivotal aspect of the NDL’s digital shift strategy revolves around ensuring universal access to information. The report elaborates on four critical initiatives that aim to bring this vision to life. Firstly, the NDL plans to upgrade its digital information infrastructure and enhance search tools to support the activities of the National Diet. Secondly, it will amplify the volume of digital materials accessible via the internet or local libraries, thereby broadening the range of information available to users. This will include out-of-copyright materials and those for which rights holders grant permission for public access.


Thirdly, the NDL promises to facilitate access to materials for those with print disabilities. By acquiring, cataloguing, and availing reading materials in various formats, the library underscores its commitment to inclusivity. Lastly, the NDL will utilise its vast expertise to curate and provide access to a broad range of materials and information to the general public, thus promoting individual study and research. These initiatives, collectively, represent an ambitious commitment to equality of access, ensuring that diverse user needs are catered to in this evolving digital landscape.

  1. Developing a Permanent National Digital Information Infrastructure

Central to the NDL’s digital shift is the creation of a robust national digital information infrastructure. This involves accelerating the digitisation of materials, collecting and preserving digital materials, and promoting the utilisation of digital archives. The report indicates that the NDL aims to digitise more than a million library materials in the next five years, a goal that will require strategic planning, significant resources, and advanced technology.


Simultaneously, the NDL will work with authors and publishers to acquire commercially available e-books and e-journals. The preservation of digital materials, an equally crucial aspect, involves the long-term preservation of digital resources, converting obsolete media formats into usable ones, and collecting digital materials from other institutions. These measures highlight the NDL’s determination to future-proof Japan’s cultural heritage.


Lastly, the promotion of digital archives’ usage through platforms like Japan Search demonstrates the NDL’s commitment to facilitating easy and extensive access to these resources, further strengthening the national digital information infrastructure.

  1. The Fundamental Role of the National Diet Library

The report underscores the NDL’s fundamental role, underscoring its duties to the National Diet and the Japanese public. This includes the provision of reliable, current information to the National Diet, to support the democratic decision-making process. Moreover, the acquisition, cataloguing, and preservation of materials are key functions the NDL promises to enhance, ensuring access to information resources, both domestically and internationally.


The NDL also commits to fostering partnerships with other libraries, institutions, and international bodies, intending to share knowledge, information, and best practices. A noteworthy aspect of this is the development of collaborative research services with universities and research institutions. By leveraging external expertise, the NDL aims to enhance its services, thereby addressing more complex policy issues and nurturing an environment of intellectual curiosity.

  1. Conclusion

Overall, the report provides an in-depth perspective into the NDL’s strategic response to the ongoing digital shift. It outlines a forward-looking and comprehensive plan that uses digital technologies to enhance the NDL’s service to the Japanese public, protect and promote the country’s cultural heritage, and support the National Diet in its democratic duties. While the initiatives are ambitious, their success will depend on strategic execution and the library’s ability to adapt to a dynamic and rapidly evolving digital landscape. This detailed report provides a foundation for future discussions on how libraries, as custodians of information and culture, can successfully navigate the challenges of the digital era.

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