Tokyo Denki University Multimedia Resource Center and Library
Yoko Takahashi, Manager of Planning and Promotion section, Tokyo Denki University Multimedia Resource Center and Library
Q1. Could you tell us about Tokyo Denki University and its policies, as well as about yourself. What is it that you do?
The university was established in 1907, and this is our 106th anniversary. Tokyo Denki University aims to develop human resources that contribute to society through technology.
The university also puts a lot of work into publishing, and Tokyo Denki University Press is one of the oldest university presses, while also being among the first to digitize all of its publications.
I work for the Multimedia Resource Center and Library, which provides the IT infrastructure for the entire university.
The Multimedia Resource Center and Library was established in 1996, and integrates the University’s Library, Computer Center, Development Section for Office Systems and Center for Educational Technology. It handles the operations of the entire university, managing the network infrastructure and computer systems as well as library documents and audio/visual facilities in the libraries and classrooms, and operates a 500-seat hall.
Eighteen staff members throughout all the University’s Campuses currently work at the Multimedia Resource Center and Library, and we also commission jobs, such as library counter work.
The Multimedia Resource Center and Library is a huge organization that is more than a library. Can you tell us what brought you here?
I graduated from the School of Science and Engineering at Tokyo Denki University and joined the Computer Center, which was the predecessor of the Multimedia Resource Center and Library.
I had worked on the Development Section for Office Systems, and was then transferred to the Library in 1995, where I started doing library work for the first time.
Members of the current Center mainly work in either the Operations or Planning/Promotion section, and the people in Operations oversee the system at each Campus.
I am in Planning and Promotion, which handles services and planning for the entire university. Planning and Promotion not only manages the library system, but also the network infrastructure. The Center’s mission is to provide uniform information for the entire university, so I always keep that in mind when I do my work.
Q2. Do you also make decisions regarding resources?
We have a policy on what e-journals and e-books to make available. We try to provide resources that all three Campuses can use equally, rather than those that are only good for a particular Campus.
So we started out with the journals that the University’s three Campuses had subscribed to, and subscribed to the packages that included them.
Then around 2006, we decided to switch to electronic formats for our journals. Paper resources can only serve a particular Campus, and do not benefit us in terms of costs or our users.
We examined the usage statistics and ran user surveys to determine which Campuses needed which journals, and which titles we had multiple subscriptions to, and established a plan in which, by going digital, we could eliminate redundant subscriptions and cut basic costs.
We also established a policy of digitizing the journals that professors subscribed to for research purposes. The professors said they wanted to keep subscribing to the print format, since they were the ones paying for it, but we convinced them of the real convenience of a digital format and digitized as many journals as we could. There was a lot of initial resistance, however.
Other universities were actually amazed that we had opened up control of research materials, but we had to go that far in order to cut costs for the entire university and increase convenience.
You made e-journals a shared resource for all Campuses. You later provided e-books as well.
As for e-books, we started out with ones like Lecture Notes, which were practically journals. Our university had subscriptions to so many book series, and this burdened our stacks. That was when Springer came to us with the suggestion of e-book collections, and believing that their e-books would give us more space in our stacks, we decided to install them.
We often hear that libraries cannot do anything unless the professors put in a request, but I see that at Tokyo Denki University, the Center takes the initiative.
We do believe that we could digitize more of the books professors purchase for their research, but there are obstacles to that. Even the books that professors buy as part of their research budgets would, once they were digitized, be accessible via the university’s IP address, so everyone could use them, not just the professors. We have had professors agree to this if they bear the cost, but if they do not agree, we will not digitize them.
What the Center offers must be accessible from every Campus. So we try not to subscribe to anything that has a fixed IP.
With printed journals, professors used to take the initiative in selecting resources. But digitization involves the entire university, so the Center takes the initiative to a certain extent.
We also grant users access to our electronic resources from outside the university through a VPN. But a VPN still is not convenient. So we are currently implementing a GakuNin service*. We want to let users access our resources from home just like they do on Campus, so we plan to start the service this fiscal year.
You also run the Tokyo Denki University Virtual Library. What is it exactly?
With a physical bookshelf, you pick out a book by standing in front of it and taking a look. When you search an OPAC (online public access catalog), you get a good idea of where a book is, and go to that shelf. That is when, in fact, you get to browse. Your purpose was to find that one book, but on the shelf, you get to see what’s around it. You might want to pick out the book right next to it.
The Virtual Library makes this possible in a virtual setting. When you search an OPAC, it also shows you what’s around that one book.
In the Virtual Library, you get to see foreign and Japanese books, as well as those from all three Campuses, all on one bookshelf.
With printed books, you will not see books that are currently loaned out on the shelf. But in the Virtual Library, you will. Click on the cover image and it will display the data on the book’s index and a summary.
If you want to check it out, you can return to the OPAC. If the library has it in stock, you can just go pick it up; if it is at another Campus or loaned out, you can reserve it.
Does the Virtual Library have Springer’s e-books as well?
Anything with a request code will be displayed in the Virtual Library.
E-books are usually quite difficult to display. But Springer’s e-books come with MARC data, so they are searchable on the OPAC. If something is not on the OPAC, you’ll have to access the publisher’s platform or find it somewhere else. I feel it is essenital that they be on the OPAC.
You use digital signage to notify users of the new arrival of journals. Do you publicize your e-books as well, showing their covers?
Books are delivered once a week, so we select interesting ones from the new arrivals and display their covers using digital signage. It would be nice if we could do the same thing for e-books, but they do not come in routine deliveries, so if we announced on digital signage what we happened to buy new, we feel it could lead to an imbalance in use. That is an issue we need to resolve.
Seeing the same thing every time would not interest people, and would not promote usage, either.
We regularly buy from Dai Nippon Printing’s electronic library, which mostly includes Japanese books. They do not sell in packages, so we choose a publisher, obtain a titles list, and buy “from here to here.” We do not have the time to choose individual books.
Q3. How do you let the university know what information resources you have purchased?
Actually the Center does not have a full-featured publicity system. But the Center is very widely used.
Students are really interested in electronic things. They are perfectly comfortable with them, too, which I think is a great trend.
An organized system will lead to easier and more widespread use. You are always seeing things from the user’s perspective.
I always tell my staff to listen to what our users want to know.
The counter staff regularly communicates with users and in its daily report jots down any casual comments or requests for improvement that users make, no matter how trivial it might be. That is where I believe we can discover user needs.
I see that you are constantly digitizing the content you provide, while carefully picking up everything that comes from face-to-face, interpersonal communications.
Q4. Since the dawn of e-books, Tokyo Denki University has been providing e-book series similar to an e-journal format, and established a goal of having 100,000 e-books.
The Tokyo Senju Campus has a compact electromotive shelving system. It can stock 100,000 books, but with a compact electromotive shelf, you have to set up a ladder, which takes up space you could otherwise use. So we decided to stack to a height that would not require a ladder.
That would drop our capacity to 50,000. So we decided to make up that difference with e-books, and together with our intention to provide more e-books, we set a goal of 100,000 e-books.
Currently, we have over 25,000 foreign books from Springer alone, and about 35,000 together with the Springer Book Series Archive. With our Japanese books, we have about 37,000.
Is there a reason why your Springer e-books collection also includes humanities books instead of just science packages?
Our faculty includes professors of psychology and other general education subjects. Student advisors also need materials for these subjects. Since we are interested in mental health in this day and age, we are hoping to have e-books and e-journals fill in for fields such as educational psychology.
Research and education, plus mental health and human support services—that is what it is.
Do you plan to add old books as well, in the form of archived electronic content?
We are intensively buying back issues of e-journals, so we are disposing of our printed journals. Our concept is, “For anything visible, file it electronically.”
As for books, any that are available electronically will be moved to e-books, and we will phase out or do away with the print version, depending on how frequently it is used.
We will get rid of any that we have multiple copies of, since there is no use in having so many of the same copies at one Campus and it is a waste for each Campus to own a copy.
Since they are a lot like journals, we also hope that these book series will be releasing back issues. Switching all of these to electronic media will open up shelf space, which we can use for other purposes.
But will we buy books from the past—those other than the book series—that used to be available in print? The answer is, probably not, considering how much less they would be used. We intend to continue to purchase current and upcoming books in electronic format.
And when we do, it is very convenient when they come in packages, since it is really hard for us to choose books individually. With a package, we have the benefit of seeing the books we did not choose. We will become aware of them, or I should say, those books will gain greater access.
Q5. How is media used on campus? Do you have any plans to go mobile?
Students at the Tokyo Senju Campus all have their own notebook PCs, and wireless LAN is available everywhere on Campus, so anyone can browse the Library on their PC. But devices are constantly changing, and many students have multiple devices, like smartphones and iPads, so it would be convenient if the same media content for PCs were made available on mobile devices as well.
The Library at the Center is divided into zones according to use, such as the Reading Zone and the Learning Zone. The rooms for group studies are in the Learning Zone, and are used for group work, research labs, or for practicing giving presentations.
The seats in these rooms have their own IDs and are loaned to students like books. Any student that has an overdue book cannot check one out.
The same goes for projectors, video software, portable DVD players, and headphones— you cannot check any of these out if you have an overdue book. This rule has reduced late returns and is naturally teaching students discipline.
Q6. What do you want to work on next?
My immediate goal is to start offering GakuNin. And the university is going to be working on an institutional repository (IR), so the Center is discussing in what areas we can offer support. We are due to launch an early version of the IR this fiscal year.
I have an engineer’s mindset, so I tend to notice system-related aspects as well as issues within the framework rather than take a librarian’s view. I hope to contribute to the Center in this respect.
*GakuNin: The Academic Access Management Federation in Japan
Manager of Planning and Promotion section, Multimedia Resource Center and Library, Tokyo Denki University
Graduated from the School of Science and Engineering at Tokyo Denki University and joined the Tokyo Denki University Computer Center. Primarily worked on managing and developing administrative systems and putting course registration procedures online. Transferred to the library in 1995 and began working on journals, access, document reproduction, and library systems. In 1996, the Computer Center, Libraries, Center for Educational Technology, and Development Section for Office Systems were merged to form the Multimedia Resource Center and Library, which serves and manages the university’s IT infrastructure.
Ms. Takahashi started doing library-related work such as leading the digital shift in journals and books, commissioning library reception work, and installing IC tags. When the Tokyo Senju Campus opened, she became involved in developing and installing the information infrastructure, and aside from her library work, she currently leads projects in academic/corporate systems and other fields.
Tokyo Denki University
A general science and technology university composed of five departments and graduate schools on three campuses: Tokyo Senju, Saitama Hatoyama, and Chiba New Town. 10,000 students are enrolled.
Established in 1907 as the Tokyo Denki School. With a founding spirit of “Respect for Practical Study” and the research and educational motto of “In the Technology Breathes its Creator,” the university aims to develop “human resources capable of contributing to the betterment of society through technology.”
With its 105-year history, during which it has substantially contributed to the rise of Akihabara Electric Town and the spread of PCs, the university is known as a favorite for recruiters.