An All-Embracing Library
A Transmitter of Knowledge with Social Responsibility
The National Library of China (NLC) serves as the repository of the nation's publications, a national bibliographic center, a national center for preservation and conservation of ancient books, as well as the national museum of ancient books. The major responsibility of the NLC includes: the collection and preservation of domestic and foreign publications; national coordination of document preservation and conservation work; provision of information and reference services to the central government, national authorities, social organizations, and the general public; research in the theory of library sciences and development of librarianship, and guidance to other libraries in China; the fulfillment of its function in international cultural exchanges through participation in the activities of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and other related international organizations, as well as the promotion of exchanges and cooperation with other libraries in China and abroad.
The NLC's Long History
The NLC developed out of the Metropolitan Library. In the beginning of the twentieth century, against the background of reform and Western learning spreading to the East, scholars of insight strongly recommended the Qing government to establish libraries and schools, in the hope of promoting national culture and importing advanced science and technology. On 9 September 1909, the Qing government approved the establishment of Metropolitan Library, which was located in Beijing Guanghua temple. The Metropolitan Library was open to the public on 27 August 1912. It officially started to receive legal deposit copies of domestic publications in 1916, marking the launch of the library's performance of some of the requisite functions of a national library.
In the past more than 100 years, the Metropolitan Library was renamed National Peking Library and Beijing Library successively. On 12 December 1998, it was renamed National Library of China (NLC). As the third largest national library in the world, covering 280,000 square meters, it embraces three components: NLC North Area, NLC South Area and NLC Ancient Books Library. The NLC has vast collections including traditional documents and digital collections via allocation, social donation and librarians purchasing. It assumes the responsibility of providing services for national legislative decision-making institutions, scientific research, education and production institutions, library community, and the general public.
Miao Quansun, Chen Yuan, Liang Qichao, Cai Yuanpei, Yuan Tongli, Ren Jiyu and so on had successively served as the NLC director. Generations of silent dedication of general staff are determined to become useful talents in their own posts, who support the NLC and form the NLC's spirit throughout the past more than one hundred years.
Since Reforming and Opening-up, the NLC has made bold explorations and keen reforms, and achieved leapfrog development. It has assumed many national important cultural projects, and played more and more important roles in inheriting Chinese excellent traditional culture and promoting public culture service system construction; the NLC is committed to enhancing exchange and cooperation with library communities and culture communities in the worldwide, and the NLC's international influence is growing day by bay.
Over the past more than 100 years, the NLC has been inheriting and carrying forward Chinese culture, and has made great contributions to the inheritance and dissemination of national culture and human civilization.
A Treasury of Chinese Culture
The NLC hosts vast and comprehensive holdings, including extensive collections in foreign languages and many historical books. The NLC's collection totaled more than 35,000,000 volumes and pieces, and this number is increased by nearly one million each year. The NLC's total collection ranked the 7th among national libraries all over the world. Its Chinese collection ranks the first in the world, while foreign languages collection ranks the first in China.
The NLC inherits all royal collections since the Southern Song Dynasty and many celebrities' private collections since Ming and Qing Dynasties. Its oldest collections are the inscriptions on animal bones and tortoise shells (Oracle Bones), which were excavated in Yin Ruins and can be traced back to 3,000 years ago. Valuable and special collections include Dunhuang Manuscripts, western region documents, rare ancient books, epigraphs and rubbings, ancient maps, ancient books in languages of ethnic minorities as well famous expert's manuscripts, totaled more than 2,800,000 volumes and pieces. Dunhuang Manuscripts, the Zhaocheng Tripitaka of the Jin Dynasty, the Yongle Encyclopedia, and the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature are considered as the NLC's Four Special Collections.
Adhering to the principle of "Comprehensive collection of Chinese resources, selective collection of foreign language resources", the NLC comprehensively collects all official publications in China. Besides, it pays great attention to collecting unofficial publications in China. It is the collection center of dissertations prescribed by Academic Degree Commission of the State Council, a collector of postdoctoral research reports and materials in library sciences, as well the National Yearbook Collection Center. Moreover, it opens reading rooms for Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan's publications.
The NLC has been collecting foreign books and periodicals since the 1920s. Documents in 123 foreign languages constitute 40% of the whole collection. In addition, the NLC collects amount of publications of international organizations and foreign governments.
With the development of various new types of information media, the NLC's collection scale is enlarging, and the types are increasing. The NLC has not only collected various microfilms and audio-visual products but also housed a large number of digital resources. It has established the biggest digital resources repository and service base in China. The total capacity of digital resources has exceeded 1000TB, and this number is increased by 100TB each year. The NLC carries out China Memory Project, which collects dictated, video historical data, visual historical data and other new types of literature on major modern events and important figures in China.
Through more than one hundred years of effort, the NLC has established its own characteristic—attaching equal importance to its works of literature collection and utilization. It serves as an all embracing library and a treasure-house of national cultures from the past to the future.
The NLC edits and publishes National Bibliography, Union Catalogue, and Library Collection Catalogue. In 1929, the NLC became the host of National Bibliography Union Catalogue editing, and was working on more than 30 kinds of bibliographies, such as the National Bibliography of China, General Bibliography on the Period of the Republic of China and China's Rare Books Bibliography. The ledger catalogue system of Chinese books has been founded ever since. The NLC is in charge of the compilation of standards and specifications, such as Chinese Library Classification, Chinese Thesaurus, Chinese Bibliographical Cataloguing Rules, China Machine-Readable Catalogue, and so on, which provide supports for national library operation development.
In 1990s, along with the proliferation of computer technology and the rapid development of the network environment, the NLC issued 50 Years (1949-1999) of Chinese Books Bibliography (CD). Founded in 1997, the National Online Library Cataloging Center organizes and manages the online union cataloguing and sharing bibliography resources. At present, the online library cataloging database is continuously extended. By combing with national bibliographic portal, it has become a comprehensive national bibliographic database with large scale, rich varieties, wide coverage, and diversified service products. In 2011, the National Online Library Cataloging Center began to provide free bibliographic data services to member libraries, which actively promoted information co-construction and resource sharing.
In recent years, the NLC has been promoting information resources integration and revelation continuously, established Wenjin search system, enhanced resources discovery ability, and satisfied readers' one-stop retrieval demands for various resources. Readers can quickly access to their needed resources and enjoy the convenient services.
The NLC provides services for the central government, national authorities, major scientific research, education and production institutions, the general public and library community in China, which gradually forms a multiple service system with traditional document services as foundation, modern information services as guidance, and cultural education training as new growth point.
I Serving the Central Party and the State Organs
The NLC follows the state current affairs, provides document information support and guarantee for Party and state leaders, and the central legislative decision-making organs; the NLC provides efficient services for formulation of the state policies and state legislation through various manners, such as providing services for the NPC and the CPPCC, establishing the NLC Branches at ministries and commissions, launching "Platform for Legislative Reference Service of the NLC", and so on.
II Serving Major Scientific Research, Education and Production Institutions
The NLC follows the needs of the State in major strategic decision-making and key construction projects, strengthens services for education, scientific research and enterprise institutions, gradually improves reference service system which consists of general reference service, selective dissemination of information service, interlibrary loan service, document delivery service, photocopy service, and so on; the NLC establishes National Library Reference Collaboration Network, and aims to create a service brand toward enterprises and scientific research institutions.
III Serve the Library Community
The NLC has established effective cooperative mechanisms in library services which are featured with "leading operation, open resources, initiative services, win-win cooperation" to lead and coordinate national public librarianship development. The NLC creates a positive policy environment for librarianship development in terms of library legislation and important policies formulation. The NLC establishes cooperative platforms in various areas of national library community, carries out professional training, communication and cooperation with other libraries in China, especially with public libraries. Joint with the Library Society of China and other industry associations, the NLC is committed to strengthening exchange and cooperation with library community in China and abroad through the organization of various exchange and cooperation projects.
IV Serve the General Public
Serve Walk-in Readers
The NLC is open to the public 365 days a year, serving an average of 12,000 visitors per day. There are 25 reading rooms with more than 5,000 reading seats. The function layout of different premises has different characteristics: the NLC South Area provides professional services based on documents in foreign languages as well as special collections in Chinese and foreign languages, and display services of the National Museum of Classic Books; the NLC North Area provides services for the public, mainly including loan service and reading service of newly published Chinese documents, electronic resources, and audio-visual resources; the NLC Ancient Books Library provides research services based on general ancient books, rare books in foreign languages, chronicles and genealogies, and temporary thematic exhibition services. Through optimizing service layout, it forms a modernized library-services system comprised of the "searching, reading, inquiring and depositing" of collections; it achieves readers' self-services by setting up self-registration machines, self-borrowing and self-returning books machines, self-photocopy machines; A wireless network covers the whole library, for users to conveniently download digital resources; it provides Café and Dining Hall, and other leisure facilities for readers, which satisfy readers' various demands.
Serve Remote Readers
The NLC provides online reference services, document supply services, interlibrary loan services, and so on; service network covering Internet, mobile communications network, broadcast network and other carriers is gradually improving, and readers can access to abundant digital library services outside the library; the public can log in the NLC website remotely, register real-name account, and access to resources and services of National Digital Library of China. The number of annual website hits has surpassed 1.4 billion.
Serve Special Groups
The NLC Children's Library provides abundant children's documents for young readers, and holds various forms of children's reading promotional activities regularly; National Children's Digital Library provides an online reading platform for juveniles; people with disabilities can access to the NLC's resources through "China Digital Library for Visual Impairment" and "China Digital Library for People with Disabilities"; the NLC actively launches remote cultural education services for special groups, and holds training services for old people regularly.
Social Education Services
The NLC holds World Reading Day theme activities, "Wenjin Books Awards", and other cultural activities for promoting nationwide reading; the NLC holds more than 200 lectures every year, including "Historical and Cultural Lectures for Ministers", "Wenjin Forum", "The NLC Forum", "Chinese Classics and Culture", and so on; the NLC launches "National Library Open Course", which provides high-quality courses via the Internet; the NLC holds dozens of important exhibitions, such as "The Series Exhibitions of Special and Rare Collections of the National Library of China", "The Exhibitions of National Valuable Ancient Books", "The Series Exhibitions of Chinese Memory Intangible Cultural Heritage Projects", and so on, which are well received by readers; the NLC Art Center carries out art education popularization activities, which help the public promote artistic accomplishment.
Appreciation and Reading in the NMCB
Numerous classics are the root of Chinese culture. In order to further carry forward Chinese excellent traditional culture, the National Museum of Classic Books (NMCB), established by the NLC, was open for the public officially in 2014. The NMCB is the first museum of classic books in China, and also a museum of its kind with larger area, richer collections, and more representative exhibits in the world.
The NMCB is located in the NLC South Area, covering 11,549 square meters with 10 exhibition halls. Since it was open, the NMCB has held many exhibitions, such as "The Series Exhibitions of Special and Rare Collections of the National Library of China", held abundant interactive experience activities, such as "Walk into the Big Classroom of National Museum of Classic Books", and it is devoted to "bringing all records in our classics to life"; it actively holds business exchanges with national and international colleagues, explores various exhibition cooperation patterns, establishes flow exhibition line, so as to make more readers receive traditional culture edification; based on the NLC's abundant collections, it develops cultural and creative products, making more people "bring the museum back home".