On a brisk evening on February 3, CASLIS sponsored a well-attended presentation and tour of the Japan Foundation Toronto (JFT) library. The two-part presentation took place in sizable room decorated with elegant wooden panelling, livened by the presence of a volunteer donning a kimono and many friendly greetings exchanged by attendees. Prior to the presentation and tour, attendees had a chance to enjoy sushi and Japanese pastries, and to view items on display for the Origamic Architecture exhibition.
The first presentation was given by Chief Librarian Mariko Liliefeldt, who described the library’s online and onsite resources, and illustrated the positive impact administrative changes have had on library statistics. The second presentation was given by Library Assistant Natalie Chan, who described Japanese pop culture, and discussed the role that manga (Japanese comics) play in Japanese culture.
Described by Mariko as Toronto’s “gateway for Japanese information,” the JFT library boasts over 17,000 Japan-related materials in Japanese, English and French. In 2008, the library had a total circulation of 22,300 and welcomed 23,000 visitors.
Although the JFT library had experienced declining circulation and visitor numbers in years prior to 2008, administrative changes and successful efforts to better understand patrons’ information needs and interests has turned this once under-used library into a lively hub for Japanese news and culture.
Simple changes such as the extension of library hours, more liberal application requirements and borrowing limits, the holding of events and exhibits in partnership with other Japanese institutions and associations, and the creation of a Pop Culture Corner have greatly improved visiting and circulation numbers.
The creation of the Pop Culture Corner may, in fact, be one of the most successful changes made by the JFT. One of the most attractive parts of the library, the Corner features an inviting and bright interior design in the mod style. Here, visitors can peruse library material at their leisure, view cultural exhibits (such as the recent Noh Costume Display), and interact with volunteers clad in cosplay costumes—an activity which is very popular in Japan, according to Natalie.
The Pop Culture Corner collection is composed of Japanese and English language books, magazines and newspapers; Japanese pop music recordings (“J-Pop”), as well as other non-pop music; films and anime (Japanese animation) in DVD and VHS formats; and 1,600 volumes of manga (including 800 new titles that were added in May 2009 to reflect patron demand).
In Japan manga has become a ubiquitous media that reflects some of the most current trends in Japanese cultural life. Themes covered in these comics range from age and gender-related material, to historic narratives, sports and cooking. Manga has also served as cultural ambassador for Japan, as it is known and read in many countries, including those in Asia, Europe and Latin America.
In addition to a sizable collection of manga, JFT’s collection includes thousands of volumes on many subject areas, including art, history, geography, Japanese language, and the social sciences.
The attractive layout of its library, the wealth of its holdings, the exhibits and events held at its downtown location, and the opportunity for CASLIS members to network and learn from their JFT colleagues, make a visit to the Japan Foundation of Toronto a rewarding experience.
Yannet M. Lathrop
M.I. Candidate, 2011, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto