The library system at the University of Tokyo is a digitalized hub for latest information that ironically has deep roots in Japanese history. While it was initially founded in 1877 with the establishment of the university itself, the university library and most of its contents were destroyed in a fire during the Great Kanto Earthquake. Through financial assistance from global forces, such as the League of Nations and the Rockefeller Foundation, the University of Tokyo was able to rebuild its library system. By 1928, the reconstruction of the lost building was completed, and it still stands today as the General Library of the University of Tokyo!
Today, the university holds 30 libraries, including the General Library, two Campus Libraries (Kashiwa and Komaba Libraries), and other field specific libraries. In addition to these institutional libraries, there is an online library system that students and faculty members can access from both inside and outside the campus to search and reserve books!
In this article, we will start with an introduction to the university’s 3 main libraries, followed by a reference to library tours and online systems.
3 Main Libraries
The University of Tokyo has three main libraries, each located on the Hongo, Kashiwa, and the Komaba Campuses. If and when you visit these locations, you MUST check out these impressive libraries!
With rustics walls and a grand entrance, the General Library stands proudly in the Hongo Campus. It hold over 1,264,000 volumes, including various literary treasures like the 18,800 volume Mori Ogai (1862-1922) Collection and the 25,000 volume Seishu Collection. In contrast to these historical works, there is a Media Plaza on the first floor, where students can access the ECCS (Educational Campus-wide Computing System) Terminal with their UTokyo Student Accounts.
Next up, we have a rather newer campus library, established only in 2002 when materials from the College of Arts and Sciences Library and other detached libraries within the building were integrated into one. In comparison to the historically “stained” General Library, the Komaba Library has modern architecture that gives away its shallow roots in history. However, this new library also has an equally impressive collection of over one million volumes!
As if to emphasize its modernity, the Komaba Library has an animated character named Komato-chan as its building-shaped mascot! The website even has an entire profile page for Komato-chan, explaining its shy and bright personality, physical features (the Komaba Library itself), and aspirations to become a 10 story building. It even lists “students who learn well and treat books carefully” as one of the character’s favorite things!
To read more about Komato-chan, you can visit its profile linked here!
The Kashiwa Library is the newest of the three campus libraries with its establishment in 2004. Its contents of over 400,000 volumes are mostly related to the natural sciences, which suits the Kashiwa Campus’ strive to provide the dynamic scientific and educational needs of the 21st Century!
Take a Tour of the General Library!
Want to see the General Library in person? No problem! The General Library offers library tours to both incoming students and the general public , each with their designated timeline and procedures.
For incoming students, the library sets aside approximately two months at the beginning of each school year as an Open House period for self-guided tours. It takes around 30 minutes to master how to use the General Library. During the opening hours, students can tour the library at their own time and pace!
In addition to the self-guided tours, students are welcome to join training sessions lead by the General Library’s faculty. One of these sessions teaches how to search for books and papers by using the online search tool. This training offers a hands-on approach by using computers to access the UTokyo REsearch Explorer (TREE). The second type of session is the general library tour, during which a staff member explains the usage of library materials and facilities. These sessions are open to UTokyo members only for no charge, and advance reservations are not required!
For the general public, the General Library offers open hours for both individuals and groups. Prospective participants must schedule their appointment a day prior to their tour, at the latest. For children 16 years of age or younger, an adult supervisor must accompany them. Additionally, if the group consists of more than 10 people, a reservation must be placed two weeks in advance. For those who are interested in walking through the historic building of the General Library, this is your chance!
Library of the Modern Era: Online Sources
To match the rapidly globalizing and digitalizing society of the 21st century, the University of Tokyo has instilled various online library systems to provide efficient access to materials by students and faculty members.
The University of Tokyo’s OPAC is an online library system for the university’s students and faculty members. Users can search all journals and books that was acquired by the UTokyo any time after 1986. Once logging into MyOPAC, users can renew their loans if the materials are not overdue and apply for book reservations, delivery requests, photocopies, PDF viewing, and book purchase requests online!
The Gateway to Academic Contents System (GACoS)
GACoS is a gateway to search for documents and other academic information over the Internet. This search engine can be used without a membership account, allowing easy access to the general public. If you are curious to see what selection of sources the university’s library system has in stock, GACoS is definitely the place to start!
The ASK Service is comparable to an online service counter, where users can send ask questions about the library and its materials via the internet. For inquiries that have been answered before, the search engine will generate past questions and their answers on its page. However, past questions tend to be predominantly in Japanese, which may be inefficient for most international students. For individual and specific questions, answers will be sent by the library staff to the inquirer by email.
Be it through guided tours or via the internet, anyone who is interested in the University of Tokyo’s impressive library system should definitely check out its historically rooted yet innovative services!
University of Tokyo Library System, www.lib.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en.