Philip O. Keeney, “Unified Library Service for Japan,” Typescript memorandum and cover note (Tokyo, April 8, 1946), University of California, Berkeley. Bancroft Library.

Item Type Manuscript
Title Unified Library Service for Japan
Author Philip O. Keeney
Type Typescript memorandum and cover note
Place Tokyo
Date 8 April 1946
# of Pages 1 + 5
Short Title Keeney Plan
Archive University of California, Berkeley. Bancroft Library
Call Number MSS 71/157 Box 2
Rights Public domain
Extra Photocopy of carbon copy of typescript

No date associated with this record.

Created by Michael Buckland .
Last edited by Michael Buckland .

<Cover note>

Memorandum to: Lt. Col. E. H. Farr. 8 April 1946.

The accompanying study for a Unified Library Service for Japan is the result of several conversations with Mr. Carnovsky when he was in Tokyo with the Education Mission and informal talks with several Japanese librarians. Its basic principles are similar to the California County Library System which has been used, in part, by many other states in the United States and several foreign countries.

Due to the great book losses in Japan, it will be impossible to rehabilitate many of the libraries in the immediate future. However, a beginning can be made, if this study is followed, wholly or in some measure.

A free public library movement is considered an important factor in advancing the democratic idea, hence any project supporting free libraries, which Japan has never had, at least according to American standards, seems to be of vital importance now.

I take pleasure, therefore, in presenting this study to you for your contemplation and advice.

[Signed] Philip O. Keeney.

 <Page 1>


The post-war development of Japan’s resources for livelihood call for adult education to bring to the people, in the localities where they live and work, information and guidance to enable them to apply all kinds of knowledge including scientific and technological to their various tasks. Those who have previously lacked opportunities for education must be given the chance to make good those earlier deficiencies. Those whose formal education has been adequate will need to have their knowledge continually brought up to date in the fields of technology and science related to their occupations. The unified library system can be organized as a channel for such knowledge, capable of reaching the smallest community.


The purpose of such a service is to bring about exchange of books between localities through a centralized organization, so that all may share in the total collection of books throughout an organized area. Thus the aim is to create a library system which will be (1) unified; (2) economical, available to all localities on an equal basis, and complete; (3) organized as an integral part of the total educational system, co-ordinate with the classroom; (4) available to adults studying outside the classroom.


In order to realize these aims. it is necessary to choose a unit for service that will be large enough to provide adequately and efficiently the usual service and to employ a trained librarian. The logical unit for administration in Japan is the prefecture, or a group of prefectures organized into a region, while the local communities within the prefecture or region are the logical units through which the

<p 2>      service is given to the people.


Administrative headquarters for such a unified library service are established in the principal city of the prefecture with a trained librarian in charge. Requirements for training may be waived, if a suitable candidate is not available, but should become operative as soon as library schools have candidates to recommend. The headquarters library constitutes the clearing-house for a library service in every community in the prefecture or region. Branches are established wherever needed, in order to reach every resident. A public library in a city or town becomes a branch of the regional or prefectural library. In communities where no library existed, a branch is established with a reading room, when needed. Branches may be located in schoolhouses, clubs, community centers, stores, postoffices, wherever the people have ready access to the service. The place chosen should be one which can be open throughout the year and as many hours each day for effective aid to readers.

The prefectural or regional librarian visits the communities of the area covered, employs local custodians; supplies books and other material, based on community needs and purposes; and subscribes to such magazines as will be useful. When books and other reading materials are no longer circulating, they are returned, wholly or in part, to regional headquarters, and another supply is sent. The supply returned becomes available for other localities. If a book or other material is wanted, that is not in the local collection, the custodian obtains it from the regional headquarters.

The prefectural or regional organization is, in turn, unified with the national library where there will be a union catalog of all books in Japan. A prefectural or regional headquarters requesting a book not obtainable within the region may

<p.3> thus locate and obtain it through the national library. All service is free to the borrower, as the sending library pays transportation.

Thus, no matter where one lives, he has access to all the library service within the nation making the service equal; all library material is used as far as possible, making the service economical; every possibility of filling a request is resorted to, making the service complete; and every unit of service- the already established public library, the special library, the school library, the prefectural and national libraries- is woven into one system making it completely unified.


The binding force in this plan is the union catalog, which is absolutely essential in filling special requests and in avoiding unnecessary duplication. In order to build up these various union catalogs, every library within the prefecture or region, which purchases books or any other reading material in addition to those furnished by the prefectural library, files with its particular prefectural or regional library a card under the author’s name for each book owned or purchased; and a subject card for every other library possession, such as maps, globes, pictures, specimens, records, or films. These cards, together with those for all possessions of the prefectural and regional library, constitute the union catalog for that particular administrative area, which the prefectural librarian consults when a special request is received.

At least two copies of each card are made for prefectural and national libraries. The prefectural or regional library makes the same number for all of its accessions. Thus the national library has a union catalog of all library possessions in Japan. In turn the National library will eventually exchange cards with other countries. The actual number of cards in the national library is reduced by having a master card for each book, on which an attendant stamps the name of all libraries owning the book. It may be also decided to list in the national union catalog only the unusual maps, globes, and the like, as each prefecture will own ordinary materials.

<p. 4>


The plan here proposed is not offered as an experiment, but has already been carried out successfully in different parts of the United States, and in varying degrees of completeness in Mexico and Canada already. It is adaptable to any country at any time, but is especially suitable when destruction has wiped out libraries and other means of education. To ensure widespread understanding of its provisions, and co-operation in establishing it, it would seem desirable that the Minister of Education should first hold a conference of all librarians; and, then later, a larger conference to be attended by teachers, representatives of agriculture and other cooperatives, trade unions, professional organizations, women’s clubs, and others chosen by the Minister of Education.

An appropriate agenda for such a meeting might be as follows:

(1) Distribution of copies of the plan to all present, and its presentation by reading aloud, without discussion until finished;

(2) Explanations of reasons for the plan by the Minister of Education who, in addition to mentioning its successful operation in other countries and its suitability in the immediate post-war period, might point out that all forms of library service may recover more quickly if pooled so that libraries may perform their full part in raising the level of education and making recreation more accessible. It may be said that “library material not in circulation is dead.” Its usefulness is proportionate to its circulation. The slogan of a unified library service is “All for one, one for all.”

(3) General discussion of the plan by attendants at the conference.

(4) Adoption of plan or vote of confidence in it.

(5) Appointment by the Minister of Education of committees to arrange for suitable legislation and other necessary tasks.

(6) Separation of the conference into prefectural groups to discuss the carrying out of the plan in each prefecture.

 Following such a conference several related undertakings would need immediate attention. For example:

(1) A census of all trained librarians should be taken, to ascertain their adaptability and willingness in organizing and operating the Unified Library P.

(2) Immediate provision should be made for the establishment of an adequate Library School;

(3) Regional units of service will need to be determined on the basis for study. For example, Japan has more than forty prefectures. Many are large enough for units of a unified library service. Those which are too small or too thinly populated would be grouped into regional units. Groupings would logically

<p 5> conform to geographical differences. The entire area of Japan would be included in some prefecture or region, so that the essence of the plan as a complete service would be realized. Determination of this unit for service should probably be made through a survey conducted by a trained librarian with the assistance of a committee;

(4) The unified library service would naturally supersede separately organized public libraries, school libraries, and, as far as possible, special libraries. University and college libraries would remain under the jurisdiction of their institutions, but their books should be listed in the national union catalog, and, when feasible, in the prefectural or regional union catalogs, hence all books in Japan would be accessible to all the people needing them for study or recreation.

Created by Michael Buckland .
Last edited by Michael Buckland .