University of Toronto Libraries and National Library of China Partner in New Agreement for Academic Cooperation

Monday, March 25, 2013
University of Toronto Libraries Chief Librarian, Larry Alford and Ms. Chang Pijun, Deputy Director of the National Library of China, sign the Agreement for Academic Cooperation.

TORONTO, ON – The University of Toronto Libraries (UTL) have signed an agreement for academic cooperation with the National Library of China (NLC) which will increase access to the significant rare and special collections held by both institutions through collaborative acquisition and digitization projects.

“International collaborations such as these are becoming increasingly important as global information resources grow exponentially. By working together we are able to provide access to resources that would otherwise not be accessible,” said Larry Alford, Chief Librarian of the University of Toronto Libraries.

The two institutions, which have been working together for several years to exchange materials, expertise and best practices, have much to offer each other for the mutual benefit of local and international scholars and researchers. This new international partnership will build on existing cooperative relations to focus on areas such as conservation and preservation, digitization of rare materials, staff exchanges and training programs to enhance skills in material processing, preservation and research, and the exchange of publications.

“For example, it is not always possible to purchase items for the collection through mainstream publishers. To acquire items that are not broadly commercially available it is often necessary to purchase them directly from local merchants. Assistance from National Library of China staff with these local purchases will help build deep collections which include unique materials not widely available elsewhere,” said Stephen Qiao, Acting Director of the Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library.

Qiao added that new digitization projects will extend global access to more of the University of Toronto Libraries’ special collections - many of its western language items have already been digitized and made publicly available through the Internet Archive.  Candidates for collaborative digitization include selected items from the 40,000 volume Mu Collection of Chinese rare books housed at the Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library and approximately 2,000 items from China’s Republic Period (1911-1949) held at the East Asian Library and the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

“The Mu Collection includes unique and exceedingly rare volumes from the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368), the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). National Library of China staff, who previously assisted with the digitization of rare Chinese materials at the Harvard-Yencheng Library, will lend their specialized expertise to facilitate the digitization of the University of Toronto Libraries’ rare Chinese collections,” said Qiao.

Projects to make the National Library of China’s resources more accessible may include cataloguing support for its rare western language materials, including a collection of incunables – printed books, pamphlets or broadsides produced in Europe before 1501 - which are currently catalogued only in Mandarin and Cantonese. Through the creation of English language catalogue records for these items, University of Toronto Libraries staff can help to make them more discoverable for local scholars.

Photo of Canadia and Chinese flags on desk.In addition to the significant benefit of such initiatives to University of Toronto students, faculty and scholars around the globe, this partnership will benefit local members of the public who are welcome to use the collections through the University’s Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library and Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library.

The University of Toronto Libraries are proud to be collaborating with an institution of the stature of the National Library of China, which holds the largest collection in China and the largest collection of Chinese books in the world. It is ranked fifth in the world for square footage and collections.

The University of Toronto Libraries system is the largest academic library in Canada and is ranked third among peer institutions in North America, behind just Harvard and Yale. In addition to more than 12 million print volumes in 128 languages, the library system currently provides access to more than 1,500,000 electronic resources in various forms and over 28,000 linear metres of archival material. The Libraries are playing an increasingly important national role in the stewardship of Canada’s cultural and documentary heritage, both in terms of the preservation of government documents and in the acquisition of rare materials of national significance.

For more information, please contact:

Margaret Wall | Communications Librarian | University of Toronto Libraries | 416-978-1757