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66th IFLA Council and General

Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August


Code Number: 016-134-E
Division Number: V
Professional Group: Acquisition and Collection Development
Joint Meeting with: Serial Publications
Meeting Number: 134
Simultaneous Interpretation:    

Toward Worldwide Resource Sharing -- Collection Development in China Higher Educational Institutions

Yafan Song
Cataloging Department
Library of Renmin University
Renmin, China


Being one of the six major document resource systems in China, networks for resources sharing in China higher educational institutions have been growing rapidly in recent years, in which areas collection development plays an important role. The development of libraries, based on rich collections both in printed and electronic media will supply more information to the network infrastructure and so promote the nation's economic construction, education, science and culture, and make great contribution to the worldwide resources sharing. In this paper, the new environment, the new concept and principle of library collection, as well as some proposals based on research work, are given on the development of library collection in China higher educational institutions, which will help readers both home and abroad to deeply understand what happened and is happening in networking in China.


1. Introduction

1.1 Reformulating the principles of library collection

Traditionally, according to the principle of library collection, printed publications such as books, periodicals, newspapers were the main parts in library collection, while publications in other media, such as audio-visual materials, tapes, disc, were fewer to be considered in acquisition. Now, things have changed, although printed publications remain to be existence, the electronic publications are sure to become the main collections instead of printed ones in the future. So, in networking environment, the main part of collections in university libraries will certainly be changed from printed to electronic materials as the core, while the printed materials will be taken as complementary ones. Thus, the original principles for collection development of libraries, which are incompatible with the growth of information in new media, should be reformulated now.

1.2 Readjusting the structure of library collection

Not only principles, but the structure of library collections also need readjusting. Since the way the users utilizing the library, demands on information, as well as information resources and its acquiring sources are not the same as before, libraries are being challenged. Their worth is measured in quality of service. They must try to find new ways to provide better and increased services. Besides continuing development of their collections both in printed or electronic media, they should be linked with various commercial electronic document transfer centers, on-line searching systems as well as networks at all levels such as Internet to supply those information to the users through networks. In this way, to expand the library collection scope and improve its capacity of information service. Firstly, proportion in collection expenditure should be adjusted as soon as possible, which means the operating structure of university libraries should be reconsidered, the expenditure on CD-ROM disc and machine-readable materials as well as networking resources should be increased. We should realize that library collections are not only the static depository for collecting or keeping printed materials, but also mainly the dynamic information depository for bibliographic databases and full-text databases established systematically step by step to supply needed information products to the users.

2.Current status and advantages

2.1 Status

2.1.1 Collection development
Information and document resources are the most essential condition for higher personnel training and scientific research in higher educational institutions in China. At present, China has 1080 university libraries, the number of reference rooms in departments and institutes has already come to 5759, which, with rich documents and information in all kinds of media, form the basic sources of documents and information supplied for both of their faculties and students. As one of the six national major systems of documents and information resources, great efforts have been made in recent years in the building of book collection in China's university libraries, the total volumes of which are more than 500 million in the mid of 1990s, an increase of 20% over the same period of 1980s. Meanwhile, the documentary medium is tending toward multi-dimension. Besides printed documents like traditional books, magazines, periodicals, such media as microform, videocassette, tape, disk, optical disk all grow a great deal. For supplying better service, most of the libraries formed their own collection systems with characteristics adaptable to their school's disciplines, such as "Peking University Academic Degree Papers". "Chinese Renmin University Book Series" (a special collection of the university's own documents and publications). Many university libraries also have their own collections of rare books and good editions in each of the ancient times.

2.1.2 Joint operation in resources sharing
Now, with the rapid growth of publications and limited budget, librarians are more and more aware of the importance of the integrating principle in collection development. Some university libraries have set up a coordination network for book acquisition. The earliest examples are, The National Medical University Library Association, Consortium of University Library from Five Northwest Provinces, in which decisions were made that their acquisition of publications abroad should be one of their cooperative activities and the result of which are successful. In order to enhance the integrated development of university, 15 liberal arts document and information centers be set up among some key higher educational institutions, each center partaking the responsibility of the collection of literature in a certain field with document retrieval and information services by means of advanced facilities and striving for the realization of on-line search. Furthermore, a new project of nationwide document and information system is well under way, which aims at realizing the sharing of resources and meeting the increasing demand of documents and information.

2.2 Advantages
In the world today, information resources are accepted as strategic resources that are considered more important than materials and energy. At present time, the level on development and utilization of information resources has become one of the basic marks in measuring or judging a country's economic advances and comprehensive strength of the nation. Now, more and more librarian view their work from the point of establishing national strategic resources and get well understanding of the necessity of building document and information resources, and they come to know the key point of information construction has been turned from infrastructure into establishment of document and information resources as well as information service. Digitalized library with reasonable disposition of document resources and higher social and economic benefit is the goal for striving through realizing integration and network in the course of library automation.

2.2.1 Plan and regulations concerned
As mentioned above, the rapid growth of worldwide information development will certainly promote China's information cause toward a new stage. We are happy to see that in recent years, the Information Working Office of the State Council has worked out and made further revision to the draft on "National Information Program", which will guide the information work on the principle of " Overall planning with state regulating; Cooperative building in unified standard; Sharing resources through networks". In addition, a series of sub-programs are under drafting, including "National Information Network Sub-program", "Sub-plan for Developing and Utilizing Information Resources" as well as "Sub-plan of Policies and Concerned Legislations". China National Network Information Center (CNNIC) was also set up and issued "the Provisional Administration for Name Registration of Networks in China". At the same time, China Academic Library and Information System (CALIS), which is one of the three public service systems led by State Education Commission, is well under way and aims at realizing document and information system for teaching and scientific research in China's universities and colleges.

2.2.2 Condition of infrastructure
For communication infrastructure, a nationwide digital trunk line network, with optical cable as its main part, digital microwave and satellite as assist, is under construction now. Networks open to public are: CHINANET, CERNET, CSTNET, CHINAGBN, etc. By the end of October, 1997, there were more than 1,000 interconnection networks in China's computer network, with 50,000 sets of computers linking directly and 250,000 through telephone line with network, the users are over 600,000, which makes China's communication network occupy second place in the world today.

2.2.3 Professionals
Besides the above, there is a more important thing need to be mentioned here. There is a rapid growth in personnel specializing in document and information at university libraries in China in recent years. The number of staff being on the rise - from 32,779 in 1985 to 38,000 in 1994, and the quality of the staff has been improved, too. Among them over 60% have university degrees or diplomas, and the average age tends to be younger.

All above are considered as an important guarantee for better service and an essential basic condition that can be well utilized for further development in construction of document and information resources in China's university libraries.

3. Proposed suggestions and measures

Facing the new situation, the best way for China's university libraries is to take the advantages to speed up the step in collection development so as to change the current status and to catch up with the world development. To realize this objective, the fundamental strategies and approaches for promoting the development of document and information resources, in our view of point, should include the following:

3.1 To further define the principle and content of collection development To improve the efficiency of the development of documents and information resources, those principles or key points should be followed:

3.1.1 Principles for development

  • Having definite aim
    The development of documents and information resources should be predicted on understanding the users and their needs. University libraries have clear aim in information service, that is to say, they should serve the teaching and scientific research work of their schools. So, they should put what closely relates to the teaching and research work and those mostly needed by their teachers and students in the first place in their work.
  • In good time
    The value of information products depends on the effectiveness for a given period of time. Only those documents and information that can be accessed timely are valuable in decision-making. To ensure this, librarians in university libraries should make the collection arrangement of information at the right time, and try their best to speed up the transmission of them by using computer and networking equipments.
  • Arranging at different levels
    This means the documents and information resources development should be carried out at different levels on the basis of the reader's groups accordingly. .
3.1.2 Content for development
The development of documents and information resources should includes two aspects, basic and deep exploitation on both of the printed and electronic materials.
  • The basic exploitation means the basic work on development and utilization of document resources of the library in universities, which covers the traditional operations in libraries, such as description and usage on the outer features of the documents, scientific classification and cataloging on document resources, as well as arrangement and creation of secondary documents such as collection catalogues, index, etc. to meet the user's requirements on ordinary reading.
  • The deep exploitation means the deep research work on the first and secondary documents based on the key points of teaching and scientific research work of the university. The results of which are mainly reference materials on specific subjects to meet the need s of specific readers such as professionals, research workers and professors.
3.2 To strengthen library collection development

3.2.1 Building library collections through division of labor and close cooperation
Building library collections should not go along with the old way. Establishing regional document and information service center should be considered as its total object for each individual library and the collection of document should be in accordance with its specialized subjects, key disciplines as well as its original advantage in collection. The volume of duplicate can be fixed according to unified acquisition program. Unnecessary repetition should be avoided for those on specialized subjects or in large volumes so as to ensure both the coverage and the guarantee for documents. The better way for this is to cooperatively establish networking systems for resource sharing among university libraries through joint acquisition and cataloging, as well as interlibrary loan. .

3.2.2 Speeding up the development of electronic library collections
The rapid enrichment of resources available in electronic form, combined with immediacy of access will make the electronic medium an essential component in the work environment of students and scholars in all disciplines, at all levels. The electronic medium will become the predominant component in a growing number of cases. The transition will extend to the classrooms as well as the library, and a growing role for both distance learning and computer-assisted instruction will further enhance the importance of the electronic medium. Print will not be replaced. Instead there will be a long transition period, characterized by co-existence of traditional print, electronic versions of traditional print, and new forms of publication and communication, which take advantage of electronic medium. University libraries should plan to work cooperatively on the key task for meeting this expanded requirements and give enough efforts to the following:

  • Arrange patron access to remote collections, which will not be free and will require sophisticated access control, customized to user groups, under a variety of economic models.
  • Create and manage internal electronic collections, which will grow in importance, as the electronic form gradually becomes the medium of choice for library materials and documents of all types.
  • Provide users with integrated access to information in all forms, local or remote, electronic or print, by the most cost-effective means.

3.3 To restructure and reengineer library automation systems

The growth of Internet has been phenomenal, the number of users of World Wide Web has been increased unpredictably and the figure is growing daily, which has become a part of everyday life in offices and homes, universities, schools and research institutions around the world and is now accepted as an effective means of doing business by providers of information resources. So, university libraries need restructuring and reengineering not only to achieve greater efficiencies, but also to take advantage of new technology, new publication formats, and to reposition themselves in an increasingly electronic environment.

3.3.1 Opening up integrated library automation systems in high quality A good integrated library automation system is essential in effectively managing a library's collection, especially the electronic materials, which should have the following functions:

  • Cataloging module, single integrated MARC database shared by all other modules
  • Acquisitions module for placing and tracking orders, and for budgets reports
  • Serials module for managing subscriptions, generating claims for missing issues, and accepting annual invoices electronically
  • Circulation control
  • MARC record loader

An increasing number of integrated library systems are now z 39.50 compliant and have Web interfaces, so that library users can access the library catalogue from their desktops either in their offices or at homes using a familiar Web browser such as Internet Explorer. In China, this should become a common scenario in university libraries that for each of a library's workstations, using the z 39.50 protocol, to be able to access the library's own catalogue, other libraries' catalogues, MARC agencies' databases, other electronic resources hosted by the library (such as CD ROM networks, electronic journals, etc.), suppliers' databases and of course, a whole range of resources on the World Wide Web.

Software for managing traditional and electronic resources will be of growing importance to individual libraries and consortia. Software researchers or providers in China should work hard to supply information integration tools for libraries to build electronic library collections access resources and make local resources available globally.

3.3.2 Training and bringing up a team of highly qualified professionals
In accordance with the requirement on the development of library collection, professionals in building up such projects should be of many fine qualities.

  • Those who work in the field of collection development should have relatively high level professional knowledge on library and information, wide-ranging knowledge on the key disciplines and subjects of their universities and colleges, capacity of skillfully operating computers and other automation equipments.
  • For those who engage in developing automation systems, they should have a good grasp of basic knowledge on computer network and communication technology, capacity for better understanding and absorbing world advanced technology in this field, qualified skills in exploiting and designing networks for resources sharing, as well as ability on opening up or researching key technology.

To sum up, the driving force in advancing the creation and use of information at the beginning of the 21st Century will be the integration of Internet/World Wide Web paradigms and standards into all "docu-centric" computer applications. The implementation of Web and follow-on networking technology will extend across all types of libraries and will include all types of media. To what extent and how soon voice and video will converge on the Web is speculative, but the movement toward a common infrastructure based on open standards is unlikely to be diverted. For docu-centric applications, those for which print has been the primary medium in the past, the Web, and successors that retain and enhance its powerful openness features, will quickly become pervasive. Direct end-user access to distributed information resources on the Web will supplement, and, to some degree, compete with the library role. This phenomenon will not replace libraries, but will actually increase their importance if they are able to respond to new responsibilities and opportunities. I'm sure if we have better understanding of the new situation, have a good knowledge of modern technology, and we will certainly have a bright future and prospect. .


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