Wednesday, October 28, 2009

National Libraries: The National Library of Korea

A national library is defined as “a library designated by a government as such, which usually means that it is the copyright depository and the bibliographic control center of a country.” But to the countries that house them national libraries represent so much more.

The National Library of [South] Korea (NLK) was founded in Seoul in 1945 and is now affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. In 1963 the Library Act was enacted and through it the Legal Deposit developed. A portion of the Act indicates "domestic publishers and publishing organizations of other publications shall submit two copies of their publications or periodicals within 30 days of their publishing date to NLK." Materials published before the implementation of the Legal Deposit System are acquired via a donation campaign named Haetsal-gadeukhan-dalakbang (literally meaning "an attic filled with sunshine"). (Lee, 2006) The current Legal Deposit rate is 95% according to the sales catalog of the largest bookstore. (Lee, 2006)

The role of the NLK is “to build a collection of cultural and intellectual heritage of Korea, and preserve the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the nation for future generations.” (Yoon, Chang, & Kim, 2006) This can be readily seen through the accumulation of Korean publications through the Legal Deposit. The NLK also houses a collection of rare books, many deemed national treasures, published from 1355 A.D. through 1886 A.D.

Additionally the mission extends to collecting, organizing, preserving and disseminating library materials and information. But what does this mean and how is this reflected in National Library of Korea?

In a country that, according to Lee, in 2005 possessed an advancement rate to higher education of 82.1%, Korea is ahead of many advanced countries in educational achievements. (2006) The NLK is seeking to position itself as a knowledge and information center adapted to today’s knowledgeable Korean society.

The National library seeks to lead its country’s library community through bibliographic control thus allowing for better, easier and speedier service to patrons. The NLK activities which encompass bibliographic control include the previously mentioned Legal Deposit, developing and disseminating national standards for national bibliography, managing the union catalog KOLIS-NET (Korean Library Information System-Network) and establishing the national digital library. (Lee, 2006)

According to Forsberg, in 2005 Korea was the most wired country in the world with 76% of households possessing broadband internet (comparatively the United States only ranked 13th). (2005) The National Digital Library digitizes and posts nearly all the materials the NLK receives. Unfortunately to that end the NLK places little to no limits on what can be reproduced electronically, whether these follow a publisher’s guidelines or not. However access to the materials is then limited to onsite and affiliated libraries thus largely defeating the purpose of online access to materials. (Stork, 2008)

The National Korean library is evolving to meet the demands of its educated and highly connected user. Perhaps one item of note about the NLK is that although its collection is made up of 12% foreign materials it is evident that the NLK’s main interest is not in the collection of foreign materials and has a sharper focus on the collection of domestic materials.

The National Library of Korea’s goal to become a cultural and intellectual repository of Korea’s culture has been and continues to be met. The NLK faces the challenges of the information and digital age head on and attempts to, and often succeeds, at being a progressive force for Korea.

Several ways were mentioned in which the NLK is meeting its mission and also adapting to a new era of technical savvy users. How are other national library’s representing their countries needs and attempting to stay relevant?


Forsberg, B. (2005). The future in South Korea: Tech firms try out the latest in world's most wired society. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved from

Lee, J. (April/June 2006). Bibliographic Control in Korea: focused on the National Library of Korea. International Cataloguing and Bibliographic Control, 35(2), 27-32.

Stork, J. W. (July 2008, October 28, 2009). Study Abroad in Seoul: an overview of South Korean libraries.

Yoon, H.-Y., Chang, D.-H., & Kim, Y.-s. (2006). Libraries in Korea: a general overview. IFLA Journal, 32(2), 93-103.


Florence said...

I tried to find out more about this library. I found a little link on You Tube:
It's an announcement asking people to keep it quite in the library. It's interesting to compare cultural differences and see how different groups come up with ways of getting people to keep quiet in libraries. I doubt we would even have such a message here in US libraries these days (other than designated quiet zones).

Craig Buno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie Baker said...

I think it will be interesting to see how archival work changes as more and more resources are only available online. With the question you pose regarding online newspapers, many of the hosts of these newspapers already archive them. It may be a cost-saving technique to not recreate the work. However, what happens when the host goes out of business with no back up archiving? These materials may be lost forever.