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Libraries in the Republic of Korea

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Article Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. National libraries
  3. Academic libraries and resource sharing
  4. Conclusion
  5. References

Academic libraries and resource sharing

Academic libraries in Korea face the same pressures as those all over the world: the need to develop fully integrated networked services, to find ways of sharing resources so that expensive database licenses can be purchased, and problems following restructuring of campuses.

Korea values education, and at the end of 2004, had some 438 universities (Yoon et al. 2006).

Most university libraries, however, are poorly resources with small collections, compared with their counterparts in advanced nations serving similarly sized institutions.

There are a couple of exceptions: is the largest academic library in Korea,  with more than 2.7 million books. It also has four main libraries and seven lesser libraries and information centres.

Another large, and well-equipped, library is , which has 1.9 million printed works, 16000 serials, 200 academic databases and 62,000 e-journals accessible both on and off campus.

It became, in 1990, the first library to operate a computerized system, which was upgraded in 2005. Another first was the introduction, in 2007, of subject librarians.

Image: Yonsei University Library
Yonsei University Library

The lack of resources of most university libraries, however, causes a problem for the nation’s scientists and researchers, as despite an excellent scientific infrastructure, they are hampered by an inability to gain access to literature (Shin, 2010).

Resource sharing

The way that libraries try and overcome this problem is through cooperation and resource sharing.

The National Digital Library of Korea, with its databases provided by member institutions, is one such example.  The Korea Education & Research Information Service (KERIS) built a union catalogue in 1999.

Document delivery provides a major way to access publications not available locally, and these can now be easily delivered over the Internet.

The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KISTI) is a national centre managing scientific information. It has also contributed to the R&D productivity by building a super computer.

KISTI is the largest document delivery service in Korea, supplying journal articles, conference proceedings and technical reports – it delivered almost 300,000 in 2009.

A large barrier to document supply is copyright, and KISTI negotiates with the Korea Reprographic and Transmission Rights Association (KRTRA) over Korean licences. Foreign works, however, have to be negotiated directly with the copyright holder, as there is no blanket agreement.

As part of its document delivery role, KISTI provides an integrated search service platform – (NDSL).

In order to enlarge international access, KISTI has a number of organizations with whom it has a reciprocal arrangement, such as the British Library.

It is also a member of WorldWideScience which is a gateway that links to international science portals.  One of these is KoreaScience, which KISTI runs, and which has done much to increase dissemination of Korean science.

For more information on KISTI, see .

Having documents openly available in a repository is a great way of ensuring access, and Korea has been active in the Open Access movement since 2003 (Shin, 2010).

According to the website , Korea has 12 national repositories, mostly based on DSpace software.

For an account of the main repositories in Korea, see .  Shin comments that despite the availability of repositories with sophisticated software, there is a lack of content, which she believes is due to lack of publicity for the former, and a need for a more open academic culture.