Stay and Linger: Japan’s Kanazawa Library

by Matthew Tansek, Head Editor, INALJ Rhode Island

Stay and Linger: Japan’s Kanazawa Library

japanlibrary1At first glance the Kanazawa Library looks like a giant white shoe box with holes punched in the side, but it’s quite an impressive library.  Built for the rapidly urbanizing city of Kanazawa, the library represents Japan’s new shift its public library philosophy.  With more than 6,000 porthole like windows on the exterior, a 12 meter high cavernous reading room and a compact automated closed stack storage system it really is quite a striking facility.  It’s chief architects Kazumi Kudo and Hiroshi Horiba of Coelacanth K&H Architects say that they took inspiration from Paris’s National Library and designed a space with a similar openness and “atmosphere”, reminiscent of being outdoors.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Education the country is slowly converting towards a “stay and linger” model for their libraries instead of a “collect and lend” model.  I personally think that there really should be a balance between the two (clientele dependant) but if it means the construction of more libraries like this one, more power to them!

japanlibrary2If you are wondering how Japan stacks up when it comes to libraries I’ve got a few numbers for you.  According to a 2008 national survey, Japan has 3,165 public libraries.  This translates to roughly 1 library for every 40,000 people.  This number seemed a bit high for me, but when you take into account the concentration of people in the urban areas, having more centralized larger libraries instead of a greater number of smaller institutions is understandable.  26.7% of its population have library cards, and in 2007 more than 600,000,000 books were borrowed.

Those seeking employment in the field of library and information science in Japan may be disheartened to learn that it is at most an undergraduate degree, and worst a short set of additional training that can be combined with ANY other undergraduate degree.  Once the schooling is completed and the official library exam is passed, you’re good to go!

Libraries can be such important learning and community centers, its good to see people taking the time to make them truly striking and unique.



Photographs via

Kanazawa Library information via

Japanese library statistics via (Ministry of Education)