Home / About the Libraries / News Events Exhibits / News & Announcements / National Central Library of Taiwan to collaborate with UW Libraries' East Asia Library to digitize rare Chinese classic books

National Central Library of Taiwan to collaborate with UW Libraries' East Asia Library to digitize rare Chinese classic books

February 26, 2010


Contact: Zhijia Shen
Head, East Asia Library
(206) 543-5635

Media Contact: A.C. Petersen
Libraries Communications Officer
(206) 543-9389


University of Washington Libraries’ East Asia Library (EAL) and National Central Library of Taiwan (NCL) announce a project to digitize Chinese rare books held at the East Asia Library and Special Collections at University Washington Libraries, slated to commence in Summer 2010.

The EAL rare book collection includes approximately 600 titles of Chinese rare books, including

  • the rare books of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
  • editions o the Joseph F. Rock collection including many rare local gazetteers of South West China
  • the Qian Qianyi (a late Ming Dynasty poet- historian, 1582-1664) collection
  • the Hellmut Wilhelm collection (books from Professor Wilhelm, a former UW faculty member and renowned sinologist)

NCL will contribute approximately $91,000 USD, 2-3 staff members, as well as the digitizing equipment. With a target of 80,000 digital images and associated descriptions by December 2012, priority will be given to scanning the titles that are not duplicated by NCL collection, then to scanning duplicate titles but different editions, and finally, scanning missing volumes or missing pages of each partner Library’s collections. The digitization work will take place in the East Asia Library, with the EAL staff working with staff from NCL. In addition, NCL will provide the metadata cataloging for the digitized materials.

Once digitized, the collection will be part of the NCL Chinese rare book bibliographic database <http://ccs.ncl.edu.tw/rbookhtml/rbookhtml/org.htm>

Only four US institutions, the Library of Congress, Princeton, UC Berkeley, and the University of Chicago – in addition to more than 30 libraries and institutions in the world – are part of this database.

The idea for the partnership began with an informal conversation during the visit to NCL by Dean of University Libraries, Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson and EAL Director Zhijia Shen in December 2008. A proposal was presented to NCL at a meeting on May 26, 2009 by the China Studies Librarian at EAL, Michael Meng, when he was in Taiwan for a summer training program. After further exchange of ideas and negotiations between the East Asia Library and the NCL, NCL Director General Mr. Min Ku visited the UW and met with Dean Betsy Wilson and Director Zhijia Shen on Nov. 30, 2009. On January 5, 2010 an agreement was signed.

International digital collaboration is the goal of the National Central Library of Taiwan (NCL). By preserving the valuable rare book collections at the EAL, these rare materials will be available online to the UW academic community, faculty and students in Sinological studies, and to scholars all over the world.

In the 19th and 20th century, China suffered through many wars and political upheavals. Many of China’s cultural relics and books dissipated outside of China, so many historical documents and rare books exist only in libraries in Europe, Japan, the United States and other countries. With development of information technology in the past two decades, there have been international efforts and collaborations to make these materials accessible to all scholars.

EAL is one of the oldest East Asia libraries in North America. Its collections can be traced back 100 years when the UW began teaching about Asia. In the early years, without a library, faculty’s private collections were often on loan to the department for faculty and students. In 1937, the library received its first official book budget from a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Over time, the private collections that belonged to faculty members eventually all made their way into the library becoming the core of the collection of the EAL.

The University of Washington Libraries is a network of more than 17 units serving three campuses: Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma. Major facilities include Suzzallo and Allen Libraries, Odegaard Undergraduate Library and the Health Sciences Library, as well as subject-oriented libraries. For Libraries news, events and exhibits, visit <http://www.lib.washington.edu/about/news>

# # # # # # # # # #

contact: A.C. Petersen, Libraries Communications Officer