Gwanak district’s ‘Little Libraries’ spotlighted in Japan

A network of libraries run by Seoul's Gwanak-gu District has been drawing much attention in Japan.

The city borough currently runs some 43 libraries as part of a knowledge-sharing project, which includes public and smaller libraries, ubiquitous "traveling libraries," as well as "smart libraries." A service known as the "knowledge lunchbox delivery" consolidates all of these libraries at one website, allowing users to access the database and get books delivered to their doorstep.

Gwanak-gu District Mayor Yoo Jong-pil gave a special talk on the subject, "The Libraries of Gwanak and the World," at an international symposium hosted by the Korean Embassy in Tokyo on Feb. 14.

The symposium, organized by the Japan Regional Resource Academy, was launched under the theme of "museums that rejuvenate the city" and was attended by university professors, activists and members of the press. The Japan Regional Resource Academy is a research organization founded in 2006 that uncovers and accredits each region's cultural resources to share with the wider public.

Gwanak-gu District Mayor Yoo Jong-pil gives a presentation on his city district's libraries and other knowledge-sharing policies to a group of Japan Regional Resource Academy members at the Korean Embassy in Tokyo on Feb. 14.

Mayor Yoo was invited to give the talk by the Japan Regional Resource Academy President Tsukahara Masahiko, who had paid a visit to Gwanak-gu District and its libraries back in 2013.

Mayor Yoo began his talk with an introduction of the Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt, one of the most significant libraries of the ancient world, and the U.S. Library of Congress, the largest library in the present day. He then talked about the time he spent as director at the National Assembly Library, traveling extensively to visit some of the world's most celebrated libraries. Referring to historical figures like Barack Obama, Thomas Edison and Bill Gates, he emphasized the important role that libraries play in the community.

Members of the Japan Regional Resource Academy showed great interest in the success of the Little Library project and the knowledge lunchbox delivery service. The academy helped to get a revised and enlarged edition of Mayor Yoo's 2010 bestselling book "A Travelogue of the World's Libraries" published in Japanese in September. The book was released in Taiwan in traditional Chinese in March 2012.

"The Japan Regional Resource Academy, and The Hope Institute have been interested in our district's library projects," said Mayor Yoo. "Back in 2013, the Tokyo Times ran a feature on us, and thanks to this year's international symposium we've been given more spotlight. We look forward to expanding cooperation with the academy and other regional organizations in the future," he said.


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