Tag Archives: databases

#dayofDH Japanese digital resource research guides

Another “digital” thing I’ve been doing that relates to the “humanities” (but is it even remotely DH? I don’t know), is the creation of research guides for digital resources in Japanese studies of all kinds, with a focus on Japanese-language free websites and databases, and open-access publications.

So far, I’ve been working hard on creating guides for electronic Japanese studies resources, and mobile apps easily accessible in the US for both Android and iOS that relate to Japanese research or language study. The digital resources guide covers everything from general digital archives and citation indexes to literature, art, history, pop culture, and kuzushiji resources (for reading handwritten pre- and early modern documents). They range from text and image databases to dictionaries and even YouTube videos and online courseware for learning classical Japanese and how to read manuscripts.

This has been a real challenge, as you can imagine. Creating lists of stuff is one thing (and is one thing I’ve done for Japanese text analysis resources), but actually curating them and creating the equivalent of annotated bibliographies is quite another. It’s been a huge amount of research and writing – both in discovery of sources, and also in investigating and evaluating them, then describing them in plain terms to my community. I spent hours on end surfing the App and Play Stores and downloading/trying countless awful free apps – so you don’t have to!

It’s especially hard to find digital resources in ways other than word of mouth. I find that I end up linking to other librarians’ LibGuides (i.e. research guides) often because they’ve done such a fantastic job curating their own lists already. I wonder sometimes if we’re all just duplicating each other’s efforts! The NCC has a database of research guides, yes, but would it be better if we all collaboratively edited just one? Would it get overwhelming? Would there be serious disagreements about how to organize, whether to include paid resources (and which ones), and where to file things?

The answer to all these questions is probably yes, which creates problems. Logistically, we can’t have every Japanese librarian in the English-speaking world editing the same guide anyway. So it’s hard to say what the solution is – keep working in our silos? Specialize and tell our students and faculty to Google “LibGuide Japanese” + topic? (Which is what I’ve done in the past with art and art history.) Search the master NCC database? Some combination is probably the right path.

Until then, I will keep working on accumulating as many kuzushiji resources as I can for Penn’s reading group, and updating my mobile app guide if I ever find a decent まとめ!

digital resource: JAIRO

Today I’d like to introduce a digital resource that I’ve found phenomenally helpful in the past: Japan Institutional Repositories Online, or JAIRO.

This is exactly what it sounds like: a federated search for Japanese institutional repositories (IRs), with (of course) downloadable PDF full text of all the works that are in the database.* What’s amazing (to me) about JAIRO is that, unlike my stereotype of IR, it contains not only academic papers but theses and dissertations (which are also included in University of Michigan’s Deep Blue and many other American IRs), entire books, pieces of software, datasets, presentations, conference papers, and various types of bulletin and technical papers. Check it out:

The number of institutions involved in JAIRO is similarly mind-blowing. There’s no total listed on the page, but it’s well over a hundred, including universities ranging from Okinawa Christian Junior College to Waseda University. JAIRO also provides a separate full list of all IRs in Japan, 200 long, with links to each.

The content tends toward the scientific, but I’ve certainly found a large number of humanities resources. It’s great to have so many “departmental bulletin papers,” as they’re called, because the length and content of these is comparable to a “normal” journal article and they’re both current research and much, much easier to get in digital form. I’ve used several in my research already and have found them to be, hands down, the most valuable sources on the topics they cover.*

JAIRO has both a simple and advanced search, and it’s quite easy to use and browse through. Because it’s a site run by the National Institute of Informatics (NII) it also has some analysis of data about its own contents; additionally, that analysis is used to provide links to popular and new materials on the front page.

In comparison to the IRs I’ve used in the past, JAIRO’s interface is a miracle of both utility and usability (again, leave it to NII to create something this good): it’s powerful, easy to use, and quickly delivers you the content that you want. And it adds significant value by including even items as small as a list of frequently downloaded material or their (admittedly small) list of papers related to the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

JAIRO is a project that falls under the umbrella of NII Institutional Repositories Program, which also includes the fascinating NII Institutional Repositories Database Contents Analysis with detailed statistics, graphs, and downloadable TSV files of data on IRs in Japan. JAIRO is also a search target of PORTA, the National Diet Library (NDL)’s digital archive search portal, which I’ve written about previously.

So my question to my readers is this: Is there anything like this resource for American or other English-language IRs? Anything like the PORTA digital archive federated search and portal? These are amazing resources and I only wish that I could search American universities’ IRs in the same powerful way.

* A caveat: I have no idea if it’s searching these multiple databases in real time or if it’s indexed and cached everything for search. (Reader question: does it still count as federated search if it’s not real-time?) Regardless, JAIRO retrieves results that would otherwise have to be accessed from over a hundred separate databases on their own individual sites.

** Two that come to mind are on the Meiji revival of Ihara Saikaku, and the posthumous reception of Kitamura Tōkoku.