Jyaa mata Seki-san – farewell to our OCLC Research Fellow from Japan

Hideyuki Seki and Jim Michalko on the OCLC headquarters campus
Hideyuki Seki and Jim Michalko on the OCLC headquarters campus

We are about to say goodbye to Hideyuki Seki, our current OCLC Research Fellow from Japan. The Manager of the Media Center (a designation for all the libraries) at Keio University in Tokyo, Seki-san has been with us for the last two weeks spending time in both the San Mateo and Dublin offices. His time with us was structured so that he would learn enough about our work and goals that he could informally but effectively represent OCLC Research and the OCLC Research Library Partnership to his colleagues at Keio and to his peers in the Japanese research library community.

Seki-san arrived with a particular set of interests he hoped to explore during his brief residency with us. He wanted to know more about:

1) Invigoration of cooperation among research libraries in Japan

There is not a strong history of collaborative projects among Japanese research libraries and he wanted to see if the strong commitment to collaboration here had lessons that would be useful in building communities of interest and practice in his country.

2) Advancing Keio University’s research impact and reputation

Connecting the Keio Media Center’s activities to the research being done at the University in ways that enrich it and increase its impact is a particular challenge shared with many US university libraries. He wanted to see the range of responses that are emerging here and consider them in light of the culture of Japanese universities.

3) Future of the digital repository

This interest is connected to research reputation and support issues as well as concerns about digital surrogates for preservation and access. He wondered about the US view of impact and sustainability.

He was also curious about the way OCLC Research operates, how it supports the Partnership as well as the OCLC cooperative.

We structured a program for him and included him in our annual all-staff face-to-face planning meetings at headquarters in Dublin, Ohio. It was certainly a challenge for him to be immersed in our idiosyncratic vocabulary, our bundles of acronyms and the flood of idiomatic English we consistently let flow. We reminded ourselves of the difficulties we might be causing to his understanding but seemed powerless to temporarily amend our ways. Instead we relied on him to rise to the challenge. He did.

We benefited from his presence in a number of ways. Explaining why we were giving attention to certain topics occasionally challenged us to reconsider. The extent to which the Japanese publishing industry has maintained a library service landscape still tied to print was revelatory for most of us. (The publishers have been slow to offer e-journals given that their market is captive by language and they are addicted to their high margins.) The management regime within the administrative echelons of Japanese universities also dictates the pace of change and progress. Managers are routinely re-assigned on a regular schedule to new responsibility areas at just about the time that they know enough to implement new directions.

And it was great fun seeing our Bay Area and mid-Ohio tourist sites through his eyes. Everybody learned a lot. We trust he’ll judge it worth the journey. We’ve already decided it was worth our effort.