Bringing VJLS-JH’s Library into the Digital Age: An Interview with Nobu Kawaguchi

Originally from Mie, Japan, Nobu Kawaguchi is VJLS-JH’s newest library consultant.
She’s been hired to help revitalize, digitize, and improve the state of our collection of over 47,000 Japanese books.

Thank you for taking the time to let us to interview you! Would you please provide a brief introduction of you and your position at VJLS-JH?

I started in this position about a month ago. Before that, I was a student at Langara College studying in the Library and Information Technology Program for two years. It was a great experience and I enjoyed my studies a lot. When I found this job posting, it was great timing – I was about to graduate from my program and one of my instructors recommended that I apply. I was so excited that I had an interview and was eventually hired. So far, I enjoy the work I am doing [at VJLS-JH]. However, it is really challenging for me. Luckily, I have lots of support from the team here, as well as advising from Japanese studies librarian at UBC or instructors from Langara. I am learning a lot every single day.

Could you describe the project you are working on as our library consultant?

This project is really interesting. We are essentially setting up a library from scratch. All we have is our book collection data in an excel spreadsheet with limited information. Unfortunately, in this document, the ISBN* is not included. There is lots left to do to make the collection digitized. The first step in this process is to set up a digital platform. I am currently working on selection the right ILS* for us. This is taking quite some time because there’s so many different kinds! Each library has different needs. I’d like to see what people expect of us and choose the right one. Another challenge is cataloging our collection. I only have experience with English tiles. Here, maybe 99% is in Japanese. It is a big learning process. Hopefully, in a few months, we’ll be able to set up our ILS and install a computer and start cataloging and organizing so people can use our system online.

How long will the whole project take?

It is definitely a long process. As you see [motions to piles of books in the library], we have a lot of backlogs. We will need lots of time to do all the cataloging. I am glad we have lots of volunteers who can help us with this process! Cataloging isn’t an easy task, but we can make it simple and try to add as many items as possible.

What do you hope for the future of the VJLS-JH library?

I think it would be great if we could make better spaces for kids and adults to read. For example, for kids – make some space where they can play and read while their siblings finish their language classes. For adults – I know many users come to the library to read, study, do research or relax – so it would be nice if we could have more tables. For programming, maybe some story times or workshops that we could offer! Eventually, to have a self-check-in, check-out kiosk would be great. I would like it to be an easy process for people to sign in, sign out and look up our collection. I would also like to have more people – not only from the school, but from outside of the community. It’s such a unique place – nowhere else nearby has as many Japanese titles in Vancouver! It would be good if we could promote the library and have more people who are interested in Japanese culture and language to come to us.

Any last comments or things you’d like to share?

I would like to hear more opinions from our users or potential users as to what they expect from the library. Since we are still at the beginning, we can make things possible if there’s certain requests. I would like to accommodate as much as possible. I also would like to thank our library volunteer members who have been helping us maintain our library for many years; it was and will be impossible to keep our library running without their support.

If you have any thoughts, ideas or questions regarding VJLS-JH’s new library project, please email Nobu at

*An integrated library system (ILS), is an enterprise resource planning system for a library, used to track items owned, orders made, bills paid, and users who have borrowed.
*An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is essentially a product identifier used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chain participants for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes.