In 1912, the Provisional Government of the Republic of China was established in Nanjing. The Ministry of Education’s Department of Social Education was responsible for overseeing the operations of libraries. At the time, the Ministry of Education already had the idea to build a national library. In 1928, the University Yuan held a meeting on national education, during which it was decided to build a central library in Nanjing to be both the highest repository in the nation for scholarship and culture as well as a model for all regional libraries. On January 21, 1933, the Ministry of Education sent Fu-tsung Chiang to serve as a committee member of the National Library Preparation Committee. In March, the Ministry of Education ratified the seven articles comprising the Organizational Outline of the National Central Library Preparatory Office. This is the Library’s earliest organizational regulations. On April 21, an office was rented in Nanjing’s Shatangyuan.
The Organizational Outline of the National Central Library Preparatory Office ratified by the Ministry of Education
After it was first established, its holdings grew by sending letters to government offices seeking their publications. It also carried out the Publication Law to collect new books published throughout the country. In July 1934, it took over the operation of the Ministry of Education’s International Publication Exchange Office and solicited publications from different government organizations. It also collaborated with the Commercial Press to print Siku quanshu zhenben chuji (An Initial Collection of Rare Books from the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries). These two sources were used to exchange publications with international institutions and thus acquire important Western reference works. On February 10, 1936, the library was moved to Chenghsien Street in Nanjing. In September, it was opened to the public. In 1937, a construction committee was formed to draft the rules by which possible blueprints would be solicited and selected. The committee collected submitted blueprints but had not yet reviewed them when the project was suspended due to the war.
The front gate of National Central Library at Chenghsien Street
On August 15, 1937, Japanese troops conducted an air raid on Nanjing. Because of this, library services were stopped and important books were boxed up into 263 crates. These were transported to a newly-built and secret repository in the Chaotian Palace for the National Palace Museum. The preparatory office moved to 32-2 Gaomenlou, Central Road. On November 18, a sudden directive from the Ministry of Education came to move the collection west. Only 130 crates of important works were able to be prepared, most of which were western works due to the difficulty of replacing them. These were moved to the southwest of China via a long and circuitous route. On February 12, 1938, they arrived in Chongqing. After it was learned that the Nationalist government was relocating to Chingqing, a request was submitted to the Ministry of Education to begin operations there. This request was approved and a two-story building in Juxingcun near the Shangqing Temple was secured. In August of the same year, the Ministry of Education approved preparations for a branch library in Chingqing and organized a committee to oversee construction.
National Central Library facilities during the Chongqing period
In March 1939, due to frequent attacks by the Japanese air force, the directive came to evacuate. The Library was relocated to the Baisha Township in Jiangjin County. In July 1940, the preparatory work came to a close and National Central Library was officially established. On July 20, the Ministry of Education assigned Fu-tsung Chiang to serve as the acting director-general of the Library. On October 16, the Nationalist government officially announced the National Central Library Organizational Regulations, which numbered 13 in all. This was the beginning of official legal basis for the Library.
Fu-tsung Chiang was the first director-general of the Library
During the war, to prevent ancient books from disappearing overseas, the Board of Trustees of the Sino-British Boxer Rebellion Indemnity was frequently consulted and some money from the board was directed toward this goal. In addition, the Ministry of Education gave approval for Chairman Kung-chao Yeh of the Board of Trustees of the Sino-British Boxer Rebellion Indemnity in Hong Kong, as well as the President of Jinan University Ping-sung Ho and the President of Kwang Hua University Shou-yung Chang in Shanghai to oversee the purchase of rare Chinese books (this responsibility was later given to Hsi-ti Cheng). In all there were more than 15,000 titles of rare books purchased, numbering over 30,000 volumes. The original funding from the Board of Trustees of the Sino-British Boxer Rebellion Indemnity for building National Central Library was completely exhausted, so the Ministry of Education also contributed two million dollars. These rare books were evaluated by Mr. Hsu Hung-pao. Sellers were from all over China, and of these Mr. Zhang and Mr. Liu from Wuxing, Mr. Deng from Jinling, and Mr. Shen from Panyu provided the most books.
On September 3, 1945, the Japanese army surrendered after defeat. On September 28, the old facilities on Chenghsien Street in Nanjing that had been sealed for safekeeping were expropriated from the Japanese. Work began to receive back and sort through the books from the Japanese government and the Reorganized National Government of China stored in the Central Library, those in the Ad Hoc Book Committee’s possession, and those in the Chenchun Collection, as well as artefacts in the possession of the Museum Committee. National Central Library received rare books from Chunchun Collection held in Suzhou and Shanghai, and the Tse-cun Library on Shanxi Road in Nanjing. These numbered about 400,000 volumes. (Later this was renamed the National Central Library’s Chinese Library and was made available to the public.) The Chinese Mission discovered over 30,000 volumes of ancient books in the Japanese Imperial Library stored in the enemy-occupied territory in Hong Kong. Over 170 crates were recovered and transported back to National Central Library in Nanjing.
In May 1946, National Central Library was officially relocated to the capital Nanjing. In June, the reading room of the main library in Nanjing opened. The facilities and furniture that were in Chongqing, as well as 12,083 books were transferred to the National Roosevelt Library. In July, Bureau of International Exchange of Publications of the National Central Library was established.
In fall of 1948 after the Huaihai Campaign, Nanjing was under threat, so the Library was instructed to select important and rare works to box in crates, and then to ship to Taiwan. On August 3, 1949, the Ministry of Education temporarily combined the Library with the National Palace Museum, the Peking Library, the Central Museum, and the Chinese Education Film Studio as a way to reduce budgets in the wartime environment. This amalgam was called the National Central Museum and Library United Management Department. The Library was reduced to a Central Library Division. In April 1950, the United Management Department finished construction on a new storehouse in Beikou, in the Wufeng Township in Taichung County. The 644 crates of books and records from the Library all made it safely to the storehouse.
A look at the rare book storage room in Wufeng, Taichung
In August 1954, the Ministry of Education instructed Director-general Fu-tsung Chiang to make preparations to reorganize the Library. In September, the order came to reorganize it. From this point on, National Central Library was no longer a part of the Museum and Library United Management Department in Taichung. Once the Library was back in its own facilities, the books and items stored in the United Management Department’s storage room were relocated to the Library. In October, Director-general Chiang was reinstated. Library operations were first directed from an office in the auditorium of the National Taiwan University Hospital, which was next to the Ministry of Education. On September 19, 1955, offices were moved to 29 Nanhai Road, where there was a botanical garden. Previously, this was where the Taiwan Province Education Hall has housed its Taiwan Mandarin Promotion Committee, as well as the location of the Kenkō Shrine during the Japanese-occupation period. On March 1, 1956, the Library was officially opened to the public. In 1960, renovations were done on the facilities to make them larger. Work was completed in 1965.
Library facilities at Nanhai Road
In July 1960, Director-general Chiang traveled to the United States to attend a meeting. He discovered that in the U.S. Library of Congress there were over 10,000 bamboo slips from Juyan found during the Northwest Scientific Expedition and over one hundred crates of rare books from the Beiping Library. Through negotiations by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the U.S. Department of State, they were shipped back in November 1965, together with National Central Library’s displayed rare books in the world exposition. National Central Library attended the exhibition. In September 1965, the Executive Yuan appointed Director-general Chiang to be the first director of the National Palace Museum after it was reestablished in Taiwan. On March 10, 1966, the rare books that were in storage in Taichung were shipped back to Taipei.
On September 21, 1966, the Ministry of Education temporarily transferred Professor Wan-li Chu from National Taiwan University to assume the post of Director-general of Library. In February 1968, his temporary tenure was reached and he resigned.
On March 2, 1968, the Ministry of Education assigned Tsen-peng Pao to assume the post. On February 2, 1970, Director-general Pao passed away due to an illness. Library affairs were then handled by acting Director-general You-yu Pao.
On August 15, 1970, Tze-chung Li was instated as director-general. In August 1972, Director-general Li requested and was granted resignation, at which point he moved to the United States. Library affairs were temporarily handled by the director of the Ministry of Education’s Social Education Department, Hsie You-hwa.
On April 11, 1973, William C. Ju repatriated from the United States to accept the post. In October, the Taiwan Province Taipei Library was renamed the Taiwan Branch of the National Central Library and placed under the jurisdiction of the Library. In March 1977, Director-general Ju resigned from the post and returned to the United States.
On March 31, 1977, the Ministry of Education temporarily transferred Professor Chen-ku Wang from National Taiwan Normal University to assume the post of Director-general. In March 1978, a work group for the Committee on the Library Relocation was formed and began making necessary preparations.
On April 22, 1980, the Ministry of Education relayed a revised and ratified version of Plans to Establish the Chinese Studies Materials and Service Center by the Executive Yuan. The Library was given the charge to head up the planning. In June 1981, the Ministry of Education hired Director-general Chen-ku Wang to also serve as the director of the Chinese Studies Materials and Service Center. On May 5, 1987, the Chinese Studies Materials and Service Center was renamed the Center for Chinese Studies.
On October 12, 1982, construction began on the new facility on Zhongshan South Road. On September 28, 1986, the opening ceremony was held for the new facilities. On September 16, 1988, the information library in the technology building opened. In October, the Executive Yuan approved a request to begin ISBN services. In July, the ISBN Center was established.
A look at the facilities being built on Zhongshan South Road
The opening ceremony at the new facility located on Zhongshan South Road; Premier Yu Kuo-hwa was asked to cut the ribbon.
On August 1, 1989, Director-general Wang retired due to age. The Ministry of Education appointed the director of its Department of Higher Education, Chung-sen Yang, to serve as the new director-general. On July 13, 1990, the Bibliographic Information Center was established.
On April 1, 1992, Director-general Yang was reappointed as the head of the Bureau of Standards, Metrology& Inspection of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. On May 5, director of the National Institute of Compilation and Translation Chi-chun Tseng was appointed as director-general. On September 23, 1993, more than 100,000 books (1,029 crates) were sent from the Biblioteca Sino-Internacional in Uruguay to the Library.
In January 1996, the president of Taiwan announced the Organizational Regulations for National Central Library. In February, the Library’s name in Chinese was formally changed to the “National Library.” In April, a ceremony was held to mark the name change. On October 30, Director-general Chi-chun Tseng retired.
Deputy Director of the Ministry of Education Yang Kuo-tsi presided over the renaming ceremony and unveiled the new change
On April 10, 1998, Fung-jung Juang assumed the post of director-general. In May, three divisions were created: the Research Division, the Guidance Division, and Reference Service Division. In January 1999, the Ministry of Education approved the formation of a task force-styled National Periodical Documents Center.
On March 1, 2007, Director-general Juang retired. He was replaced by Wen-lu Wang, who was serving as the Director of the General Affairs Department in the Ministry of Education. On September 1, Director-general Wang was assigned to be the Senior Inspector at MOE.
On September 17, 2007, Researcher Kuan-chung Huang from the Institute of History and Philology at Academia Sinica was transferred to serve as director-general. On May 19, 2008, Director-general Huang returned to Academia Sinica.
On August 1, 2008, the former Director of the Legislative Yuan Parliament Library Carl Min Ku assumed the directorship. On October 27, 2008, the Library’s Art and Audiovisual Center was opened on Yanping South Road (formerly located at Shijian tang).
The Art and Audiovisual Center was unveiled by the Minister of Education Cheng Rui-cheng
On December 31, 2010, Director-general Ku reached the age of mandatory retirement. His post was assigned to Shu-hsien Tseng, former Director of the Taipei Public Library and professor of the Department of Library and Information Science at Fu Jen Catholic University. On February 3, 2012, the president of Taiwan announced the National Central Library Organizational Regulations, comprised of six regulations. On January 1, 2013, in conjunction with the reorganization of the Executive Yuan, the original nine divisions were consolidated into six (the Librarianship Development Division, Collection Development and Bibliography Management Division, Knowledge Services Division, Special Collections Division, Digital Knowledge Systems Division, and International Cooperation Division), the Center for Chinese Studies (comprised of the Liaison Division and Materials Division), the ISBN Center, and the Bibliographic Information Center that is operating as a task force. In April, the Library’s 80th anniversary celebration was held with an accompanying series of events. In April 2015, the Digital Center was established. On January 12, 2017, the Executive Yuan issued a letter instructing the Ministry of Education to establish a branch of National Central Library in southern Taiwan. The Tainan City government was quickly notified so that they could help with the planning and construction project. On February 14, Premier Chuan Lin visited the designated site for the southern branch.
Premier Chuan Lin inspects the site for the southern branch of National Central Library
On December 28, 2017, the “Southern Branch of the National Central Library and National Repository Library Construction Project” was approved by the Executive Yuan. All subprojects started in January 2018. The results of the design competition were announced on August 30, 2018. Bio-architecture Formosana won first prize with the design concept of “A Library as a Town” Construction of this new facility will extend NCL’s function and service to the south. It’ll also enable NCL to better meet the needs of southern patrons about reading, as well as public libraries about repositories.
Bio-architecture Formosana won first prize with the design concept of A Library as a Town