Nearly every library recognizes the importance of global collaboration, but did you know that there is a Japan-US library program that has been operating for 30 years? The Kanazawa Institute of Technology’s Library Roundtable celebrated its 30th anniversary last week, and I had the pleasure of taking part in the program.

The Japan-US library program started as a thank-you gesture from the director, Dr.  Sakai  of the KIT Library, who served as deputy director of the National Diet Library after World War II. He wrote to the Library of Congress asking for assistance in rebuilding the destroyed national library. The Library of Congress, with help from the Council on Library Resources and the National Agricultural Library, responded affirmatively. Friendships grew from the close association over several years of rebuilding the National Diet Library.

When Dr. Sakai retired, he was named the director of the library of the Kanazawa Institute of Technology, the first private university of Japan, and while there established an international seminar to bring library leaders from around the world to discuss important issues in librarianship with Japanese librarians. Dr. Sakai died in January 1992, and in his memory a successor program, the KIT Library Roundtable, was born. Dr. Sakai was grateful for American assistance when the national library of Japan most desperately needed it, and he wanted to give American librarians an opportunity to learn more about his country and its librarians.

The KIT Library Roundtable has focused on the relationship of Japanese and American libraries. Each year five American speakers are selected to discuss a topic that has been chosen as the theme for the year. One hundred Japanese librarians are selected to attend the annual conference in Kanazawa. This year, to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the conference focused on broad themes that have recurred throughout the Library Roundtable’s history: technological change (Greg Jackson, EDUCAUSE), management and planning (James Neal, Columbia), collection development (Anne Kenney, Cornell), digital scholarship (Timothy Burke, Swarthmore), and the economics of libraries (David Shulenburger, Association of Public Universities). Each speaker was charged with providing a retrospective overview of the topic over the 30-year period, and to offer a prognosis for the future.

The exchange of ideas with Japanese librarians was lively and productive. How is digital technology affecting the learning styles and methods of students in both countries? How do professors and librarians make a case for their authority in an age of crowd sourcing and social media? What constitutes collection development standards when many of the scholarly materials are not published in a traditional way? These were but a few of the topics for discussion and debate.

I am privileged to have been associated with this program throughout its history. I went first as a speaker in 1991. Since 1996, I have chaired the advisory committee for the KIT Library Roundtable. Leading American librarians have traveled to Japan annually for stimulating discussions on timely topics, but, more importantly, partnerships have been formed, collaborative projects carried out, and lifetime friendships developed.