Jul 27, 2018
It might seem like a simple thing to do; and it is in one way, but there are some things to note about joining libraries in Japan.
Can I join any library?
Regrettably: no. There are restrictions to which libraries you can join and borrow books from. You can visit any library you like, but you can only become a member of certain ones:
1. A library within your village / city / town.
2. The prefectural libraries within your prefecture.
3. A library associated with any educational facility you attend.
4. Libraries that have a mutual lending agreement with your municipality.
You can join the library (/ies) of the town / city you live in as well as any prefectural library. Prefectural libraries are few and far between. As far as I know Saitama has only three of them. For a prefectural library anyone who lives in the prefecture is allowed borrow books from the library.
For any other library that is not a prefectural library and not located within your city, your municipality has to have a mutual lending agreement with that municipality in order for you to borrow books from there.
How do I join a library?
Once you are eligible, you can join by filling out a membership form. For a child a guardian can fill it out on behalf of the child. You will need to show proof of identity and address at the time of filling out the form. Anything is fine once it has your photo on it. I have joined many libraries over the years and interestingly I have never once been asked to show my alien registration card. I usually show my drivers license.
The forms are available at the lending desks. If you do not see one you can ask any staff member to furnish you with one. In my experience, the forms are in Japanese and need to be filled out in Japanese.
Lending / returning books
Once you join your local library, the membership card you receive can be used for any library within your town or city. You can borrow books from one library and drop them back to any other library within the same city.
In my experience most libraries allow you borrow up to a total of 10 books / CDs / DVDs at a time. They usually lend them for a period of two weeks. You can drop them back during opening hours to the main desk. However, if you wish to return books after hours, there is usually a drop off box for that purpose. CDs and DVDs generally have to be returned to the desk as they can get damaged in a drop off box.
I have found over the years that there are many different types of libraries and a great disparity in the quality. Some are far better than others. Our local library is pretty dismal, but thankfully we have an excellent library only 8 kilometers away. Have you been to your local library? What is it like?
Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.