Korean university libraries’ stock of books is dismal compared to their U.S. counterparts, questioning the basic foundation of academia here, according to research released Tuesday.
Korea’s largest university library falls only slightly ahead of the institute ranked 39th among North American universities.
A 2010 study by the Korea Education & Research Information Service placed Seoul National University Library, which houses some 4.4 million volumes, just ahead of the University of Southern California, which ranked 39th in a similar survey by the Association of Research Libraries conducted in 2008.
University libraries in Korea stocked slightly more than 1.9 million volumes on average ― a total comparable to the rock bottom institutions included in the survey of 113 U.S. and Canadian universities.
Kyungpook National University, which the KERIS said is home to the second largest collection of books in Korea, has a similar number of volumes as the University of New Mexico which ranked 90th in the ARL survey.
But Korea lived up to its reputation as one of the most wired countries in the world.
The average number of electronic journals held by Korean universities was 29,000 ― similar to the stock of University of North Carolina, which ranked 75th among North American universities ― but Yonsei University had over 86,000 subscriptions, much higher than Columbia University which had the most in the ARL survey at 77,000.
The study also showed that 17 books were borrowed per student on average at the 20 Korean universities considered.
Ewha Womans University loaned the most books per student, 35, much higher than the ARL average of 26 books.
“It is heartbreaking to see the inferior state of our university libraries, which are the backbone of academic competitiveness,” said Kim Chong Suh, the head librarian at Seoul National University.
“Following the principle that academic information is part of a nation’s resource, we need to drastically increase funding for library volumes and quality,” he said.
By Robert Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org