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Reviewed by:
  • Guangdong Tushuguan Xuehui Sishi Nian (The Guangdong Library Association: 40 Years)
  • Priscilla C. Yu
Guangdong Tushuguan Xuehui Sishi Nian (The Guangdong Library Association: 40 Years). Edited by Cheng Huanwen (chief editor). Guangzhou: Zhongshan University Press, 2003. 825 pp. 80 yuan. ISBN 7-306-02188-5.

China's rapid economic development and progress have masked the tortuous developmental road experienced before the introduction of the "opening and reform" policies in the early 1980s. Earlier institution building and reforms at all levels and sectors encountered many false starts or were abandoned; this was especially evident during the Cultural Revolution. Institution rebuilding has thus become a major task in China's march toward modernity.

The history of China's library development since 1949 and the rebuilding of the system since the 1980s constitute a case study of the arduous task of institution building. Edited by Cheng Huanwen, university librarian at Zhongshan University, and associates, The Guangdong Library Association: 40 Years is a microstudy at the provincial level of one such endeavor for the period 1963–2003, with special attention to developments since the 1980s.

The Guangdong Library Association was the first Chinese library association founded after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. The Association traces its origins to the Guangzhou City Library Staff Association, founded in 1957. The Guangdong Library Association was established in 1963; fifty plus members and over three hundred library employees from the city of Guangdong attended the Association's inaugural meeting. Though numerous national and regional library-related meetings were conducted during the intervening years, it was not until the end of 1977, following the downfall of the infamous "Gang of Four" in 1976, that the Association was renewed. (Between 1978 and 1980 the library associations of China's other provinces and municipalities were similarly revived, culminating in the founding of the national Chinese Library Association in 1979.) In 2002 the membership of the Guangdong Library Association had grown to 1,644, and through the endeavors of the Association a new era of library institution building and activities was initiated.

Organized into fifteen chapters, the volume is a formal record of library development in one Chinese administrative unit, Guangdong Province (adjacent to Hong Kong), seen through the organization, activities, policies, and programs of the leadership of the provincial library association. Eight of the fifteen chapters consist of records (e.g., names of attendees, minutes, reports, and other documentation) of eight councils (1963–2002) of the Guangdong Library Association. Other chapters showcasing the Association include biographical accounts of leaders (chapter 2), a listing of group and individual awards (chapter 11), publications (chapter 12), membership lists (chapter 14), and other assembled data. A rich treasure of data is available for scholars. [End Page 572]

As with similar volumes of compiled data, we are indebted to the editorial team for their dedication but are left wanting a critical analytical study, based in part upon the rich available documentation, that would provide greater insight into core basic issues of institution building in China during the past forty years. Such a study would illuminate the trials and tribulations of the Guangdong Library Association, such as the degree of centralization versus central-regional differences, the debate over foreign models of institution building, the discussion of "information science," and the extent and role of overseas Chinese financial and other contributions and international linkages (e.g., IFLA) in institution building in post–"open and reform" China. In sum, the aim of the work is to demonstrate the success of Guangdong Library Association's historical role in China's library development.

Priscilla C. Yu
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


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