Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191
November 19, 1997
Library of Congress Will Convert To Pinyin for Romanization of Chinese
The Library of Congress will convert to the pinyin system for the romanization of Chinese and will soon draw up plans on how to carry out the conversion during the next two to three years.
Pinyin is a system for writing the Chinese language in the Latin alphabet. It is used throughout the world, including by the United States government and by the news media. Most users of American libraries today are familiar with the pinyin romanization of Chinese names and places, and providing access to the Chinese language with that system will make it easier for them to locate material. The use of pinyin romanization by libraries should also facilitate the exchange of data with libraries internationally.
A few examples from the Wade-Giles/pinyin conversion table show the differences in the two systems: Wade-Giles uses hung, pinyin uses hong; Wade-Giles uses hsiung, pinyin uses xiong.
The Library has already discussed its plans to convert to pinyin romanization widely -with the American Library Association, the Online Computer Library Center, the Research Libraries Group, the Council on East Asian Libraries, and the National Library of Australia, which has recently converted more than 500,000 Chinese records to pinyin.
A nine-member Pinyin Task Group has been formed at the Library of Congress, and planning for conversion of files and implementation of the new standard has begun. The Library will continue to consult with the library community and bibliographic utilities throughout the process in order to most effectively coordinate and harmonize conversion procedures.
The Library of Congress first proposed conversion from the Wade-Giles system to pinyin in 1980 to coincide with its introduction of computerized cataloging of Chinese material. The East Asian library community did not support the change at that time. Since then, however, most librarians have come to realize that conversion to pinyin will be necessary if American libraries are to provide adequate service to their users. This year, in a survey conducted by the Council on East Asian Libraries, East Asian librarians indicated strong support for conversion to pinyin.
In order to change to pinyin, the Library will have to convert existing files so that the Librarys database will reflect the new standard. Until recently, conversion had not been economically feasible. However, the Library now believes that recent technological improvements make it possible to carry out the conversion project.
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