Fukuoka was home to the first public library in Japan. Called the Kushida Bunko, it was opened in 1818 on the premises of Kushida Shrine, the grand tutelary shrine of Hakata. Although the library was opened to provide a place for Shinto priests and their children to study, commoners were also allowed to browse and borrow materials, which was an extremely progressive policy for the time. This is well before 1848 when the Boston Public Library, which is considered the origin of the modern public library, opened. The Kushida Bunko had a collection of around 500 books covering a wide range of topics, such as literature, history, geography, and art, in addition to books on Shinto. Many of these books remain intact today, and efforts are being made to catalog and preserve them.
Fukuoka’s first modern library opened in 1902. The Fukuoka Library was a private entity located in what is now Otemon. Despite being private, it eventually amassed a collection of 70,000 volumes, including foreign encyclopedias, making it one of the best libraries in the country at that time. The library closed when its founder, Harunaga Hirose, passed away, but around 10,000 volumes from his collection have been preserved as the Hirose Collection at Kyushu University Library.
Meanwhile, Fukuoka’s first public library, the Fukuoka Prefectural Library, opened in 1918. It moved several times before settling in its current location in Hakozaki, Higashi Ward. In 1976, the Fukuoka Civic Library opened, and it changed its name to the Fukuoka City Public Library after relocating to a new facility in 1996. In addition to books, the library features a large collection of films.
Another useful resource are university libraries because, like the Hirose Collection at Kyushu University, they maintain collections of specialized materials. Naturally, these libraries are open to currently enrolled students, but some are also open to alumni, and in some cases, the general public.