Using the East Asian Library

The C. V. Starr East Asian Library collection includes books, periodicals, microforms, videocassettes and DVDs, CD-ROMs, online databases, and materials in other formats in the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan languages, as well as Western-language materials about East Asia (and some holdings in the Manchu and Mongol languages). Our library staff is available to help you locate the materials you need and to answer your questions.


Please take note of the following rules of conduct:

  • No Food   Food in the library attracts insects that damage library materials.
  • No Drinks   Except in plastic spill-proof cups or water bottles with sports caps.
  • No Cell Phones   Please turn off ringers and refrain from conversations in the library.


Tours and Orientation workshops are offered at the beginning of each academic year.  Instructors can arrange for class-specific workshops by contacting the relevant area specialist.


Finding Materials

To find materials at Columbia, check in the Columbia University Libraries online catalog.  The online catalog includes Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan, as well as Western-language records for the entire Starr collection. The online catalog displays Chinese, Japanese, and Korean original script where available. However, searching is still best done using romanization. Introductions to the online catalog are provided during the early weeks of the academic year as part of the library orientation sessions. For quick help with the online catalog, use the Help menu. If you are having trouble with the online catalog, use the Ask a Librarian chat service or ask at our service desk for assistance.


Locating Materials

  • Reference materials
    Most reference materials in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Western languages are located in the main reading room, where they are shelved in call number order, regardless of language. A location chart organized by call number ranges is available at the service desk.  Some reference works with relatively low usage are in the stacks, inter-shelved with the regular collection. The latter may be marked "Non-Circulating." Check the online catalog for locations, call numbers, and for information on the most recent reference works.
  • Books
    Most books are located on the 250, 200, 150, and 100 levels of the stacks in the library, in call number order, regardless of language.  Location charts by call number range are available in the stack elevator, near the stack stairs, and at the service desk.
  • Off-site materials
    Approximately 50% of the collection is now stored in ReCAP, the libraries' off-site storage facility. Off-site materials can be requested directly from within the online catalog. Non-CUID holders need to obtain temporary reading privileges through the Library Information Office in order to request off-site material, and will need to have their requests mediated by library staff.
  • Periodicals
    The online catalog includes Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan, as well as Western-language records for the Library's periodicals: search for a periodical by title. Please note that the online catalog contains information about periodical titles only; it does not provide information about periodical articles.  Depending on the language of the articles, we may have an online periodical index to help you find more information about articles of interest: ask a librarian.
    Current, unbound periodical issues are available for reading room use only, and do not circulate. The periodicals are on display, arranged by language group and in call number order, in the second alcoves on the north side (Chinese and Tibetan languages) and south side (Japanese, Korean, and Western languages) of the main reading room.
    Due to space limitations, bound periodicals (with some exceptions) are stored off-site, and can be requested through the online catalog.  Alternatively, individual articles from back issues can be requested for electronic delivery.
  •  "On Order/In Process" items
    Items marked "On Order/In Process" in CLIO can often be rushed through processing for you. You can request these materials through the Request It menu on the Libraries homepage, as well as through the "Recall/Other requests" button in the online catalog (login required).
  • Problem items
    Missing materials will be searched for you.  Reader request cards are available for this purpose at the circulation desk, or you can place your search request electronically through the "Recall/Other requests" button in the online catalog (login required).
  • Borrowing materials
    For detailed information on circulation issues, see the separate Circulation and Reserves page.

Borrow Direct and Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

  • Borrow Direct enables current faculty, students, and staff from Columbia, Barnard, and Union Theological Seminary to request material from Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Princeton, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. The service does not support deputy borrowers. Borrow Direct is available for books only.  For periodical articles and other formats, please use Interlibrary Loan.
    The Borrow Direct service also can be used to search for and request materials held by the Center for Research Libraries (CRL). Requests for CRL materials are routed through the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) system, allowing for longer loan periods of books, dissertations, journals, and newspapers in print or microform.
    For more detailed information check out the Borrow Direct webpage.
  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

    Interlibrary Loan (ILL) enables eligible Columbia University affiliates to borrow material from other libraries and universities and obtain copies of articles or book chapters from titles that are not owned or available at Columbia University Libraries.
    Columbia University Libraries also lends materials to patrons of other libraries through Institutional Borrowing and reciprocal lending arrangements.
    To place an ILL request, go to the Interlibrary Loan page and follow the instructions provided.


Computing and Reproduction

  • Computers
    Ten Windows-based internet terminals are available on the large table at the west end of the public area in the reading room. The terminals provide access to the Web, and are configured to enable reading as well as inputting CJK scripts.  Three additional computers near the stack entrance provide access to stand-alone databases in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean respectively.  Additional computers are also available on the 100 level of the stacks.  Two network printers are available.
  • Reproduction
    A self-service scanner and workstation is available in the reading room near the entrance. Follow the instructions on screen. Use is on a first come/first serve basis.



All library materials are protected by an electronic security system, and will activate an alarm if not properly charged out at the circulation desk.

Keep your valuables with you at all times. Report any theft immediately to a librarian or the desk attendant on duty. 

Suggestions or comments about the library, its collections, and its services are welcomed and can be e-mailed to the library at