Using the East Asian Library

The C. V. Starr East Asian Library contains books, periodicals, microforms, videocassettes and DVDs, and CD-ROMs in the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan languages, as well as Western-language materials about East Asia (with 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 note the following restrictions:

  • 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 CLIO (Columbia Libraries Information Online), the online catalog.  CLIO contains Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tibetan, as well as Western-language records for the entire Starr collection. CLIO now displays Chinese, Japanese, and Korean original script where available. However, searching is still done using romanization. Introductions to CLIO are provided during the early weeks of the academic year as part of the library orientation sessions. For quick help with CLIO, use the online Help menu. If you are having trouble with CLIO, use the online Ask a Librarian 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. 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 CLIO 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, where they are intershelved with bound periodicals, in call number order.  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 CLIO. Non-CUID holders need to obtain temporary reading privileges through the Library Information Office in order to request off-site material.
  • Periodicals
    CLIO contains 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 CLIO contains information about periodical titles only; it does not contain 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 shelved off-site, and can be requested through CLIO.  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 CLIO (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 CLIO (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 is an interlibrary borrowing service available through the Request It menu on the Libraries homepage, as well as from the top menu bar in CLIO.  The service is offered by the university libraries of Brown University, the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. It is designed to allow students, faculty and staff at these institutions to request books directly from each other's collections.  Requested material is normally available for pick-up within four business days.  Borrow Direct is available for books only.  For periodical articles, please use Interlibrary Loan.
  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
    If the material you need is not available in the Columbia University Library System or through Borrow Direct, it can usually be borrowed from another library.  If, even after asking for help, you still cannot find an item, you can place your Interlibrary Loan request online through the Request It menu of the Libraries homepage (follow online instructions), or through the "Place requests" button in CLIO (login required).

Computers & Photocopy Services

  • 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.  An additional internet terminal is also available on the 100 level of the stacks near the stairs and elevator.  Two network printers are available.
  • Photocopiers
    A self-service photocopier is available in the library stacks on the 250 level. To pay for copies use your Flex account through your CUID card. Non-CUID holders can purchase Visitor Flex Cards in Butler Library.  A deposit feature accepting coins is attached to the copier. Please read all posted instructions carefully.


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