Using the Tibetan Collection

Searching catalogs: Finding Tibetan titles in CLIO

To find bibliographic information on Tibetan materials, search CLIO.

When searching CLIO for a topic, try a keyword search using either romanized Tibetan terms or English terms.

BIG NEWS! The ALA-Library of Congress Transliteration has now changed to Wylie, but.....

In May 2015, the Library of Congress revised its Tibetan romanization chart to accord with the Wylie transliteration system.  You will see the fruits of this revision in WORLDCAT, where records for 1) all Tibetan publications from China and 2) Tibetan publications published 2007- outside of China were converted.  For pre-2007 publications from South Asia, etc., an additional title field in Wylie transliteration was applied.  (This was necessary since the original titles on most of these publications were romanized on the publication, and must be retained as they appear on the piece, by cataloging conventions.)

The next step is for university libraries to convert records in our local catalogs. No university in North America has undertaken this conversion yet.  At Columbia, we hope to convert our local catalog records as described above by 2016.

Thus, legacy records for Tibetan-language materials in CLIO, Columbia's online catalog, continue to employ the ALA-Library of Congress system of transliteration. This schema is very similar to the Wylie romanization used in current western scholarship, with only a few minor differences.  New records are being added in Wylie.

In short... please be patient and search both forms (ALA and Wylie) in CLIO for the coming year!  

The following table is also available for download.


Spelling correctly for computer searching

Many popular books and internet sites use non-standard forms of spelling which are based on how Tibetan words sound when pronounced, leaving out the many silent letters.

When searching the computer for Tibetan language authors, titles, or subjects, it is helpful to repeat your searches using various forms of the term. This is especially true right now, since Subject Headings, and other controlled fields have not yet been upgraded to Wylie.  (The Library of Congress has this project on their agenda.)

For example, you may need to try all of the following searches:

Subject = rnin ma pa

Keyword = Nyingma

Keyword = Nyingmapa

Keyword = "Rnying ma"

Although several punctuation marks are used by the Library of Congress system to differentiate sounds, when typing search terms in CLIO, there is no need for diacritic marks or punctuation.


Locating Tibetan Studies Materials


While modern-format books are intershelved by call number in the general stacks of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library, the traditional Tibetan texts (dpe-cha) are shelved in Room 106 (on the 100-level) in the newly designed TIBETAN PECHA COLLECTION area of the Starr Library. Due to space restrictions, about 40% of both modern and traditional-format titles are stored offsite at RECAP, but can be requested for pick-up (with 48 hours advance notice). While the majority of pecha have been bound for circulation purposes, a small percentage remain unbound. For the latter, please first consult the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center database for an electronic copy, or you may request from offsite for reading in the Kress Room at Starr.

Since January 2008, acquisitions ordering for Tibetan titles is done online. Thus, researchers can immediately know when a title has been selected, and estimate when it might arrive.  In addition, preliminary records are now entered for materials received, but for which no full record is available. 

Please see CLIO records for location or status details, or contact the Tibetan Studies librarian if you have any question.

Rare and Special Collections

Rare titles are housed at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Butler Library, 6th floor), or in the Kress Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room at the Starr Library.  Columbia owns some very valuable Tibetan religious works, including early Bon texts as well as a nearly complete Snar-thang edition of the Buddhist canon, published between 1730 and 1732, as well as modern Tibetan historical documents.


  • Serials: Unbound recent issues displayed in Starr East Asian's main reading room; bound issues of previous two years are shelved in Starr's regular stacks; earlier issues are bound and stored off-site. Available for two-week loan.
  • Newspapers: Current issues for some 30-40 regularly subscribed titles are available in the periodicals alcove of the C. V. Starr East Asian Library's main reading room.

Works in other languages
  • Works in Chinese or Japanese are located in the C. V. Starr East Asian Library or offsite.
  • Most Sanskrit, English, French, and German scholarship on Tibetan subjects is housed either in Starr, Butler, or offsite, except for items purchased specially by Barnard College or the Avery Art & Architecture Library.

Reference Help

Dictionaries and other critical reference materials are shelved in the main reading room, and located by call number.  Some duplicate reference materials are also available for use with the Tibetan Pecha Collection on the 100-level.  

If you need help locating materials in the C.V. Starr East Asian Library or elsewhere on campus, please contact the Tibetan Studies Librarian, Lauran Hartley (; 212-854-9875).


Tibetan Studies Librarian
Dr. Lauran R. Hartley
304M Kent Hall
(212) 854-9875