Research Reading Rooms
The Research Reading Rooms on the 5th and 6th floors of Butler Library provide access to quiet study space and thematic or regionally focused collections for advanced research. The collections in these spaces are non-circulating. Please note that only the Ancient & Medieval Studies and Papyrology & Epigraphy Reading Rooms are currently available for use by advance appointment. All other reading rooms are closed until further notice.
This non-circulating collection on African history and the humanities is located on the 6th floor of Butler Library, opposite the elevators on the east side of the building. The collection contains an array of selected African studies reference titles standing alongside hundreds of great works of African literature, collected historical documents from Africa, classic ethnographies and travellers' accounts, written transcriptions of Africa's oral heritage—history, epic poetry, folktales, songs, and proverbs—and major contributions in the interpretation of Africa's past and present and of the African diasporas' engagement with the continent. Read more about this collection here.
The American History and Literature Reading Room, located on the fifth floor of Butler Library, provides researchers with a core collection of primary and secondary source materials for the region now known as the United States. These range in coverage from pre-colonial times up to the recent past. Materials were chosen for their relevance to advanced study. Books from the library of noted scholar and teacher of American History Alan Edward Heimert (MA, Columbia 1950) constitute an important component of the collection.
The Ancient and Medieval Studies Reading Room, located on the sixth floor of Butler Library, provides researchers with an extensive selection of primary texts as well as commentaries, concordances and reference works useful in study of these texts. The collection is not comprehensive. The research collections supporting these fields remain primarily in the Butler Stacks, but every effort is made to provide a reading room environment that is conducive to work in these fields.
The Comparative Literature & Society Reading Room, located on the 6th floor of Butler Library, features more than 2,000 volumes that support the study of literature and cultural expression across national, linguistic, and disciplinary boundaries. From canonical texts in critical theory and literary analysis to reference works like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks, this non-circulating collection enables scholars to instantly consult the textual output of the world's major thinkers and theorists. This reading room is a quiet space for contemplation and writing, a distillation of the exhaustive collection available in the Butler Stacks.
The Early Modern/Modern Europe Reading Room can be found on the 5th floor of Butler Library. The collection comprises primary source anthologies, general reference works, specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias, and handbooks for historians. The 1,500 volumes in this reading room enable scholars to explore the history, culture, and politics of Western Europe from the Renaissance to the 20th century. The collection does not circulate and is intended to facilitate on-site reading, writing, and reflection on the European story, along with the collections in other reading rooms and in the Butler Stacks.
Named in memory of Edward W. Said (1935-2003), an internationally renowned Palestinian-American academic, author, educator, public intellectual, and a member of Columbia’s faculty from 1963-2003, the Edward Said Reading Room houses a collection of around 2,000 volumes from Said’s personal library. The collection reflects Said’s wide-ranging and eclectic interests, and spans classical literature, music, fine arts, politics, religion, and history. Edward Said’s papers are housed at RBML.
The Islamic Studies Reading Room contains some 4,500 non-circulating items on various facets of Islam and Islamic Studies. This core non-circulating collection features sourcebooks and introductions to Islam, in addition to reference texts on Islam and Islamic societies and cultures. Canonical classical and secondary works on topics related to Islam are also available here, e.g. Qur’anic exegesis and commentary (Tafsir), Hadith and Sunna, Islamic Historiography, Islamic Law, Islamic science and philosophy, and Sufism. The materials are mostly in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu as well as in English: there are also some works in German and French. Read more about this collection here.
The Latin American Studies Room is a non-circulating collection on the 5th floor located in front of the east elevators. The collection includes reference works (including dictionaries and encyclopedias), published anthologies of historical documents and canonical texts frequently used in reading lists.
The Moral and Political Theory Reading Room, located on the fifth floor of Butler Library, provides researchers with a core collection of primary and secondary source materials in the history of Western philosophy, with a particular emphasis on the study of moral and political philosophy, ethics, religion, law, and related fields of theory. The collection ranges in coverage from the ancient period up to the recent past, though the main emphasis is on thinkers and movements from the Enlightenment to the present. Most materials are in English, but some are in other European languages.
The Papyrology and Epigraphy Reading Room, on the sixth floor of Butler Library, offers primary source collections, journals, and important secondary resources of use to papyrologists and epigraphists in the University's Classics and Ancient History Departments.
The South Asian Studies reading room is a non-circulating collection that includes more than 1500 items, with emphasis on major reference works (including dictionaries and encyclopedias), primary source publications, collected works of important authors, and key texts on South Asian history, literature, culture, and society. The primary focus of the collection is on the arts, humanities, history, literature, linguistics and religion.