Rare Books, Special Collections, and Archives

Please note: Effective 9/12/22, Columbia University Alumni and Columbia University Retirees will be able to access all library locations with a valid existing CUID. A new CUID, if needed, can be requested from the Library Information Office during business hours for alumni and the campus ID center for retirees. All alumni and retiree visitors must adhere to the University's COVID-19 policies

The Libraries are still working to broaden visitor access to buildings beyond Butler Library, and we will share more information as it becomes available.


About Our Collection

Columbia University's C.V. Starr East Asian Library owns many rare and unique materials, including rare books, and archives in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Western languages, as well as non-print collections. These non-circulating materials are available for use, by appointment, in our Special Collections Reading Room by both CU students, faculty, and staff, as well as non-affiliates. For more detailed information about the various collections see the following pages:

Chinese Rare Books & Special Collections

Japanese Rare Books & Special Collections

Korean Rare Books & Special Collections

Tibetan Rare Books & Special Collections


Appointment Procedure

  • First-time users will need to first register a SPECIAL COLLECTIONS RESEARCH ACCOUNT
  • Requests for rare and special books and non-print materials should be placed through the request button in CLIO, the online catalog. You will find the request button in the grey sidebar in individual bibliographic records.
  • Requests for archival material should be placed through the Archival Collections Portal.
  • If, for any reason, you have trouble requesting material, please contact us at starr-spec@library.columbia.edu. We will be happy to mediate.
  • To arrange an appointment log in to your account, and click on the Appointments tab. The date feature in the New Requests form does not represent an appointment.
  • Since substantial portions of our Special Collections are stored offsite, we ask that you make your appointment, and place your requests at least one (1) week ahead of your visit to ensure that the required material will be available.
  • Our storage space is limited, so we ask that you do not request more material than you anticipate being able to use during your visit.

On-site Use

To use the Special Collections, Columbia affiliates will need to have a valid Columbia University ID (CUID). Non-affiliates should visit the Library Information Office (LIO) in Butler Library before coming to Starr Library, in order to be issued a temporary access card (present a government-issued photo ID at LIO). For more information on access issues, please refer to the LIO website.

Special Collections material can be used by appointment only, under supervision of a librarian, and only in the Special Collections Reading Room during scheduled hours (see below). Users are asked to pay close attention to follow the below procedures designed to optimize research while protecting and preserving the Special Collections materials.

  • Handle the materials with extreme care; many are fragile. Only pencils and electronic devices (preferred) may be used for note-taking. Electrical outlets and wireless access are available.
  • Pens and indelible markers are NOT permitted. Food and drink are NOT permitted. Cell phone conversations are NOT permitted.



The Preservation & Digital Conversion Division of Columbia University Libraries (CUL) provides high-resolution digital reproductions and original or archival time-based media conversion services for purposes of supporting teaching, research, and other scholarship. Small quantities (no more than 50 pages) of paper photocopies and low-resolution digital reproductions are also provided to our users to support research and scholarship, as staff availability allows, as long as the staff determines that copying will not harm the original document(s) or violate copyright law. Contact us at starr-spec@library.columbia.edu for more information.




Monday and Friday, 2:00-4:00 PM

Tuesday-Thursday, 10:00 AM-12:00 PM AND 2:00-4:00 PM



Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 2:00-4:00 PM

Tuesday and Thursday, 10:00 AM-12:00 PM