Using the Tibetan Collection

Searching catalogs: Finding Tibetan titles in CLIO

To find bibliographic information on Tibetan materials, search CLIO using the new Wylie-based ALA-LC Tibetan Romanization table:

When searching CLIO for a topic, try various keyword searches using both romanized Tibetan terms and English terms.


WYLIE UPGRADE IN CLIO, as of August 2016!

In 2015, the Library of Congress officially approved a new Tibetan Romanization Table, which accords with the Wylie system instead of using diacritics for Tibetan letters. OCLC WorldCat quickly upgrade dmore than 22,000 bibliographic records, but each university needs to upgrade its local database separately.

In August 2016, the Columbia University Libraries catalog was updated to reflect the new Wylie-compatible romanization system. Readers may now search for Tibetan titles in CLIO using Wylie transliteration. 

Try a Wylie Search in CLIO or WorldCat now.

This means that instead of using diacritics, you can search the following letters using Wylie romanization.   

ང་ = nga
ཉ་ = nya
ཞ་ = zha
ཤ་ = sha

For more details, keep reading...


In May 2015, the Library of Congress revised its Tibetan romanization chart to accord with the Wylie transliteration system. 

Revised ALA-LC Tibetan Romanization table:

In WorldCat (and now in CLIO), you will see the fruits of this revision in directly converted bibliographic 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.)

In August 2016, Columbia University Libraries converted the legacy records in its local catalog.  If other schools also wish to upgrade their local database and are interested in the specifications and procedures used at Columbia, please contact the Tibetan Studies Librarian, Lauran Hartley (

While titles for some legacy records for Tibetan-language materials (especially early publications from India) necessarily retain the previous romanization (which uses diacritics), these records can still be retrieved with a Wylie search. However, many authorized forms of authors and subject-headings still use the previous romanization. These will change after the Library of Congress updates its authority file.  All new bibliographic and authority records are being added in Wylie.

In summary, a search in Wylie will retrieve all or the large majority of due results.  However, to be absolutely sure, you may also wish to perform a second search using the old romanization.  For this, you simply drop the “g” , the “y” ,  the “s” and the “h” from these four letter combinations: nga (search na); nya (search na); zha (search za); and sha (search sa).  Again, this is only if you wish to do a second search, to be sure that your results are exhaustive.


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:

Keyword = "Rnying ma"

Keyword = Nyingma

Keyword = Nyingmapa

Subject = rnin ma pa

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 are 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).

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Tibetan Studies Librarian
Kristina Dy-Liacco
304M Kent Hall
(212) 854-9875