The C.V. Starr East Asian Library houses more than one million titles in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and western languages. Its unparalleled Tibetan Studies Collection and sustained commitment to Tibetan librarianship is testimony to Columbia’s position at the heart of modern Tibetan studies in North America.

The origins of the Tibetan Studies Collection can be traced to the late 1960s when the university first began receiving Tibetan books and serials through a program administered by the Library of Congress. This established Columbia as one of the first universities in North America with a sizable Tibetan collection. In 1998, Columbia University approved funding to routinely purchase Tibetan-language materials for the East Asian Library and to hire the first Tibetan language bibliographic assistant.

In addition to its Tibetan studies materials in Chinese and western languages, the Starr Library now holds more Tibetan-language titles than any other academic research library and comprises the most comprehensive collection in North America. Its holdings include:

  • Tibetan-language monographs: 14,000+ titles
  • Tibetan-language periodicals:  170+ titles
  • Archival collections:  233 linear feet
  • Audio-visual materials: 2,000+
  • Digitized oral-history interviews: 65
  • Tibetan-language electronic books: 16,000+ volumes 
  • Tibetan-language rare scrolls: 15
  • The Library acquires Tibetan-language print and manuscript materials at a rate of approximately 900 new volumes per year.

Tibet-related materials are also housed at some of the 20 other libraries at Columbia University, including missionary-related holdings at the Burke Library, several early manuscripts in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and art and material culture objects in the Art Properties collection of Avery Art Library. Additionally, Columbia University Libraries has digitally preserved many rare titles, including nearly the full run of the Tibet Mirror newspaper (published from 1927 to 1963), and several hundred archival and audio-visual materials.

The development of the Tibetan Studies Collection has been led since January 2007 by Dr. Lauran Hartley. As a full-time Tibetan Studies Librarian, Dr. Hartley has leveraged her position to dramatically widen the scope of Tibetan studies acquisitions and librarianship for the benefit of Columbia University and the international community.

Interior of Starr Library

In 2013, the Henry Luce Foundation awarded $300,000 to Columbia University Libraries/Information Services to fund the Tibetan Studies Librarian position at the C.V. Starr East Asian Library until permanent funds could be secured. In 2017, with funding from the Starr Endowment and other university support, the position became permanent. Dr. Hartley remains the only full-time dedicated professional Tibetan Studies Librarian at any North American university. The full-time Bibliographic Assistant position, now held by Lobsang Dondrup, has also been retained. 

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