C. V. Starr East Asian Library

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C.V. Starr East Asian Library, December 2011
C.V. Starr East Asian Library before renovation

The C.V. Starr East Asian Library is located at 300 Kent Hall, directly across from the campus level entrance to Kent. It is occasionally known as the East Asian Library or simply the Kent Library.

The library houses one of the largest collections of East Asian literature and reference materials in the United States. It currently holds in excess of 810,000 volumes of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Mongol, Manchu, and Western-language materials and over 6,600 periodical titles, and more than 55 newspapers.

Brief history

The library in Kent Hall originally served the law school, which was the first occupant of the building, and the stained glass window on the Amsterdam Avenue side of the building still references legal themes. It was converted into the East Asian library when the law school moved across the street during the 1960s.

The history of the East Asian collection, from the Columbia University Library information page [1]:

The East Asian Library has its origins over one hundred years ago, when a donation to Columbia was made to establish a Department of Chinese. The Trustees approved the addition, and in 1902 Frederick Hirth was appointed the first Professor of Chinese at Columbia, as well as the first curator of the Chinese book collection.

The then President of Columbia University, Seth Low, on receiving this donation, wrote to E. H. Conger, American Minister to Peking, asking for help to build a Chinese library and a Chinese Museum, in addition to the professorship. Li Hung-chang, regarded as prime minister to the Empress Dowager, wrote to Conger on November 3, 1901, four days before Li's death. On behalf of the Empress Dowager, Columbia University was given the 5,044-volume encyclopedia, Qingding Gujin Tushu Jicheng, which was received early in 1902, forming the foundation of the Chinese collection. (Unfortunately, Professor Hirth rebound the encyclopedia in Western style, for ease of handling.)

The Library was renovated in the summer of 2008.

Until surprisingly recently, no swipe access or ID was required to access the library, and it was not infrequently the host of homeless people using the library computers to play games or stare at porn.

The library is open during the Fall 2020 semester, but you need to reserve a seat in advance. The Mezzanine seats offer second-floor views of the library.

Columbia University Libraries
Avery (Architecture & Fine Arts)Business & EconomicsButlerEngineeringGeologyGeoscienceHealth SciencesJournalismLaw SchoolLehman Social SciencesMathematics LibraryMusic & ArtsScience & EngineeringSocial WorkStarr East Asian
Affiliated Libraries
Barnard CollegeBurke (UTS)Jewish TheologicalTeachers College
Special Collections and Programs

Digital Humanities Center (formerly Electronic Text Service) • Digital Social Science CenterOral History Research OfficeRare Book & ManuscriptUniversity Archives