Quick Links

East Asian studies collection policy

Liaison librarian

  • Macy [dot] Zheng [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email) 514-398-5550

2012 revision

History of the Collection

The East Asian Studies collection includes publications and other materials on China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea in CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) scripts or in western languages.

McGill's present holdings in Chinese, unlike so many of its other collections, do not reflect a century and a half's collection patterns (except for bibliographical titles and some other reference materials which had been purchased from McGill funds and consequently retained). The Gest Chinese Library’s 75,000 volumes of books at McGill were sent to Princeton University in 1937. It was only in the 1970s that a concerted effort to build resources for Chinese history was begun. In the 1980's, the collection was enriched through use of special funds which supported the purchase of retrospective materials in English and Chinese (the latter consisting largely of microfilmed newspapers and sets). A substantial donation of Chinese books by the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China in 1989 enhanced the collection as did a very important gift from the National Palace Museum of Taiwan, the Si ku quan shu zhen ben.

The Japanese collections, on the other hand, do reflect interests in Japan over the past 150 years and are comparatively strong in retrospective material on, in particular, Japanese theatre, traditional poetry and religion and travel. Since 1988 annual proposals for Japanese-language materials by the Department of East Asian studies on behalf of the libraries have been rewarded by the Japan Foundation. Special funds have been directed to the purchase of translations of literary works and for secondary materials, largely university press publications, covering the breadth of Japanese culture, but concentrating particularly on Japanese literature and history.

Collection Development in the 1990's

The top priority in the development of the East Asian Studies collection is the maintenance of a solid basic collection to support the undergraduate curriculum. In conjunction with the cyclical review of the Centre for East Asian Studies and the Department of East Asian Literature and Languages, an external evaluator reviewed McGill East Asian resources in September 1993. In 1998, funds from the Wong donation allowed delivery of a terminal which can handle Chinese, Japanese and Koran characters, and tests were run on RLIN and OCLC to provide access by CJK scripts. Vernacular materials are acquired, as funds and opportunities permit, to support faculty research. A special grant of $50,000 was provided by the Director of Libraries in the 1994-1995 budget year and $20,000 more recently for the strengthening of the collection. $25,000, was spent over 5 years (Trigg donation), $30,000 from the Wong donation was spent on major Chinese sets. Later gifts include $50,000 for East Asian Art History, and $150,000 from the Lee Foundation.

Current Collection Development

During recent years several hundred video materials have been acquired thanks to the AUS Library Improvement funding. These materials are divided into 3 categories: Japanese feature films, Japanese animations and Chinese feature / documentary films. In addition, our collections in Chinese history, archeology, women studies, art and literature have been greatly enlarged with the support from gifts such as SSMU, Gretta Chambers, Senator Poy, Dr. Tan Shey, Dr. Arthur Law, and gifts from others. For Japanese materials, we have purchased some large sets in Japanese literature and Japanese cinema. We have also purchased some French translations of famous Japanese writings, and some new Manga titles.

In 2008, McGill received the first installment of a three-year grant of $430,000 from the Henry T. Luce Foundation of New York. The amount allocated to the Library from this grant is $50,000 for the 2008-2009 academic year and $20,000 in each of the next two years. The funds will be used for the acquisition of East Asian archaeology-related materials in support of the new joint appointment in Chinese archaeology to be established in the Departments of East Asian Studies and Anthropology.

In 2010, McGill received Mitsui Grant (thanks to the Japanese faculty’s effort to apply for the grant) to support Japanese language teaching at McGill.

Academic Programs and Liaison

At the undergraduate level, the Department of East Asian Studies offers major, honours, joint honours and minor degrees from a range of language, literature and culture courses as well as courses offered in Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, Management, Political Science, Religious Studies and Sociology. At the graduate studies level, the MA and the Ph.D. are offered. Summer language courses are offered regularly.

McGill Resources

The Humanities and Social Sciences Library in the McLennan/Redpath Building complex is the major location for the University's East Asian Studies collection. Materials in the Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages are shelved separately on the 2nd floor. In addition the following McGill collections hold material of interest:

The Reference Department has a basic collection of reference works on Asia as well as a rich array of bibliographies and other reference works required for research. The Department maintains Subject Web Pages for East Asian Studies.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections includes some 400 volumes of interest to the study of the Orient; however most of it is uncatalogued. There are some interesting 19th century Japanese maps, prints (Hokusai inter alia), manga, and other pictorial materials.

The Audio-visual collection has acquired a good basic video collection of Japanese and Chinese cinema.

The Government Documents Department has a wealth of material relating to East Asia in its extensive holdings of United Nations, C.I.A., British and Australian official documents and FBIS Daily Reports. Such Chinese and Japanese government publications as are held are largely housed in the general stacks if in non-CJK languages or in the 2nd floor CJK collection, if in the vernacular.

Birks Reading Room houses material, primarily in English, on eastern religions of interest to students of Chinese and Japanese cultures, collected at an instructional support level (2-3a).

Howard Ross Management Library collects material on business practices in Asia and cross-cultural management.

Blackader-Lauterman Library of Architecture and Art collects non-vernacular publications concerning East Asian Art, Architecture and Urban Planning. Its collection has been enriched by gifts over many years and includes considerable material of scholarly interest, especially Japanese Art and Architecture.

Marvin Duchow Music Library includes some basic reference material, sound-recordings and performance videos.

Law Library collects at a basic level including material such as legal codes and legislation relating to trade and commerce.

The Language Laboratory of the Faculty of Arts (AMLF) complements courses given in the Faculty of Arts.

Regional Resources

The Centre d'études de l'Asie de l'Est at the Université de Montréal maintains a documentation centre which is part of the University Library system and therefore it does participate in co-operative reporting of holdings. The collection is strong in both Japanese and Chinese materials and the Centre has staff fluent in the vernacular.

Consortia and Document Delivery

The Center for Research Libraries in Chicago, a consortium to which McGill belongs, is a rich resource for Chinese, Japanese and Korean studies. A 24-page brochure: East Asian Materials available in the Library and on the CRLWeb site.

Of particular note are the great microfilm and reprint series of periodicals, government publications, newspapers, press summaries and clipping files, as well as archival resources. The Center is also a source for dissertations submitted to universities outside Canada and the United States. Many materials not owned by the McGill Libraries may be borrowed free of charge from the Central Document Delivery Service.

General Collection Guidelines

Languages: English, Chinese and Japanese predominate while works published in other languages, primarily French and German are purchased as funds allow. Some Korean material is acquired, largely as gifts.

Chronological Coverage: All periods are covered: there is no specific concentration on any epoch.

Geographical Coverage: China is the first priority, Japan is the second priority, and Korea is third priority.

Date of Publication: Emphasis is on current publications. Whenever possible, retrospective titles are purchased to upgrade specific areas of the collection. Replacements for important books that have deteriorated or disappeared are regularly sought.

Collection Levels Definitions are derived from the American Library Association's Guide for Written Collection Policy Statements, 2nd. ed.,1996.


Languages and Linguistics    
    Chinese 2  
   Japanese 2  
   Korean Language 2  
   Chinese. All periods, all genres including film 3+ 4
   Japanese. All periods, all genres including film 3+ 4
   Korean. All periods, all genres including film 2  
   Chinese and Japanese history. Balanced coverage for all periods. 3a 4+
   Korean history. Basic reference level only. 2 3a

Other Subjects

Anthropology: Collected by Anthropology librarian at 3a level.

Art, Architecture and Urban Planning in East Asia are collected at the 3a and 4 level.

Communications: Collected by Communications librarian at 2 level.

Economics: Collected by Economics librarian at 3a level.

Geography: Collected by Geography librarian at 2 level.

Philosophy & Religion: East Asian Philosophy and Religion are collected by Religious Studies at the 2 level with the exception of Buddhism which is collected at the 3b and 4 level.

Political Science: Collected by the Political Science librarian at the 3a and 3b level.

Sociology: Collected by the Sociology librarian at the 3a and 3b level.

Coordination and Cooperation

McLennan Reference Department: Recommendations for the purchase of reference works are forwarded to the Reference Department.

Government Documents: Government documents and statistical materials are collected in cooperation with the Government Documents Department.

Literature: East Asian literatures translated from Chinese or Japanese into English are of great interest for comparative literature and therefore consultation with the English librarian takes place on an ongoing basis.

Religion: The East Asian librarian regularly recommends the purchase of books concerning oriental religions to the Religious Studies librarian in order to ensure that the appropriate background literature for literary and historical studies is available.

The Management, Law, Education, and Art and Architecture libraries all are increasingly broadening their perspectives to include East Asia as a result of growing curricular and research interests on the part of faculty. The East Asian librarian plays an active role in suggesting English language publications of outstanding interest and quality to the librarians of these libraries.

Priorities for Further Development are closely tied to the Department of East Asian Studies fund-raising initiatives. A long list of CJK sets, addressing broad interests in the humanities and social sciences, was developed in consultation with faculty and awaits funding.

Questions? Ask Us!  Email • Chat • Phone            Send feedback    Report a problem