As one of the largest East Asian language collections in North America, the Asia Library provides scholarly resources in various formats to patrons at both U-M and other institutions to support East Asian studies. Located on the 4th floor of Hatcher Graduate Library (North), the Asia Library Reference room houses a collection of encyclopedias, language and subject dictionaries, maps, bibliographies and indexes, and many other essential reference materials in East Asian and western languages.
The Asia Library of the University of Michigan is one of the most comprehensive collections of East Asian materials in North America. As of June, 2012, the Library holds about 785,000 volumes of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean monographs, 2,100 currently received serials, and 80,000 titles of materials in microform. The Library also provides access to a large number of electronic resources in all East Asian languages.
Academic programs with a focus on East Asia started at the University of Michigan in 1936 with the establishment of the Oriental Studies Program (now the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures). The late 1940s and 1950s witnessed a rapid growth of both Chinese and Japanese studies programs at Michigan. In 1947, with the support from the Carnegie Corporation and Rockefeller Foundation, the University established an interdisciplinary Center for Japanese Studies, the very first in the country. The Center for Chinese Studies came into existence in 1961 and received a five-year grant from the Ford Foundation.
A year after the establishment of the Center for Japanese Studies, the University of Michigan Library created a brand new branch called Far Eastern Library. The first decade of development of the collection focused on Japanese resources. In the late 1940s, with the help from the faculty, the Library purchased over 18,000 volumes from a local public library in Shikoku, Japan, which included pre-war Japanese works on all subjects, as well as some rare books. The Chinese collection, though relatively small at the time, included essential primary resources in large sets. In the early 1950s, the Far Eastern Library grew into a 50,000-volume collection, and had its own reading room and stacks. In 1959, the name of the Library was changed to Asia Library. Since the 1960s, thanks to the leadership provided by Yukihisa Suzuki 鈴木幸久 (1961-1969) and Weiying Wan 萬惟英 (1969-2003), Michigan’s Asia Library has remained the largest East Asian collection between the east and west coasts.
During the last ten years of the 20th century, Asia Library entered a new era of development. With the establishment of the Korean Studies Program in 1995 and later the Center for Korean Studies in 2007, the University of Michigan became the nation’s first institution of higher education to have an interdisciplinary center for each of the three East Asian countries. As the academic programs expanded, the Library created a professional librarian’s position for Korean materials at the dawn of the new century. With the support from the Korean Foundation, library administration, and the local Korean community, the Korean language collection began to develop at a full speed.
Another significant change brought by the 1990s was the transition to digital resources. Michigan’s Asia Library was one of the pioneering East Asian collections in providing electronic resources to its users. By the end of the 90s, a large number of CD-ROMs in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean had been acquired by the Library. To make these resources accessible, the Library created the very first East Asian studies computer lab in North America. In April, 1994, the Asia Library also launched its own web site, one of the first multi-language web sites dedicated to East Asian studies.
Entering the 21st century, the Asia Library continues to play a leading role in the development of East Asian collections. The Library’s access to online electronic resources in all three East Asian languages has greatly expanded. Among the institutions that joined the Google Book Project, Michigan was the first to provide large numbers of East Asian books to be digitized. As of June, 2012, more than 80% of Asia Library's print holdings have been digitized, many of which are now also available for reading or searching through Hathi Trust, a shared online digital repository. Although the digital age has also brought unprecedented challenges, the staff of the Asia Library at Michigan is confident that they will continue to provide high-quality services to the East Asian studies community at the University of Michigan and beyond in the years to come.