May is recognized as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It’s a time to celebrate these communities and learn about their diverse cultures and traditions. To delve deeper, I visited the East Asian Library housed at the University of Minnesota’s Wilson Library.
East Asian Studies librarian, Shuqi Ye, was my guide. Ye works directly with Japanese, Chinese, and Korean texts and bodies of knowledge. She also serves as the liaison librarian for the Asian and Middle Eastern departments. Born and raised in China, Ye obtained her undergraduate and master's degrees in Chinese language and literature before relocating to the United States to attend the University of Washington. There, she pursued her master's degree in Library Information Science (MLIS). Ye’s passion for Chinese bibliography and her desire to enhance access to knowledge and information outside of East Asia motivated her to become a librarian. Her long-term goal is to engage with rare book collections and further expand her expertise in East Asian studies and literature.
The East Asian collection at Wilson Library is one of only 50 such collections in North America. The University of Minnesota’s Department of East Asian Language and Literature was established in 1949 by Richard Mather, a professor of Chinese. The development of the East Asian collection gained momentum with the arrival of Alfred Kaiming Chiu. Chun-Jo Liu, a visiting professor for the department, invited Kaiming to contribute to the development of the East Asian collection. Kaiming advocated for dedicated space and resources to facilitate better access to knowledge. As a result, the East Asian Library was officially established in 1965 and has resided in Wilson Library since 1968.
This remarkable collection provides access to a diverse range of texts and materials covering various topics related to East Asian countries, including history, literature, and more. The collection includes a plethora of novels for leisure reading, as well as newsletters. These resources are directly acquired from East Asian countries, and preserved in their original languages to prevent the loss of information that results from translation. Additionally, the library houses an extensive collection of East Asian films, documentaries, Japanese manga, and anime. Language learning materials are also available to support those interested in studying Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. Moreover, the library offers access to a multitude of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese databases with English interfaces, along with digital projects dedicated to digitizing and cataloging art and historical photographs.
The East Asian Library provides patrons with access to an incredibly diverse selection of materials that may not be readily available elsewhere in their most authentic forms. Shuqi is readily available to assist visitors in navigating the collection and answering any inquiries they may have. Whether you are conducting research, or simply have an interest in East Asian literature and materials, this collection is open to all. Be sure to visit the East Asian collections located in room S-75 in Wilson Library and stay updated by following the East Asian Library News Blog, where you can find information on events, books, news, and networking opportunities.
If you happen to visit, you might just find me perusing the manga section, Japanese language instruction book in hand.