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Using the Asian reading room

Anyone 16 years or older may come in and use the Asian reading room. To make the best use of your time, it is a good idea to plan your visit in advance. Here is a list of things to help you prepare:


Before your visit

  • Search the LC Online Catalog for materials you are interested in. Read more for tips on keywords and searching in Asian language scripts.
  • Request Asian reading room materials using the Ask a Librarian link 3-5 days before your library visit. In the “Question” section, include the LCCN Permalinks of the requested items. These are found in an item’s record in the catalog. Pay attention to the “Where to Request” field in a record. If other reading rooms are listed other than Asian reading room you need to request those materials in the reading rooms specified. While you can always request items anytime in the Asian reading room, requesting in advance will help you save time or another trip – items stored off site (with a call number suffix “FT MEADE” indicated in “Request in” section of the record) may take up to 24 hours to be delivered to the reading room.
  • Contact the Asian Division prior to your visit if you want to request any rare materials. More on requesting and using Asian rare materials.
  • Bring a USB drive for scanning or saving photographs of collection materials. A high-resolution overhead book scanner is available in the library free of charge. Laptops and smart devices can be used to access on-site only subscription databases when such devices are connected to the Library of Congress free Wi-Fi network, available in all reading rooms.
  • Check out how to get to the library here.
  • Remember to bring a government issued photo ID to get your Reader Identification Card.

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Upon arrival at the Library of Congress

  • Get a Reader Identification Card in the Thomas Jefferson Building, LJ-139. You need to bring a government issued photo ID, and a card will be issued in person within minutes
  • Check your belongings in a Library cloakroom in either Jefferson or Madison Building and bring only materials essential to research into the reading room. Cloakroom locations and a list of materials to be brought into the reading room are found here.

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In the Asian Reading Room

  • Sign in at the reference desk in the Asian reading room (Jefferson Building, LJ-150) and show a Reader Identification Card.
  • To request materials, fill out a request slip, one per title, at the Asian reading room reference desk if you have not requested materials prior to your visit. Include the LCCN Permalinks of the requested items. These are found in an item’s record in the LC online Catalog. Asian language materials housed on campus will be delivered to the reading room in 20-40 minutes. Delivering off-site materials (with a call number suffix “FT MEADE” indicated in “Request in” section of the record) will take up to 24 hours and you will need to come back to view materials.  Also interested in English language materials on Asia? Here is how to request.
  • Use Asian language materials only in the Asian reading room. Special arrangement can be made to use Asian collection materials in the Main reading room with a librarian only when the Asian reading room is closed on Saturday 8:30am-5:00pm, and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 5:00pm-9:00pm. Databases are accessible only on the LC campus, and all library materials can only be used on site.
  • Digital microfilm reader and high resolution overhead scanner are available in the Asian reading room. Printing and photocopying is also available with a fee. Read more on making paper or digital copies.

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  • Searching in Asian language scripts

    • Try keyword searches if you do not have specific title or author information for the resources you are looking for. Consulting books and articles at your local library before you start your research in the Asian Division is often the best way to find key names, dates, places, and events. Alternatively, you can find Subject Headings listed in any item’s record in the catalog. Subject Headings are predefined “controlled vocabulary” words assigned to describe the content of each item in an online catalog or database. They can be combined to form a phrase with established rules. You must know the exact controlled vocabulary terms and phrase. They can be used to find relevant items on the same topic.
    • Enter keywords not only in Asian language scripts, but also in Romanization when searching the LC Online Catalog. This is because not all the records in the catalog have original language script segments. If you only use Asian language scripts, you will miss many records, especially older records converted to the Online Catalog prior to the 1980s. If you are not familiar with how to Romanize a foreign language/script, please see the American Library Association-Library of Congress Romanization Tables
    • Open an item’s record and click on “LC Classification”. This will show you the other items next to it on the shelf – many of which will be about same or similar topics.

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  • Requesting non-Asian language materials

    Most English language materials on Asia can be requested in person in the Main reading room.

    • You can also request online for materials to be used in the Main reading room, but you need a Reader Identification Card and a temporary password available either in the Main or Science and Business reading rooms. For more information visit:
    • English materials can be requested in the Asian reading room, by filling out a slip, one per title, at the reference desk. However, it takes 2 – 3 hours for English materials housed on campus to be delivered to the Asian reading room, whereas requesting in the main reading room has a 20-40 minute delivery time.

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  • Making paper or digital copies

    • For materials too old or fragile for photocopying, digital cameras or smart phones may be used for making reference copies. You need to turn off the camera’s flash due to preservation concerns. Lighting conditions in our reading room do not make it possible to get publication quality images. No tripod or external lights are allowed in the reading room.
    • If you will need quality copies, you can purchase them through the Library's Duplication Services. Turnaround time to receive the copies is 2-3 weeks for most materials, but can take as long as 1-2 months for duplicate reels of existing microfilm and up to 6-12 months for microfilm positives of original materials.
    • Photocopying and printing is available at the reading room’s multi-functional workstation where you can use your credit card to pay. You may also purchase a copy card with cash in a copy card kiosk. There are five copy card kiosks in the following location: LJ-100 main reading room photocopy center (Jefferson Building), Madison Building lobby, LM-133 newspaper & current periodicals reading room (Madison Building), LM-242 Law Library and LA-508 science, technology and business reading room (Adams Building). Remember to consult the information on copyright restrictions below.
    • Keep in mind that the principles of fair use apply when printing or downloading articles or e-books from electronic databases. Please review the information on Responsible Use of Electronic Resources at the Library of Congress.
    • In some cases, because of rights considerations, higher resolution images or digitally available books display only when you are in Library of Congress buildings using the Library of Congress equipment or a wireless connection (you agree, in using these, that you are responsible for rights assessment).
    • Some USB drives do not work well in our public workstations, so a laptop with wireless capability is the most reliable means for taking home digital images. Using the Library of Congress wireless connection in any of the Library of Congress buildings enables you to download these larger files directly to your laptop.
    • Keep in mind copyright and other restrictions associated with the collections. If you are planning to photocopy, download, publish, or distribute copies of items or images from our collections, be prepared to do some research or risk assessment. The Library of Congress does not hold rights to items in the collections and therefore, we are not in a position to grant or deny permission to use them. Tips for assessing risks, including the duration of copyright, can be found on the website for the US Copyright Office.


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  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  April 19, 2018
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