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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. For a quick overview, you can consult our Using the Asian Reading Room video. Please note this video does not cover procedures for obtaining a Reader Identification Card.

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.
  • If you already have a Library of Congress Reader Identification Card and an online account, you can request Asian Reading Room materials online.
  • If you are a first time visitor, remember to bring a government issued photo ID, such as a passport or driver’s license, in order to obtain your Reader Identification Card when you come to the Library.
  • Use the Ask a Librarian to ask any questions you have about your visit or about a collection item.
  • Contact the Asian Division prior to your visit if you would like to request any rare materials, which are designated as “Rare Book or Manuscript” in the field labelled “Type of Material” or include the note “Rare Books - Asian Reading Room” in the “Request in” section of the record. More on requesting and using Asian rare materials.
  • Bring a USB drive to save scanned images. A high-resolution overhead book scanner is available in the library free of charge, and microform viewing stations allow for the scanning of microfilm and microfiche materials. Digital cameras may also be used to photograph collection materials, but flash photography is not permitted.
  • Laptops and smart devices can be used to access onsite only subscription databases when connected to the free LOCGUEST Wi-Fi network, which is available in all reading rooms. Public computer terminals are also available.
  • Check out how to get to the library.

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Upon arrival at the Library of Congress

  • Check your belongings in a Library cloakroom in either the Jefferson or Madison Building and bring only materials essential to research into the reading room. Cloakroom locations and a list of materials that can be brought into the reading room are found here.
  • 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.

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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 your Reader Identification Card to the staff member at the desk.
  • Request items from the online catalog after setting up your online account. Staff at the reference desk can provide you with a temporary password for your initial login. You may also request a newly generated password by selecting the “Forgot your password?” link on the Account Login page. For more information visit:
  • Please pay attention to the “Where to Request” field in an item’s online record. If a reading room other than Asian Reading Room is listed, you need to request that item from the reading room specified.
  • While you can always request items in the Asian Reading Room before or during your visit, submitting requests in advance will help you save time or even an additional trip to the Library. For example, items stored off site may take up to 24 hours to be delivered to the reading room. Offsite items include the note “STORED OFFSITE” in the “Request in” section of the record and feature a call number suffix of “FT MEADE”, “CABIN BRANCH”, or “LANDOVR”.
  • Items will be held at the temporary hold desk in the Asian Reading Room for up to 7 days after they have been retrieved.
  • Some items may not be available for request online. In this case, you can also fill out and submit a request slip, one per title, at the Asian Reading Room reference. Include the Romanized title, LCCN, call number, and volume or issue number and date (if needed) 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 30-60 minutes. Deliver of offsite materials can take up to 24 hours and may require a return trip to view materials. Also interested in English-language materials on Asia? Check here for instructions on how to request English and other European-language items from the Asian Reading Room.
  • All Library of congress materials are for onsite use only. Additionally, use of Asian Division materials is limited to the Asian Reading Room. However, special arrangements can be made to use Asian Division materials in the Main Reading Room during times when the Asian Reading Room is closed, including Saturday 8:30am-5:00pm, and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 5:00pm-9:00pm. Please speak with the relevant subject librarian to make these special arrangements. Databases are accessible only on the LC campus.
  • 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

    • You can request materials for use in the Main Reading Room through the online catalog.
    • 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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  July 18, 2019
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