Michigan State University

Collection Development Policy Statement: Asian Studies

Analysis of the Subject Field

  • A. Asian Studies is an interdisciplinary field which brings together studies of the societies, civilizations, and interrelationships of the Asian nations, focusing on history, the humanities, and the social sciences, as mentioned above. This broad mandate for our collections thus involves many disciplines: history, languages, geography, economics, literature, sociology, politics, international relations, etc. As mentioned above, after periods when MSU programs focused on South Asia and East Asia, all of Asia is now to be the center of university efforts. It is worth noting that three of the Asian nations (China, Japan, and India) are perennially among the top ten publishing nations in the world every year, and our modest collecting effort can only bring a fraction of this material to us. Again, the criterion for selection is the specific needs of MSU faculty and students, with some consideration for the Michigan public. One point to mention: while there are unifying factors (e.g., geography as seen from the U.S.) which make the entire continent of Asia a single unit for scholarly purposes, there are profound differences between regions, nations, and even localities. Most of the generalizations below refer to the China-Japan-Korea nexus or to the Indian-South Asian.

    History is a salient factor in every aspect of life in Asia, even more so than in other parts of the world, because of the long course of civilization(s) in the area. The work of two of the MSU historians of East Asia is oriented to the 20th century, while the third historian ranges freely through history for her work. Vernacular materials in Chinese and Japanese are essentially timeless and can be used as permanent research resources for history, language, literature, linguistics, and social science studies of all kinds, but collection should focus chiefly on the recent and contemporary periods. For South Asia, the colonial period (1750-1950) is of some interest, but collecting should focus on current affairs, with a heavy bias toward material useful for international development. There is no need for extensive resources enabling a wide range of dissertation research, but there should be enough primary material from the major Asian areas to give graduate students proper opportunities for identifying dissertation research, as well as for supporting faculty research in specified areas. Our approval plans can bring us some of the needed secondary material in English, but the plans bring in little or no material published in Asia, and so must be supplemented by extensive firm ordering from local dealers and publishers, and by buying trips.

    Materials in Chinese and Japanese need to be collected because 1) vernacular works form the primary sources for researchers at all levels; 2) they may represent or invite research and teaching avenues not available in Western languages; 3) translations may not exist, even for important works. (Note: cataloging in Chinese and Japanese characters grows more imperative every year, since eventually transliterations into romanized script will not be used by bibliographic utilities). Some material from the Chinese heritage appears as multivolume collectanea. Approval plans for these materials are not available or useful, and firm ordering requires extensive “mining” of catalogs, development of dealer and publisher contacts, and periodic buying trips.
  • B. Geography

    The area(s) included in the study of Asia described here are East Asia (including Mongolia), South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australasia and the Pacific Islands (excluding Hawaii). Parts of Asia west of Pakistan are excluded. See the appended list of collection levels.

  • C. Format

    Most collecting will be done in the traditional paper formats and newer electronic formats, preferably Web-based. Some recourse may be made to microforms. Feature films may be collected as needed.

  • D. Dates

    As noted above, while most collecting will focus on modern and contemporary materials, some material from past eras is desirable. Retrospective selection of “fill-in” material for serials and collectanea should be undertaken.

Michigan State University