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South Asian Collection: Asian Collections at the Library of Congress


The Asian Division's South Asian collection contains more than 307,000 titles of books, including monographs, multivolume sets, and pamphlets, in Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu and many more South Asian languages. All of these books are accessible in the Asian Reading Room. While books covering virtually every subject are found in the collection, the majority are in the fields of literature, religion, philosophy, history, and politics. The collection's comprehensiveness is due in large part to the Library's overseas acquisition offices in New Delhi and Islamabad.

Languages in the South Asian Book Collection

One strength of the collection is its linguistic diversity, with books in approximately 100 South Asian languages and dialects. The chart below shows the breakdown of the South Asian collection's book titles by language. The category “other languages” includes Nepali, Oriya, Sinhalese, Sindhi, Assamese, Rajasthani, Konkani, Newari, Maithili, Manipuri, and many others.

Image with pie chart in color showing percentages of books by language in the South Asian collection. There are 307,000 books in South Asian languages.
Chart showing the distribution of book titles by language in the Asian Division's South Asian collection, as of July 2021.
Item Availability section of the online catalog record.

Please note that English-language books on all South Asian topics are part of the Library’s general collections and are available in the Main Reading Room, while some books on specialized subjects, like law and music, may be available in other reading rooms, like the Law Library and the Performing Arts Reading Room. To find out where certain items are accessible, please see the "Item Availability" section at the bottom of a bibliographic record in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. The phrase "Jefferson or Adams Building Reading Rooms" will indicate that the item is accessible in the Main Reading Room, as in the example shown to the right.

Special South Asian Book Collections

The Asian Reading Room is now the point of access for archival copies of the Franklin Book Program’s Bengali (Bangla) and Urdu publications.

As a private non-profit corporation, the Franklin Book Program was a joint-venture between the American Library Association’s International Relations Committee and publishers from the American Book Publishers Council Foreign Trade Committee. It was established in 1952 and continued until 1978. The purpose of the program was to assist more than a dozen countries, including those in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, with the publishing and distribution of books and other educational materials.

Many of these publications are translations of English works into vernacular languages. Over the course of its two decades, the program facilitated the publication of approximately 3,000 works in Arabic, Armenian, Bengali (Bangla), Chinese, Hausa, Igbo, Indonesian, Malay, Persian, Portuguese, Pushtu, Spanish, Urdu, and Yoruba. Finding aids for publications in some languages are available online. Archival copies of the program’s publications are located in various reading rooms at the Library of Congress. Please use Ask a Librarian to contact staff with questions about the collection.

To give a sense of the types of translated works produced by the Franklin Book Program, below is a representative sample of the program’s Urdu publications. Links to titles of these books will retrieve fuller bibliographic information from the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

The Microfilming of Indian Publications Project (MIPP) began in 1990 as a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the National Library of India to preserve and make available the books comprising the National Bibliography of Indian Literature: 1901-1953. To date, approximately 29,000 titles have been microfilmed. Copies of the microfilm are located at the Library of Congress and the Center for Research Libraries External. Learn more about the NBIL on the University of Chicago's Digital South Asia Library website,External where you can also search the complete bibliography External and view the list of participating libraries in this project.External

Below is a representative sample of some books in the MIPP collection. Links to titles of books will retrieve fuller bibliographic information from the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

The South Asia Ephemera Collection consists of many themed collections of smaller or shorter works, like pamphlets and booklets, on microfiche. Examples of themes include Ecology and Environment in Bangladesh and Human Rights in Sri Lanka. Some are multi-part collections (e.g., Hindu Nationalist Literature, Part 8). While bibliographic records do not have itemized descriptions of each collection, there is an index on microfiche with each collection.

Below is a representative sample of materials in the South Asia Ephemera Collection. Links to titles of collections will retrieve fuller bibliographic information from the Library of Congress Online Catalog. If you are interested in particular collection or part, please contact the South Asia reference librarians for more information.

Another strength of the South Asian collection is the historical acquisition of smaller and shorter monographs, including booklets, pamphlets, and other ephemera. There are about 150 pamphlet collections of print materials organized by topic, each with its own number of items.

Below is a list of all pamphlet collections, some of which have itemized information about their contents. Links to the titles of the pamphlet collections will retrieve fuller bibliographic information from the Library of Congress Online Catalog.