It is the aim of the Library to provide comprehensive collections in South Asia materials in all areas of the Humanities and Social Sciences. This broad-based subject emphasis reflects the strengths of the academic program in South Asia at the University, which has historically been strong in South Asian Languages and Civilizations, Anthropology, History, and within the Divinity School. The Collection serves the research needs of University of Chicago faculty and students. Beyond this, it also serves a wider research community in the U.S. and abroad.
The area of geographical emphasis is the South Asian region (including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Maldives); collection in this area is comprehensive. The Library collects materials in all languages of the Indian Subcontinent, including dialects of the major literary languages, Tribal languages, and English. The collection also includes books about South Asia written in the European languages. In addition, the Library also collects new publications on the subject of Southeast Asia - particularly Southeast Asian Buddhist traditions - supplementing these with special purchases to serve the research needs of University faculty and students working in these areas.
The Library collaborates in South Asia acquisitions with the Center for Research Libraries, which maintains comprehensive holdings of South Asia newspapers and journals acquired by the Library of Congress. This collaboration enables the Library to focus on developing an expansive collection of monographic material.
Types of materials collected include pamphlet literature and ephemera, such as sectarian religious literature; popular erotic literature; literature on the cinema; cookbooks; maps; and radical political literature. The Library also collects materials in a wide range of physical formats, including microform, audio and video on disc and cassette; and electronic journals and databases.
The Library actively acquires the full chronological range of materials for the study of South Asia. A systematic effort is made to fill gaps in the collection through retrospective purchases, particularly in South Asian languages regularly taught in the University. The Library also pursues the acquisition of rare and antiquarian books, with the aid for example of the Library Society.