UW News

February 15, 2024

UW’s Tateuchi East Asian Library celebrates recent renovations, reopening

UW News

man and woman examine old document

Hyokyoung Yi (right), the Tateuchi East Asian Library interim director and the Korean Studies Librarian, examines a document from the library’s vast collection with Chad Westra, a doctoral student in the History Department. The library is hosting a reopening ceremony on Feb. 21.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

While visiting Seattle five years ago for a wedding, Chad Westra toured the University of Washington. He made his way to the third floor of Gowen Hall and discovered the Tateuchi East Asian Library with its sculpted, curved ceiling and bright, big windows. The library was “enchanting.”

“Like wow,” Westra, now a third-year doctoral student in UW’s History Department remembered thinking. “This is an amazing space. I really would love to study here.”

Westra has used the UW’s East Asian library for his doctoral research. He dug into the collection for primary source materials written by a Chinese dissident from the first half of the 20th Century. In the Japan collection, he studied a natural resources map of Manchuria produced before World War II, when the Japanese attempted to colonize parts of mainland China.

“So often, I’ve been looking for primary sources to use or books from 100 years ago,” Westra said. He’d check the internet and expected items to be out of reach, but he needn’t have looked far. “It’s here, which is pretty amazing.”

The Tateuchi East Asian Library is one of North America’s premiere libraries of its kind. But the space on the third floor of Gowen Hall was long in need of a refresh, said Hyokyoung Yi, the library’s interim director and the Korean Studies Librarian. After the library was named in 2020 for Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi, UW alumni whose namesake foundation donated to the library, plans were made to renovate. The library closed for about a year, then reopened quietly last summer and on Wednesday will host a reopening celebration.


The grand reopening ceremony for the Tateuchi East Asian Library is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 21. More information here.


“Thanks to the generosity of the Tateuchi foundation, we’ve been able to make improvements to the library that position these important collections for the next century,” said Simon Neame, dean of UW Libraries. “The renovations welcome visitors, creating a more open feel and comfortable atmosphere. They allow the librarians to highlight objects from the collection, interact with students and faculty, and put the library in a position to adapt and fully utilize new technologies.”

UW Libraries received its first official funding in 1937 for collections in East Asian languages in Suzzallo Library. The library moved to its current location in what was formerly the law library in 1976. Over the decades, the collection has grown to more than 800,000 items, including centuries-old, rare documents from the Ming Dynasty.

library reading room

The Tateuchi East Asian Library will host a reopening ceremony on Feb. 21 to celebrate recent renovations, including a new circulation desk and display cases.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

For the renovation, the Beckmann Reading Room’s entry way was expanded and a new, sweeping, wood-lined circulation desk built. Secure, glass-enclosed display cases allow the librarians to showcase pieces from the vast collections. The card catalog was dismantled and converted into tables, part of a set of new furniture designed to make the library feel more welcoming. In place of a row of cubicles, a long table now provides ample workspaces. And a former office was converted to a community room.

Behind the scenes, some technical services staff have joined the Libraries Cataloguing and Metadata Services (CAMS) and Acquisitions and Rapid Cataloging Services (ARCS) to increase opportunities for cross-training and professional development, but the access services staff and subject librarians still work in the library where they interact with students, faculty and visitors, and the number of staff who directly support the Tateuchi library remains unchanged.

“The future of the Tateuchi East Asian Library is deeply connected to the community — not just the students, faculty and staff at the UW, but everyone who cares passionately about the countries and cultures represented in the collection,” Neame said.

Many items in the collection have been digitized, often with grant funding from foundations and East Asian government-sponsored libraries, Yi said. That preserves many fragile items and opens the collection to researchers globally.

While the library bundles China, Japan and Korea under one roof, each country’s collection has its own librarian, and the collections are a reflection of the distinct and often intertwined histories of each country, Yi said.

woman working on a display

Hyokyoung Yi, the interim director of the Tateuchi East Asian Library, adjusts an item in a display case. The secure display cases are part of the improvements to the library made during a recent renovation.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

“Being an East Asian library, we are kind of a cultural hub,” Yi said. “And a lot of community members in the region care about our collection, and they love to see our collections being preserved and being built and growing.”

Unlike other East Asian collections at private universities that require special permission to use, the UW’s Tateuchi East Asian Library is open to all, from academics worldwide to high school students from the Seattle region, from the UW’s scholars to the region’s rich East Asian cultural organizations.

“This is a wonderful library that is open to the public,” Yi said.

For more information, contact Yi at hkyi@uw.edu.