The Asian American Cultural Center has received a donation of over 2,000 books dedicated to Asian American Studies — the largest single collection of materials related to the field on campus.
This spring, Columbia professor of International and Public Affairs Gary Okihiro, who is also the founding director of the school’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, reached out to Timothy Dwight College Master Mary Lui to find a home for his collection before retiring. Lui, who is Yale’s only tenured professor of Asian American Studies, studied under Okihiro while she was at Cornell, and he advised her dissertation. The books were transported from New York City to New Haven over the summer, and a reception is being held today at the AACC, where Okihiro will speak about his donation.
The donation comes amidst growing calls for the expansion of Asian American Studies on campus. AACC Graduate Assistant Courtney Sato GRD ’19 said the gift roughly tripled the size of the AACC library.
“One of the reasons why professor Okihiro, I think, chose to donate his collection to Yale is because he saw evidence of a community here that is interested in growing the field of Asian American Studies because of things like the [Yale Asian American Studies Conference last spring] and the Asian American Studies Task Force,” Sato said. “There are students here interested in pushing the administration to add a wider range of courses within the field.”
Lui said the donation will add depth to the AACC’s current library in terms of the history covered. AACC Asian American Studies Co-Coordinator Hayun Cho ’17 noted that the donation is especially appropriate given the recent campuswide discussions regarding the lack of faculty diversity and ethnic studies programs. She added that many Asian-American students feel Yale is not giving them the support they need to learn about their history and future.
AACC Asian American Studies Co-Coordinator Catherine Tarleton ’16 noted that the donation is indicative of the importance of Asian American Studies and the need for Yale to develop its resources within the field. The library is not only a valuable resource for students, she said, but also adds legitimacy to the field at Yale and proves to others why this area of study is needed.
“It’s incredible that professor Okihiro chose to donate his library to Yale, especially since we don’t have an Asian American Studies program, and Okihiro is so important in the field of ethnic studies,” Tarleton said. “It’s incredible he chose to donate to us, and it says a lot in how much he supports the field of Asian American Studies at Yale.”
Students at Yale have already begun taking advantage of the newly established library, which includes several volumes of rare book from the 1960s and ’70s, Lui said. Staff at the AACC have begun cataloging the vast materials, and graduate students now have resources pertinent to Asian American Studies at their fingertips, rather than having to hunt for them, Lui said.
Books in the library draw from a wide range of genres, from magazines and memorabilia to periodicals and anthologies. Sato highlighted the inclusion of the academic journal Amerasia as one of the key titles in the library, noting that it is one of the key journals in the Asian American Studies field. The library will also be supplemented by an online database containing all of the books.
Okihiro began his career in 1976 and has since become a prominent figure in the field of Asian American Studies. Prior to his time at Columbia, he served as the director for Asian American Studies at Cornell University and is a former president of the Association for Asian American Studies. He will attend today’s reception.
“The reception is not just about Okihiro coming, it’s about community and that all these graduates and undergraduates worked to make this possible,” Cho said. “It’s very much a thing where his coming to Yale is connected to students’ passion for learning more about Asian American Studies and their desire for it to be on campus.”
The reception for the library will be held at 5 p.m. at 295 Crown St.