IRVINE : Librarian Builds Asian Collection

Walk into the UC Irvine library’s East Asia collection and you have entered the domain of Bill Wong.

Working quietly from his small library office, Wong, 50, has built from scratch over the last three years a highly respected 60,000-volume collection that covers everything from literature and poetry to history and economics.

This summer, Wong was named president of the International Assn. of Orientalist Librarians, which boasts 300 members from 30 countries.

The association is designed to be a professional forum for Asian and Middle Eastern librarians as well as to foster improved cooperation among the institutions involved.


Wong will serve as head of the association for three years.

Though the fields might seem somewhat narrow, Wong insists that Asian and Middle Eastern studies are important parts of academia.

“This is the cradle of human civilization,” said Wong, noting that librarians in the association deal with subjects as diverse as ancient history and Pacific Rim trade issues.

At UCI, Wong has put special emphasis on collecting Asian poems, novels, short stories and other humanities-related works.


Such a specialization makes UCI’s collection distinct from those at other UC campuses, which focus more on politics and economics.

One way Wong has been able to build up the collection is by tapping the resources of Pacific Rim corporations as well as by seeking assistance from individuals in Orange County and in Asia.

“Orange County has a growing Asian population,” he said. “They have been supportive.”

Professors who work with Wong in buying books praise his fairness and attentiveness.


“He is open and helpful,” said Steven D. Carter, a professor of Japanese literature and language.