Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


1. How can I find Columbia PhD dissertations?

All Columbia dissertations are searchable by author and title through CLIO.  If you are looking for a dissertation by subject or department, and don't find it in CLIO, please Ask A Librarian for assistance.

ProQuest Digital Dissertations Database provides the full text of nearly all Columbia dissertations completed since 1997 and the full text of some earlier dissertations.  It can be searched by author, school or keyword in the title or abstract.

Some Columbia dissertations are available on Columbia University Libraries' Academic Commons website.  To find dissertations, search by keyword or department, then limit the "Content Type" to "Theses" and the "Degree Level" to "Doctoral."

2. How do I access electronic resources on and off campus?

Using your Columbia UNI and password, you can access nearly all of our electronic resources from any computer -- on or off campus.  Our E-Resources page is a great place to start.  You will also find links to e-resources in CLIO and throughout our search and discovery systems.       

The public computers in Columbia Libraries offer unrestricted access to most of our e-resources.  If you have questions about access to specific e-resources, contact your preferred library or Ask A Librarian.

3. Can I search all the resources of the Columbia Libraries in one search?

No, not everything is searchable in one place.   

Our main search and discovery system, CLIO, searches a lot of the content available in Columbia's print and digital collections, including books, articles, images, manuscripts, data, sound recordings, and more.  You can search CLIO from any Library webpage.  In CLIO you can access and search specific collections and content including specialized databases, geospatial data, streaming media, articles, and more.  

4. I can't find the answer to my questions in these FAQs -- where can I get more help?

Explore our website for more general information about our Locations, Services, and Collections

Use Ask A Librarian for library and research-related questions.

5. Does my Columbia ID get me into all the libraries?

Generally, yes.  Sometimes there are restricted hours within specific libraries during exam and study periods. 

Select the library from the Locations tab on any Columbia University Libraries page to see more information about that location and learn more about their services and hours.  For overall location hours, see Library Hours.   

6. Who can use Columbia's libraries?

The Libraries primarily serve Columbia University's current faculty, students, staff, and researchers who have valid Columbia ID's.  Policies on admittance, borrowing, hours, and services vary by library.  For information about visiting our Libraries, see our Visitors page.  For more specific questions on access to Columbia's libraries, see Accessing & Using the Libraries.  For more information on a specific Columbia library, click on the Locations tab on Columbia University Libraries and choose the location from the list.

7. Are Columbia's libraries open to the public?

Our Libraries require a valid Columbia ID or a Visitor's Card for admittance.  Our Visitors page provides information about visitng Columbia Libraries and obtaining a Visitor's Card.  Borrowing privileges, which vary, are generally limited to current members of the Columbia community. 

To use our U.S. Government Documents and New York State government documents collections, please register with the Library Information Office, where you will receive a one-day pass to allow you to use the documents you need.

For more specific questions on access to Columbia's libraries, see Accessing & Using the Libraries.  For more information on a specific Columbia library, click on the Locations tab on Columbia University Libraries and choose the location from the list.

8. How do I borrow and return materials?

To borrow items from Columbia Libraries, take them to the appropriate circulation desk with your Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, or Union Theological Seminary ID, and the staff will check them out to you.  An ID card from Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, without an additional Columbia ID card, allows you to borrow only from the Health Sciences Library.

For more information, please see Borrowing & Renewing Materials.

9. Can I return materials to any Columbia library?

Most library materials, except Reserves, Audio-Visual Media, and Musical Scores, may be returned to any Columbia University Library location. Book bins are usually located near library entrances.

PLEASE NOTE: Teachers College, Law, and Jewish Theological Seminary Libraries can only check in and check out materials owned by their individual library. Materials from other libraries may not be returned to these libraries.

Questions?  Please contact staff in the Library Information Office.

10. What do I do about fines?

Library fines and fees must be paid directly to the Libraries; they are not added to your account with Student Financial Services.

When library charges are incurred, we send you an email message detailing the charges. The message also provides payment instructions. Borrowers are responsible for their fines even if they do not receive an email.

You can make payments at the Library Information Office by check, Visa, or MasterCard. Lost/missing fees for Barnard books must be paid at the Circulation Desk in the Barnard Library.

If you would like to learn what your outstanding balance is, please contact the Library Information Office (LIO) by phone or by sending email to lio@columbia.edu. Students, faculty and staff with active borrowing records may also check on their outstanding balance by clicking on the My Library Account link in CLIO, the online catalog.

Fines & Fees: 

  • For circulating books: $0.25 per calendar day for each day the item is late, to a maximum of $7.50.
  • For course reserves items: $1.00 per hour for each hour or part thereof, to a maximum of $50.00.
  • For circulating Butler Media items: $7.00 per day, to a maximum of $50.00.
  • For items that have been recalled and not returned by the recall due date: $1.00 per day, to a maximum of $30.00.
  • If an item is not returned and the library considers it lost, standard replacement (varies by library) and processing ($30.00) fees will be added to the fines.

11. What if an item I need is checked out to somebody else?

The fastest way to get the item is to request it via Borrow Direct.  You will receive it within about 4 business days.

If it is not available using Borrow Direct, you can recall the book.  The patron who has it is usually required to return it within 14 days.  To initiate a recall, click on the "Recall/Hold" link through the item record in CLIO.

12. Can I have books from one Columbia library delivered to another Columbia library?

You cannot have books delivered from one of the Morningside campus libraries to another Morningside location.

You can have books delivered between the Health Sciences Library at Columbia University Medical Center and Morningside Campus Libraries, and you can request that items from our offsite facility (ReCAP) be delivered to any library on campus.

13. What do I do if Columbia does not have the materials I need?

There are several options for locating and requesting library materials from other libraries:

  • Borrow Direct enables current faculty, students, and staff to request material from Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, University of Chicago, Penn, and Yale.
  • The ReCAP Shared Collection shares collections from Princeton and New York Public Library that are housed at the offsite storage facility they share with Columbia.
  • Interlibrary Loan allows requests from reciprocating libraries worldwide.
  • MARLI is a shared borrowing program across Columbia, New York University, and New York Public Library.
  • New York Public Library's Morningside Heights branch is on Broadway and offers cards to all New Yorkers.

More information about using other collections is available on our Access to Other Libraries page.

14. How can I get help with Zotero, Mendeley, EndNote, and other citation tools?

Check out our Reference & Citation Management page, or come to one of our workshops about citation management tools!

15. How do I get permission to publish materials from Columbia Unversity Libraries?

Please see the Copyright Advisory Office for information.

16. How can I get help with my assignment, research paper or dissertation?

We have lots of options for help! Come visit one of our locations and service desks or:  

17. Where can I learn more about the Libraries' Electronic Resources?

Please see our E-Resources page for information about and links to our electronic resources.

18. Why can't I access e-resources after entering my UNI and password?

Access to e-resources is often restricted to current Columbia University students, faculty, and staff. 

Alumni have ongoing access to a range of e-resources via  http://library.columbia.edu/services/using-libraries/alumni.html.

If you are having problems accessing e-resources, please report it using our Report a Problem with an E-Resource form.  

19. What if I'm informed an e-resource has reached the maximum number of users?

Some e-resources allow only a limited number of simultaneous users, so you should try again later.  If this happens frequently, please let us know.

Please Note:  This may affect only one resource within a large provider, so if you don't need that particular resource, you can still use other resources from that provider.  Usually clicking OK in the message box that pops up will allow you to search the rest of the content.

20. How do I donate materials to the Libraries?

The Libraries does not accept unsolicited gifts of materials.

Please see the Gifts-In-Kind Policy for more information about the kinds of materials and donations that the Libraries can accept and to learn more about who to contact regarding donating materials.

Monetary gifts to Columbia University Libraries can be made through the Giving to Columbia website.

21. Are there group study/meeting spaces in the Libraries?

Current Columbia and Barnard students can use our Room Reservation system to reserve a room in Butler Library, the Lehman Social Sciences Library, and the Science & Engineering Library for collaborative group study and/or presentation practice.

Group Study spaces are also available in the Social Work Library, Teachers College Library, and on the 200 level of Lehman Library (downstairs).

22. What names are chiseled on the façade of Butler Library?

  • North side, left to right:
    Homer - Herodotus - Sophocles - Plato - Aristotle - Demosthenes - Cicero - Vergil
  • West side, left to right:
    Horace - Tacitus - St. Augustine - St. Thomas Aquinas - Dante
  • East side, left to right:
    Cervantes - Shakespeare - Milton - Voltaire - Goethe
  • The panels under the large front windows are inscribed with the names of 24 American statesmen and authors:
    George Washington - Benjamin Franklin - John Adams - Thomas Jefferson - Alexander Hamilton - John Jay - James Madison - John Marshall - John Quincy Adams - Henry Clay - Daniel Webster - Abraham Lincoln Jonathan Edwards - Washington Irving - James Fenimore Cooper - William Cullen Bryant - Ralph Waldo Emerson - Nathaniel Hawthorne - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Edgar Allan Poe - Henry David Thoreau - Herman Melville - Walt Whitman - Mark Twain

The names were selected by President Nicholas Murray Butler.

Source: Robson, John William. A Guide to Columbia University with Some Account of Its History and Traditions. New York: Columbia University Press, 1937. p. 101, 103.