Reading Room Policies

Reading Room Guidelines

We ask that you observe the following reading room policies in order to ensure the integrity and security of our collections.

  • Registration with photo identification is required.
  • Pencils, notebooks, laptop computers, tablets & digital cameras are permitted in the reading rooms. Sleeves or cases are not permitted.
  • Please handle materials carefully and keep all archival materials in their original order; foam supports are available for bound materials.
  • Return all materials to the reading room manager.
  • Please silence your cell phone.

Use of Materials

  • Access may be limited under the following conditions: when papers are being processed; a result of donor-imposed restrictions; or when their physical condition warrants restricted use.  In cases of collections in process access staff will work with you to facilitate access wherever possible.
  • Personal belongings, including coats, rain gear, purses, briefcases, computer cases, camera bags, parcels, envelopes, and portfolio folders are not permitted in the reading room; we provide lockers to securely store your belongings. 
  • Please use only one box and one folder at any time.  When using books or bound volumes, cradles and book weights will be provided for you.  When using archival and manuscript material, please leave all materials flat on the table.  Gloves are required when handling photographs, film, slides, or metal objects.
  • Please maintain the existing order and arrangement of material.  If you suspect that an item seems to be out of order, please inform a staff member.
  • On regular workdays, materials are not retrieved after 4:30 p.m. and all materials should be returned by 4:45 p.m.  (On Mondays when classes are in session, materials are not retrieved after 7:30 p.m.; all materials should be returned by 7:45 p.m.)


  • Digital cameras may be used in the reading room with most materials (tripods, flash, or additional lighting is not permitted).  Please turn off the flash element and turn off any sound elements.
  • Photocopying and scanning are provided as a service by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library; personal copiers and scanners are not permitted. 
  • Oral History Archives staff must authorize requests to reproduce material from the Oral History Archives of Columbia University.