Access For Alumni & Visitors

Access For Alumni & Visitors


The primary purpose of the Columbia University Libraries is to serve the teaching, research and scholarly activities of Columbia faculty, staff and students. Consequently to best fulfill this mission, access restrictions are in effect in most of Columbia's libraries. Members of the University and of affiliated institutions must show a valid Columbia ID or Columbia reader's card before entering the libraries.

Door to Library Information Office

Columbia welcomes the use of its collections by researchers and scholars not affiliated with a university under the conditions described below. Non-affiliated researchers may have to pay for access or borrowing privileges. Please see below for details. Contact the Library Information Office to make arrangements for visitor access to the libraries. The Library Information Office is located to the left of the Butler Library entrance. The Office has more limited hours than the library, therefore it is essential to check office hours before arriving at Columbia.

Staff in the Library Information Office will issue either a reader's card or a photo ID card. There is a charge for the latter. Visitors must present a valid government-issued photo ID card in order to obtain a reader's card. This is true for all of the cards described below.

Access to the Columbia University Libraries before or after normal service hours is restricted to current Columbia University students, faculty and staff.

Please note: arrangements to visit the libraries listed below must be made directly with those libraries, not with the Library Information Office.

Alumni

Alumni with degrees from Columbia University, Barnard College, or Union Theological Seminary may apply for a University Alumni Identification Card that grants renewable reading privileges. Alumni who wish to borrow books may obtain borrowing privileges for a $30 monthly fee. Borrowing privileges may not be used at the Law School, Teachers College or the Health Sciences libraries. Alumni of Teachers College must obtain their alumni cards in Whittier Hall. Recent Columbia alumni will retain some library privileges,including access to licensed electronic databases for a period of three months beyond the last semester that they were registered.

An alumni ID card is required for continued access to the CU libraries. Borrowing privileges may be purchased at the reduced rate for Columbia alumni. Application can be made in person to the Library Information Office. Staff in the Library Information Office will issue either a reader's card or a photo ID card. Alumni must present a valid government issued photo ID card in order to obtain an alumni card. Alumni do not have spousal or family privileges, but these privileges may be purchased, and regular fees will apply.

Residents of the New York Metropolitan Area

For an item not available at your own institution or at the public library (including the New York Public Library), your local or public librarian may give you a METRO Title Referral Card that refers you to the appropriate library in the New York metropolitan area. If Columbia is the appropriate referral, present the METRO Title Referral Card to the Columbia Library Information Office. You will be given access to the item. Please note that only yellow, title referral cards are accepted. If you wish to read for an extended period or to borrow books, you may do so by registering with the University through the Library Information Office. The fee for extended Reading Privileges is $55 per month; the fee for Borrowing Privileges is $100 per month. There is a $20 photo ID card fee as well. 

Visitors who want to use the CU Libraries for a year, may wish to consider the Friends of the Columbia Libraries program. A donation of $500 provides access for one year. There is also a $5 fee for the photo ID card.

Manhattan Research Libraries Initiative (MaRLI)

The New York Public Library and the libraries of Columbia University and New York University have launched a pilot initiative to expand access and use of collections and better serve their users.  The collaboration, dubbed the Manhattan Research Library Initiative (MaRLI), enables NYU and Columbia doctoral students, full-time faculty and librarians, and approved New York Public Library cardholders with a demonstrable research need not met by currently available resources, to borrow materials from all three institutions. For more information and to register for MaRLI privileges, please visit the MaRLI website.

Dissertations and Government Documents

For consultation of a Columbia dissertation or master's thesis, please register with the University through the Library Information Office. For access to U.S. government or New York State documents, you must also get a pass at the Library Information Office. U.S. depository documents received prior to 1976 are cataloged and mostly shelved in Butler Library. They can be located through the card catalog in the Butler Library Reference Department. U.S. depository documents published after 1976 all have records in CLIO and are located in the various campus libraries according to subject matter. Visitors should also consult Pegasus for titles located in the Law Library, 300 Greene Hall. New York State documents, 1983-1996, are also located in Lehman Library, on microfiche.

Members of the general public who obtain access specifically to use depository documents may only use depository materials. Other materials in the Columbia University Libraries which are purchased for the collections are for the use of Columbia University affiliates only, unless non-affiliates choose to purchase extended Reading Privileges ($55 per month) or Borrowing Privileges ($100 per month).

Non-Residents of NYC

Students and faculty of other universities outside the New York metropolitan area from SHARES institutions are granted reading privileges on a semester basis. Faculty of universities outside the New York metropolitan area are granted reading privileges for a limited period of time. Others may purchase reading privileges. Please contact staff in the Library Information Office for details. Appropriate credentials are required. There is a charge for extended use of the collections. The fee for Reading Privileges is $55 per month; the fee for Borrowing Privileges is $100 per month. To register for privileges, come to the Library Information Office. Please confirm the hours before planning your visit, and please bring with you a government-issued photo ID card.

Please note that reader cards will not be issued to students and faculty from other universities during final examinations unless the universities are SHARES members.

Visitors who want to use the CU Libraries for a year, may wish to consider the Friends of the Columbia Libraries program. A donation of $500 provides access for one year.

For information about the credentials necessary to qualify for privileges, write the Library Information Office, 201 Butler Library, Columbia University Library, 535 West 114th Street, New York, NY 10027 , or call 212.854.7309, or send email to lio@columbia.edu.

Visiting Scholars

Visiting Scholar is a category of appointment to the University at the recommendation of a dean, director, or chairperson of a department and with the approval of the Provost. Visiting Scholars may register with the Library Information Office for Reading Privileges without charge. The fee for Borrowing Privileges is $30 per month.

University Seminar Associates

Seminar Associates are appointed by the Director of the University Seminars on behalf of the President. Seminar Associates may register with the Library Information Office for Reading Privileges without charge. The fee for Borrowing Privileges is $30 per month during the Associate's term of appointment. Privileges are renewable annually.

SHARES Members

Students, faculty, and academic or professional staff of SHARES member institutions are entitled to Reading Privileges upon presentation of appropriate institutional identification to the Library Information Office. The fee for Borrowing Privileges is $100 per month. Persons affiliated with SHARES institutions located in the New York metropolitan area are governed by METRO guidelines described above in the paragraph titled "Individuals Residing in the Metropolitan Area."

Collections Requiring Arrangements in Advance

You must make arrangements in advance of your visit to use collections in the following library:

Law Library

  • Borrowing privileges are not generally available for the Law Library. To use rare legal materials or legal manuscripts, contact Special Collections in the Law Library, (212) 854-5244.

General Policies

  • The Libraries will issue either a paper reader's card or a photo identification card to visitors. A processing fee will be charged for the photo ID card.
  • Hours of the Columbia University Libraries vary. Please consult the hours website.
  • The Reading Privileges issued by Columbia University Libraries also apply to Barnard College Library, but not to Teachers College Library. Borrowing Privileges may not apply at the Columbia Health Sciences and Law Libraries, or the libraries of Barnard College and Teachers College. Ask at the Library Information Office for details.
  • Reading and Borrowing Privileges will be withdrawn if a visitor fails to comply with regulations governing the use of the Libraries and library materials.
  • Borrowing privileges will not be renewed if outstanding obligations are owed the Libraries by a visitor.
  • The Libraries are primarily for the use of the Columbia faculty, students, and other active members of the University community. Time does not permit reference librarians to offer registered visitors services that are available from your local library, such as interlibrary borrowing, bibliographic instruction, training to use electronic reference sources, or the performance of database searches on your behalf.
  • For some information services, the license agreement between the owner of the database and the Libraries may permit access only by current faculty, students, and staff of Columbia University. Where such limitations exist, the restriction is posted or, in the case of online access, a valid computing account with Columbia University may be required.
Butler Lobby Arch Photograph