Guidelines for the use of the rare books, special collections, and archives

The Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room is for special collections and rare book users only.  Rare books and special collection materials can be used only under the supervision of a librarian, and only in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room, during scheduled hours.  Patrons are asked to pay attention to, and follow the below procedures designed to protect and preserve the rare and special collections of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library.


  • To use the collections, patrons must have a valid Columbia identification card (CUID).  Non-affiliates need to visit the Library Information Office (LIO), in Butler Library (Columbia's main library) before visiting Starr Library.  You will need to present a government issued photo ID, in order to be issued a temporary access card.  For more information on access issues, please refer to the LIO webpage.
  • The rare book and special collections stacks are closed, and cannot be browsed.  A librarian will retrieve the requested item(s) for you. 
  • You need to present a valid CUID or temporary access card and a completed Rare Books/Special Collections Registration and Request form for each title (printed forms are also available in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room). 
  • The number of items requested at any one time should be limited to what can be reviewed within 2 hours.  Materials must be returned to the librarian on duty when leaving the room.  Be sure to check the online catalog for call numbers.
  • Since substantial portions of our rare book collections and archives are stored offsite, be sure to check the online catalog well ahead of your visit to confirm whether the needed material is readily available or needs to be requested from offsite. 
  • Most rare books stored offsite can be requested directly by Columbia faculty, staff, and students.  Archival material needs to be requested by emailing the library at  Non-affiliates should contact the library at least one week in advance of their visit to ensure adequate time to request material from offsite storage.  Though stored offsite, these materials can only be used in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room.
  • Handle the materials with extreme care; many are fragile.  Electronic devises and pencils only may be used for note-taking.  Electrical outlets and wireless access are available.  No public computers are available in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room.
  • Pens and indelible markers are NOT permitted.  Food and drink are NOT permitted.  Cell phone conversations are NOT permitted.
  • Reproduction services are available at a charge.  Reproduction requests are subject to approval by the appropriate subject specialist.  Please consult the librarian on duty should you wish to have rare or special materials photocopied.  For reproduction services other than photocopying, please review the Reprography Order form.