Orders & Services


All services are contingent upon available staff resources. Turnaround times may be longer. We appreciate your patience and flexibility.

Low-resolution scanning services

Our ability to accept and process low-resolution scanning orders is dependent on available staff resources.

  • Accepted requests which meet our terms of service will be added to a queue to be processed in the order they are received with no guaranteed delivery timeframe, although most orders are delivered within 6-8 weeks once added to our processing queue.

Low-resolution digital reproductions (PDFs)high-resolution digital reproductions and original or archival time-based media conversion services are provided to our users to support teaching, research, and other scholarship. The RBML provides reproductions from our collections upon request as long as the staff determines that copying will not harm the original document(s) or violate copyright law.

  • High-resolution digital imaging and A/V ordersuse current instructions & forms.  Please note: Because we cannot listen to or view items until they have been digitized, we cannot guarantee that the content is the same as is written on the housing, nor can we guarantee sound or video quality.

  • Low-resolutions scans (PDFs), including Oral History transcripts: use current instructions & forms


Low-resolution digital scans (PDFs) are provided to our users to support research and scholarship. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) provides reproductions from our collections under the following terms of service and as long as copying will not harm the original document(s) or violate copyright law:

  • Our ability to deliver low-resolution digital scans is dependent on available staff resources.
  • Priority processing will be given to requests in support of teaching and research by affiliates of Columbia University. 
  • Reproduction orders for archival material are limited to a maximum total of 250 pages.
  • Reproductions of Oral Histories, MA Essays or Dissertations are limited to 650 pages.
  • We reserve the right to limit or refuse multiple orders or single requests which exceed our maximum order limits, or to charge fees for accepted orders which we discover to exceed the above maximum order limits.
  • We can accept scan requests for “known items” (e.g. Box 7, Folder 3) but may not be able to fulfill requests which would first require dedicated research. Users may hire a current Columbia student to conduct research on their behalf.
  • Bound materials other than Oral Histories, MA Essays and Dissertations cannot usually be reproduced via photocopy or low-resolution PDF and may need to be reproduced via high-resolution digital imaging.
  • Requests for a complete unit or large amount of material, such as an entire box of manuscript material, cannot be fulfilled by low-resolution scanning. Reproductions may be possible through high-resolution digital imaging, if condition and copyright law allows. RBML staff will contact you if your request cannot be fulfilled by low-resolution digital imaging (PDF).
  • Accepted requests which meet these terms of service are processed in the order they are received with no guaranteed delivery timeframe, although most orders are delivered within 6-8 weeks once added to our processing queue.

Hiring a Researcher

If you would like to hire a Columbia graduate student to assist you, you may contact the following office where you can post a short-term research position:

Class Instruction & Assignments

Faculty from Columbia University and affiliated institutions are welcome to arrange for remote instruction sessions with Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) curators.

Faculty interested in giving class assignments involving RBML materials are asked to explore our remote resources and to contact RBML to discuss options and strategies: rbml@library.columbia.edu.

Reading Room Access:

Reading Room Access: The reading rooms are open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm by advance appointment only.

Reading room seats are limited and appointments must be booked well in advance. See the Plan Your Visit Page for external visitor requirements and instructions for booking appointments.

Loans for Exhibitions

Institutions interested in borrowing materials from RBML collections for exhibitions should contact Courtney Chartier at least one year in advance of the opening of the exhibit for domestic exhibitions and significantly longer for exhibitions in countries other than the United States. Preliminary information should include full description of item(s) requested, opening and closing dates of the exhibit, and an indication of how material would be displayed. Exact display information and a formal exhibitions facilities report for the institution will be required before a decision can be made.

Please see the Columbia University Libraries Guidelines for Lending Materials for Exhibition for a detailed description of how to place your loan request.

For further information, please see the Rare Book & Manuscript Section, Association of College and Research Libraries, American Library Association, ACRL Guidelines for Borrowing and Lending Special Collections Materials for Exhibition (January 2005).