Plan Your Visit


Reading Room Appointments 2021-2022 Academic Year

Reading Room Access

Starting September 1, 2021, the reading room will be open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm by appointment only to current Columbia students, faculty and staff whose individual research requires consulting RBML materials.

Reading room seats are limited due to COVID-19 density restrictions and appointments must be booked at least 5 business days in advance.

We are unable to welcome alumni and other visitors to our reading room at this time. The Libraries are working with the University on a visitor policy with a goal of maintaining the safety of the Columbia community. Please check here for updates after visitor policies are finalized. We invite you to access our Digital Collections, request reproductions, or contact us for alternatives to in-person visits.

Register

Because the RBML materials are rare, unique, and usually irreplaceable, they are subject to a higher level of security than other library materials. RBML collections do not circulate and can only be accessed in our Reading Rooms. Researchers are required to register their own Special Collections Research Account to request to see any materials in the RBML Reading Room.  You will need to provide a current address, email, telephone number, and other contact information. Upon your first visit, you will need validate your account in-person with government issued photo identification or Columbia ID and we will take your photo for security purposes.


Request

HOW TO REQUEST MATERIALS & BOOK APPOINTMENTS

Once you have created your Special Collections Research Account, you will be able to request materials and book appointments. 

Appointments must be made at least 5 business days in advance. Up to 5 collection items may be requested per appointment. 

Please be respectful of staff and other users and only make appointments you intend to keep. Seats are limited and we staff our reading room by appointment only. We reserve the right to cancel the remainder of your appointment if you are over 30 minutes late.

  • For collection items with individual CLIO catalog records, select Request: Special Collections on the right side of the catalog record. You will be prompted to log in to your Special Collections Research Account, associate your request with an Appointment, and Submit your request. Library staff will contact you to confirm your appointment and request(s).

  • For archival collections, search CLIO or the Archival Collections Portal to locate a link to the collection’s online finding aid. View the Container List for the collection and select specific boxes using the toggle boxes on the right. Press the Submit Request button highlighted in red at the top of the page. Follow the prompts to log in to your Special Collections Research Account. Your requests will appear in your Outstanding Requests list with the status Request Needs Appointment. Use the Edit button to associate the request with an Appointment and Submit your request. Library staff will contact you to confirm your appointment and request(s).

  • For archival collections with legacy PDF finding aids, search CLIO or the Archival Collections Portal to locate a link to the collection’s PDF finding aid. Review the finding aid and note the specific boxes you wish to consult. Select Request: Special Collections on the right side of the catalog record. You will be prompted to log in to your Special Collections Research Account. Add the Box Number to the request form (only one box number per form), associate your request with an Appointment, and Submit your request. If you wish to request additional boxes from the same collection, locate your first request in your Outstanding Requests list, choose Clone Request from the Actions menu and edit the Box Number in the form. Associate the request with an Appointment and Submit your request. Library staff will contact you to confirm your appointment and request(s).

 

CLIO catalog record request:
CLIO Special Collections record
Archival Portal finding aid request:
Finding Aid "Submit Request"

UNPROCESSED MATERIALS

As of Fall 2020, on-site staff time to review requests for unprocessed materials is extremely limited. We still accept such requests, but there is a high likelihood that we will have to defer access until more staff are available.

As part of our commitment to intellectual accessibility, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML), informs the public of the collections in our custody, even if they are not fully accessible to researchers, and make basic collection-level records available immediately upon accession. We make every effort to give our researchers access to the collections, whenever possible, by doing a quick assessment of what can be seen without processing. An unprocessed collection might be partially or fully closed for research if the materials in question are excessively fragile, impossible to locate due to lack of arrangement within the collection, or contain sensitive information.

Collections that are unprocessed have a restriction note in CLIO that states,"Material is unprocessed. Please contact rbml@library.columbia.edu for more information." If the collection has been previously requested and evaluated for access by an archivist, the outcome of that review will be reflected there as well.

How do I request access to an unprocessed collection?

Please contact rbml@library.columbia.edu describing the unprocessed collection you wish to access. An archivist will review the request, and will determine whether the material can be made available in the reading room. You should hear from us within three weeks.

What should I expect when visiting RBML to use unprocessed archival materials?

If the collection can be made available, please confirm the date and time of your prospective visit with RBML staff before arriving; the materials will be ready for your viewing at that time. You may also want to keep in mind that the box numbers and other citation information for the documents in the collection are subject to change during processing.

Handling unprocessed archival materials in the reading room:

  • Because such collections are unprocessed and somewhat fragile, you will be seated at one of the five reading room tables closest to the manager's desk. This will allow the reading room manager to more easily assist you with any handling issues that may arise, and help to prevent damage to the materials. 
  • Please be especially careful when handling materials from unprocessed collections. If you see something that you feel unsure about handling, either because of its condition or its format, do not hesitate to ask for assistance.
  • We require all researchers to use gloves when handling photographs that are not encased in polyester sleeves. Gloves are available in the reading room for researchers to use.
  • We cannot provide access to original time-based media material which has not first been reformatted for preservation. Researchers are welcome to examine archival time-based media items and decide whether they wish to place an order for Audio/Video reformatting. If copyright and/or condition restrictions apply, it may not be possible to digitize a requested item. Please note that A/V reformatting is handled by an outside vendor and typically takes 6 to 8 weeks.
  • As when handling any other archival collection, please remove only one folder from a box at a time, and keep all materials in the same order that you found them. An unprocessed collection may not be arranged in any way that makes particular sense, but maintaining it in its current order allows us to more easily ensure that all items are accounted for when the collection is processed.

Visit

RBML doors RBML doors

We are unable to welcome alumni and other visitors to the library at this time. The Libraries are working with the University on a visitor policy with a goal of maintaining the safety of the Columbia community. Please check here for updates after visitor policies are finalized. We invite you to access our Digital Collections, request reproductions, or contact us for alternatives to in-person visits.

Starting September 1, 2021, the reading room will be open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm by appointment only to current Columbia students, faculty and staff whose individual research requires consulting RBML materials.

Reading room seats are limited due to COVID-19 density restrictions and appointments must be booked at least 5 business days in advance

Let us know as soon as possible if you will be delayed for your appointment start time or need to cancel or reschedule: email rbml@library.columbia.edu or call 212-854-5590 during our open hours.

If you are feeling unwell, please stay home and contact us to reschedule your appointment for another time.

You will be required to wear a mask over your nose and mouth during your entire visit at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and agree to abide by the commitments of the Columbia Community Health Compact.

When arriving for a reading room appointment: after entering Butler Library, follow the hallway to the left and take the East elevator or stairs to the 6th floor. Look for the double glass doors at the entrance to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Prior to entering the reading room, please wash your hands at one of the restrooms near the elevators. 


Access

Materials are accessed by appointment in a supervised reading room, an enclosed space where users work in close proximity with one another.

Appointments are for one individual. The reading room cannot accommodate pairs or groups.  

For the comfort of all and to ensure the security of our collections, users are required to follow these policies and procedures:

  • Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth at all times

  • Keep at least six feet (two arms lengths) apart from other people whenever possible

  • Wash your hands before entering the reading room. Restrooms are located in the East hallway, near the elevators.

  • Registration with valid photo identification (CUID) is required. Every user's photograph is also taken for security purposes.

  • Pencils, laptops, tablets and digital cameras are permitted. Note paper will be provided.

  • Personal belongings including outerwear, backpacks, purses, briefcases, computer cases/sleeves, camera bags, parcels, envelopes, and portfolio folders are not permitted at reading room tables. 

    • A locker and key will be provided for you to securely store your personal belongings.

  • Reading room temperatures are low to protect collection materials. Outerwear may not be worn but you may consider dressing in layers for comfort.

  • Food and beverages are not permitted.
  • Refrain from using strong perfumes or colognes.
  • Please mute electronic devices and keep conversations to a minimum.

  • 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, staff will work with you to facilitate access wherever possible.

  • The RBML cannot provide access to original time-based media material which has not been first been reformatted for preservation. Researchers are welcome to examine archival time-based media items and decide whether they wish to place an order for Audio/Video reformatting.

  • All materials must be returned to the reading room manager before leaving the reading room. Arrangements for future use may be made at this time.

  • Any personal materials, including laptops, which were brought into the reading room will be inspected by a staff member before you leave.

  • We reserve the right to search any notes or personal belongings at any time.


USE

RBML Reading Room RBML Reading Room
Use of Materials:
  • When you enter the Reading Room, check in with the Reading Room manager and indicate which of your requested item(s) you would like to see first. Please maintain a safe distance from staff and other users and follow the Reading Room manager’s instructions at all times.

  • When using archival and manuscript material, please handle materials carefully. Remove only one folder at a time, keep all archival materials in their original order and place all materials flat on the table.

  • When using books or bound volumes, cradles and book weights will be provided for you.

  • Gloves are required when handling photographs, film, slides, or metal objects.

  • When your appointment is finished, check out with the Reading Room manager and follow their instructions.

Photography in the Reading Room:

Please plan to utilize your appointment time efficiently. We highly recommend using a camera, phone or tablet to capture reference images that can be studied more closely outside the library. Non-flash photography is allowed for personal research purposes, within the limits of U.S. copyright law and provided it will not damage collection materials.

  • Tripods, flash, and additional lighting is not permitted.

  • Silence your camera, phone, and all other electronic devices

  • Personal copiers and scanners are not permitted.


Copy

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.

TERMS OF SERVICE FOR 2021-2022:

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 orders which meet these terms of service can generally be processed within 6-8 weeks.

Publish & Cite

Publication Policy

In order to reduce barriers to the dissemination of research conducted in its collections, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) will ordinarily not set conditions on publication of materials from its collections in connection with scholarship.

In most cases, RBML owns only the physical object and therefore does not assume any responsibility for literary property, copyright, or any other legal issues involved in the publication and reproduction of items in its collections. It is the responsibility of the user to secure permission from the appropriate copyright holder. Any copyright infringement which may occur through the use of our material is the responsibility of the patron. RBML holds the copyright to the following archival collections: Joseph Urban Papers; William Bronk Papers; Manuel Komroff Papers; and the Hart Crane Papers.

Citation Format

The RBML does not charge for the physical use of its items, but we do request that you use the following credit lines:

  • Manuscript Citation: identification of specific item, date [if known], name of collection (box #, folder #), Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
  • Book Citation: Title, Call #, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
  • Oral History
    • Oral History interview with _______________ (year of the interview), Collection or Project Title (when applicable), pages ________, Columbia Center for Oral History Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
    • Reminiscences of _______________ (year of the interview), Collection or Project Title (when applicable), pages ________, Columbia Center for Oral History Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
  • University Archives:
    • Manuscript Citation: identification of specific item, date [if known], name of collection (box #, folder #), University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
    • Book Citation: Title, Call #, University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.

If there is a known photographer or artist associated with an image you wish to publish we recommend attribution as good scholarly practice.

For additional information on copyright and fair use issues, please visit the web site of the CUL Copyright Advisory Office. For more information on publication policies for the Libraries in general, please see: Columbia University Libraries Publication and Digital Reproduction Policy and Procedures

You may also want to consult WATCH, a database containing the names and addresses of copyright holders or contact persons for authors and artists whose archives are housed, in whole or in part, in libraries and archives in North America and the United Kingdom. WATCH is a joint project of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Reading Library, Reading, England.

NOTICE: WARNING CONCERNING COPYRIGHT RESTRICTIONS

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.

Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.