Use Policies & Services

Reading Room Guidelines

RBML reading room Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) reading room.

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.
  • Personal belongings, including coats, hats, rain gear, purses, briefcases, computer cases, camera bags, parcels, envelopes, and portfolio folders are not permitted in the reading rooms; we provide lockers to securely store your belongings.
  • Only pencils, cell phones, tablets, and laptops (without cases) are permitted in the reading rooms; you may bring a notebook, but please present it for inspection when leaving the reading room.
  • Digital cameras (without cases) 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.
  • Please silence your cell phone.
  • 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 when a researcher leaves the reading room.
  • We reserve the right to search any notes or personal belongings at any time. 
Use of Materials
  • Please handle materials carefully. In the case of book requests or bound materials, foam supports and book weights will be provided for you. Gloves are required when handling photographs, film, slides, or metal objects.
  • Please use only one box and one folder at any time. In the case of manuscripts, please leave all materials flat on the table. Do not place notebooks, notepaper, or computers on top of material.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Photocopying is provided as a service; personal copiers and scanners are not permitted.


Services, Fees and Forms

The University Archives provides reproductions of images and documents from our collections upon request as long as the staff determines that copying will not harm the original document(s) or violate current copyright law. If you wish to place an order, please print out the appropriate form from the choices below, fill it out as completely as possible, remembering to sign the copyright statement, and return with appropriate payment.  

All orders must be prepaid and are processed in order of receipt, usually within two to three weeks, if not sooner. Failure to sign the form or return it with your payment will result in a delay in processing your order.


On-Site Users
  • Photocopying
    $0.25 per page (paper copies or PDF copies)
  • Domestic Postage
    $6.00 for the first 100 pages
    $5.00 for each additional increment of 100 pages, up to 500 pages
  • International Postage
    Calculated on an individual basis.
Remote Users
  • Photocopying (paper copies w/domestic postage or PDF copies)
    $30.00 minimum charge for up to 75 pages
    $12.00 for each additional increment of 25 pages
  • International Postage
    Calculated on an individual basis.
Digital Reproductions (UA)
  • $20.00/$10.00 new scan (non-CU/CU Patron)
  • $10.00/$5.00 copy of existing scan (non-CU/CU Patron)

Image scans are provided at 600 dpi as tiff or jpeg files.  Default delivery method for all digital files is either via Drop Box or Google Drive.

Master's Essays and Dissertations

Full text copies of dissertations published since 1997 (and some earlier dates) are available to Columbia UNI holders via ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global database.  Non-Columbia patrons may order copies via ProQuest Dissertation Express. Various formats & fees apply.

Master's essays can be found by searching CLIO, our online library catalogue, with call numbers starting with COA. School of the Arts Writing Division MFA Essays require the permission of the author in order to be reproduced. Researchers should request permission via the School of the Arts Writing Division Office (Phone: (212) 854-4391; Once permission is received, the reproduction order can be processed.

  • $30.00 flat rate for PDF copy of master essay or dissertation up to 650 pages in length.

For more information on how to find Master's essays and dissertations, please check out the Research Guide.



Payment Methods

The following methods may be used to pay for services:

  • Cash is accepted for in person requests at the reference desk only. Please do not send cash by mail.
  • Checks made payable to "Columbia University" drawn on a United States bank, in United States Dollars.
  • Credit card: MasterCard or Visa, only. Please provide the card number, the name as it appears on the card, the expiration date, and the security code (a three-digit code located on the signature line on the back of the card). To ensure your security, the University Archives will only accept credit card numbers in person or via telephone. Do not email or fax your credit card information.

Publication Policy, Citation Format & Copyright

General Policy

In most cases, the University Archives 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. The University Archives does not charge for the physical use of its items, but we do request that you use the following credit line:

"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.

Citation Format

If you are citing a specific document, please use the following citation format:

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.


For more additional information on copyright and fair use issues, please visit the web site of the Columbia University Libraries 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


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.