Borrow, Request, Renew

Physical library access privileges vary based on affiliation with Columbia University. Please review information about Access Privileges here. To review privileges and services for unaffiliated visitors, researchers, visiting scholars, guests, alumni, or retirees, see our Visitors Services page.

Find the item: You can see if there is a physical copy of an item on campus in the item record in CLIO, then visit the appropriate library location to retrieve it from the shelf. To borrow physical circulating materials available in a campus library, you will need to present your Columbia ID. Because some of our collection items are stored offsite, you can request that the item be delivered to campus for pick-up within 1-2 business days.

Confirm the loan period: Circulating materials are generally loaned for a semester at a time to Columbia faculty, students, and staff. Full-time officers may designate a teaching assistant or research assistant as a deputy borrower as long as the assistant has an official University ID and their own borrowing privileges. Please review the loan policies based on your affiliation. 

Request items to be emailed (Scan & Deliver): Faculty, students, staff with borrowing privileges may request scans of small portions of a work for the purpose of private study, research or scholarship through our Scan and Deliver service. Any other use may require the permission of the copyright owner. To learn more, please visit Request Items & Services.

Recall an item or return a recalled item: If a book is listed in CLIO as “In Use,” patrons may place a request to recall the item. You will receive a notice when the item is ready for pick up. When a book is recalled from you by another patron, or if an instructor needs it for a course, the due date for that book will be reset, and you will be asked to return the item. Recalls should only be made if an item is not available through another method, such as Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan, or Scan and Deliver.

Get more information: The Library Information Office, located in 201 Butler Library just to the left of the main entrance, can answer general questions about borrowing privileges, services and resources, process fines and fees, and generate temporary passes for non-Columbia affiliates.

If an item is not available on campus or in Columbia’s collection, there are several ways to request that the item be delivered physically to a campus library for pickup, or delivered directly to you electronically.

Physical items mailed to campus (BorrowDirect, Interlibrary Loan): If an item is not available on campus, there are several ways to request that the item be delivered physically to a campus library for pickup, or delivered directly to you electronically. Some of Columbia’s collection items are held at ReCAP, an offsite shelving facility, which also holds items from partner institutions that circulate the same way as on-site materials. You can also request items from partner institutions and other libraries using Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan. Items requested through Borrow Direct can be checked out for 16 weeks. Loan periods for Interlibrary Loan vary depending on the lending libarary. To learn more, please visit Request Items & Services.


The process for finding and accessing our special collections is different from other library materials. While users cannot borrow these items, access may be granted through requests to use materials for scholarly and research purposes. To learn more about Columbia's special collections and how to gain access to the materials, please explore an individual location or collection: 

Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary

C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research

Columbia University Archive

Global Studies Division

Oral History Archive

Rare Book & Manuscript Library


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. Eligible Columbia participants may register for MaRLI.

New York Metropolitan Reference and Research Library Agency (METRO): allows Columbia faculty, students, and staff access (on site only) to items at any participating METRO institution not available on campus or at the New York Public Library. Columbia patrons may gain access to this program with a METRO Referral Card, which can be requested via Columbia affiliates wishing to use collections at METRO libraries are encouraged to call ahead to verify their access policy. The METRO Referral Card cannot be issued for general use at other libraries. Learn more about METRO.

New York University (NYU): allows Columbia faculty, students, and staff to access materials (on site only) at the respective institutions. You can visit the New York University Libraries with your active Columbia ID. Borrowing privileges are not included, however, full-time Columbia doctoral students and faculty may apply for borrowing privileges through the MaRLI program.

SHARES: gives Columbia faculty, students, and staff on-site access to collections and services at the other SHARES institutions. Through this collaborative, partners give each other's visiting faculty and scholars the same degree of access to collections and services that they provide for their own communities. Learn more about the program and see the full list of participants here. Note that users from and of New York City institutions must use the METRO program to access materials instead of the SHARES program.

Columbia University & Cornell University partnership (2CUL): enables reciprocal borrowing for current students, faculty, and staff of each institution. Current Columbia faculty, students, and staff may register for a library card for Cornell University Library and borrow books when visiting the Cornell campus in Ithaca, New York (this agreement excludes Weill Cornell Medical Library in NYC). Learn more about 2CUL.

Borrow Direct Plus: grants Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary students, faculty, and staff with current Columbia University IDs on-site borrowing access from fellow institutions, including Brown University, Cornell University, Duke University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. Borrow Direct Plus expands upon Borrow Direct, allowing users on-site privileges in addition to borrowing. Policies vary between institutions; be sure to review before visiting.

You may renew an item from the original check out date unless another borrower has requested it, an instructor needs it for a course, or your borrowing privileges are suspended. Items may be renewed via My Borrowing Account or in person from the library location from which they were borrowed. If you are unable to renew an item, it may be that the renewal limit has been reached.

Most items may be returned to any library location. Book bins are usually located near library entrances. Some materials must be returned to the service desk or library from which they were borrowed:

  • Reserve materials
  • Media – including DVDs, CDs, videocassettes, and recordings
  • Microfilm and fiche
  • Musical Scores

For more information about returning items in person or by mail, please visit Returns

Long overdue items are considered lost.  Please return long overdue items at your earliest convenience.  For more information see above section "Return."  A single lost item will have an adverse impact on your library privileges.  Log into My Borrowing Account to identify all items and fees associated with your account.

Lost items: Columbia University Libraries policy is to charge a replacement fee of $100.00 for every lost item.  Borrowing privileges at all Columbia libraries are temporarily suspended if fees exceed $99 or if a recalled item is not returned on time. 

Fees may be paid by credit card (Mastercard, Visa or Discover), check or money order by contacting the Library Information Office.  Payment of fines or fees on overdue items at Affiliate Libraries must be paid at those locations: