Welcome to Columbia University Libraries. Make use of our libraries and services even if you’re not associated with Columbia or its affiliate institutions. We’ll show you how. Start by determining which library resources and services you’re entitled to as a visitor.

Faculty from institutions outside of the New York City area that are not already part of SHARES are entitled to a reader’s card, valid for five days, once per semester. Visitors must first present a government-issued photo ID and an institutional ID to the Library Information Office which will then issue a reader’s card.

The status of “Visiting Scholar” is assigned by the Office of the Provost. Visiting Scholars are entitled to reading and borrowing privileges as well as use of Borrow Direct, Interlibrary Loan, and other library services and tools (see our Access Grid for more information on privileges). Visiting Scholars must first receive a Columbia photo ID from the ID Center in Kent Hall.

Members of the University Seminars will obtain their Columbia ID cards at the ID Center in Kent Hall. After the ID card is printed, borrowing privileges will be automatically created twenty four to forty eight hours later. Off campus access to e-resources is also provided as soon as the Seminar Associate role is created. Seminar Associates do not need to visit the Library Information Office.

Graduates of Columbia University and its affiliate institutions are entitled to free, off-campus access to a wide range of databases and journals as well as lifetime, in-person use of library facilities, with an alumni ID card. Borrowing privileges can be purchased for $30 per month. Application can be made in person to the Library Information Office. Learn more or access alumni e-resources.

Columbia’s special collections, primarily held in the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, the C. V.  Starr East Asian Library, and the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, are open for use by unaffiliated researchers, with appropriate permissions. Please contact the staff of those libraries directly to schedule an appointment to access the collections.

Researchers interested in government information collections must register for in-person access to Columbia’s collections of U.S. federal and New York state government documents through the Library Information Office. Non-Columbia affiliates may also search CLIO, the online catalog, to locate and access records for government documents from off-site.

Retired Columbia faculty and staff who were employed by the University for 10 or more years are entitled to a continuation of library privileges. Retirees must first acquire a Columbia photo ID from the ID Center in Kent Hall.

Faculty may sponsor a guest for up to thirty days by sending an email to with the name of the guest. This is a one-time sponsorship. Faculty may also bring their guest to the Library Information Office to obtain a readers card.

Students, and staff may bring guests to the Libraries on Saturdays and Sundays through the Library Information Office. Sponsoring faculty and students must present Columbia ID and their guests must show a valid, government-issued photo ID.

Members of the following partner groups and organizations are allowed certain privileges at the Libraries with a valid, government-issued photo ID:

Borrow Direct PLUS

Visitors from participating institutions may register for on-site borrowing privileges. Visitors must first obtain a borrowing card from the Library Information Office with a valid university- or government-issued photo ID. Visitors will also be asked to log into Borrow Direct in order to receive a borrowing card.

MaRLI for NYU Researchers and NYPL Cardholders

The Manhattan Research Library Initiative (MaRLI) enables faculty and doctoral students from New York University (NYU) and New York Public Library (NYPL) cardholders to borrow materials from Columbia. NYU faculty and students must first apply for permission, which typically takes two days to receive upon completion of the registration form (current link broken on LWeb). On their first visit to Columbia’s Library Information Office, researchers will need to present an NYU ID card and a second, government-issued photo ID and will then receive a paper borrowing card valid until September 30 of each year.

NYPL users must demonstrate that they have exhausted the resources available through NYPL and that they need sustained access to Columbia and NYU resources. Interested NYPL cardholders must register for MaRLI, then, once final approval is granted, cardholders may pick up their Columbia borrowing card from Columbia’s Library Information Office after two business days. Users will again be asked to present a valid, government-issued photo ID, and their NYPL card with a valid MaRLI sticker.

NYU Faculty, Staff, and Students

Current full-time NYU undergraduate and graduate students, staff, full-time faculty, and select part-time faculty are able to access library resources at Columbia. To do so, eligible NYU affiliates must present their valid NYU ID and a government-issued photo ID at Columbia’s Library Information Office, which will issue a reader’s card that is valid for the duration of the Columbia semester during which it’s provided.

The access does not include borrowing privileges and there are restrictions to certain resources that are in high demand among Columbia affiliates. Additionally, the Health Sciences Library access is limited to New York University Medical and Dental faculty, the Law Library access is limited to New York University Law School faculty and students, and access to Butler Library is limited to service hours.


Fellow members of the New York Metropolitan Reference and Research Library Agency (METRO) are able to access Columbia resources if the item that readers are seeking is unavailable through either their home institution or the New York Public Library system. We recommend that the referring institution call in advance of the reader’s visit to verify the availability of a specific item through CLIO, the online catalog, or Columbia’s Library Information Office, prior to issuing the referral card.

Patrons with METRO referrals will be asked to present a government-issued photo ID, and if a yellow METRO card was issued, this should be presented to Library Information Office staff. If no METRO card was issued, Library Information Staff will check the email alias to see if the METRO referral was sent through email. The METRO card will be collected, a temporary reading privileges card will be issued, and office staff will assist the reader in locating the library that holds the requested item(s). Visitors are entitled to up to 14 referral cards per semester. Readers who are interested in items from the Barnard College, Health Sciences, Law, or Teachers College libraries should visit those locations directly.


Faculty, staff, and students from SHARES institutions outside of New York City are entitled to reading privileges and access to select e-resources at Columbia. Visitors must first present a government-issued photo ID and an institutional ID to Columbia’s Library Information Office, which will then issue a reader’s card. Borrowing privileges may be purchased for a monthly fee of $75, plus a $20 fee for a Columbia photo ID. Researchers are able to access open stacks throughout the libraries and to use public computers, though printing privileges must be purchased with a University Network ID (UNI), which is assigned through the Library Information Office.

Visitors not affiliated with Columbia University may use library collections and facilities for a monthly fee of $75, plus a $20 charge for a Columbia ID, or an annual fee of $750 (no charge for an ID). Paid privileges include: physical access to most library spaces between 9am and 11pm (or during library operating hours within that window), borrowing privileges, use of public computers in library spaces, and access to most e-resources on public computers.

Visitors must first present a government-issued photo ID and an institutional ID to the Library Information Office, which will then issue an ID card. Acceptable forms of payment are Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or personal check.

The purchase of library privileges does not include the use of Interlibrary Loan, Scan & Deliver, and Borrow Direct services or off-campus access to the Library's licensed electronic resources. Many of the electronic resources may be accessed from a public computer in one of the libraries.

Visitors who have purchased library privileges may use CU Libraries from 9am to 11pm. After or before service hours, the Libraries are restricted to current Columbia students, faculty and staff.

Please Note: The Libraries reserve the right to withdraw privileges if they are abused. Privileges are granted to individuals and are not transferable.