Research Access, Rules & Procedures During the Pandemic

Researcher Access

Until further notice, only faculty, students and staff affiliated with Columbia University will be allowed to do research in Archives & Special Collections. Patrons must complete all of the university’s COVID requirements to be allowed into the building.

Research visits will be by appointment only, Monday-Friday, in two hour increments: 10-12 and 1-3.  No more than 2 researchers working separately per time slot will be allowed. Researchers may reserve both the morning and afternoon slots. Appointments on consecutive days will be at the discretion of Archives & Special Collections staff.

Reservations must be made via at least 2 days in advance. Upon receiving a reservation, Archives staff will direct the researcher to online versions of our patron registration, inquiry, and HIPAA forms as needed (see below).  Professional staff will also contact the researcher to learn more about their inquiry. Forms must be completed and returned before arriving at Archives & Special Collections.

All researchers must follow Columbia University pandemic policies: masks must be worn at all times and social distancing observed.  Except for when using photographs, researchers are not asked to wear gloves.

It is suggested that researchers tell us which boxes in a collection they are interested in seeing first so we can page them in advance.  Generally, we will page no more than 6 document boxes/2 records cartons/10 volumes at a time. In accordance with New York State reopening guidelines, on-site staffing of the department will be at 50%. This may result in delays in retrieving materials as well as requests for researchers to leave the reading room if staff needs to step out.

Due to staff constraints there may be days when we cannot accommodate researchers or must cancel an appointment.

Researchers must notify us as soon as possible if they must cancel an appointment or will be significantly late for one.

Researchers who are scheduled for both the morning and afternoon time periods may reserve in advance a seat for lunch in space on the Lobby Level of the Hammer Building.

Remote reference remains available Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm via

Research Policy and Procedures

Researchers must complete the patron registration form (if a first-time researcher at the Health Sciences Library) and the inquiry form online in advance of their visit.  They may also have to complete our forms Confidentiality Agreement for Access to Records Containing Sensitive Health Information and Certification to Permit Access to Archival Information if they desire to access records containing sensitive health information; researchers should contact Archives & Special Collections for guidance if they are unsure.

Before the arrival of the researcher, Archives staff will prepare their table with appropriate forms such as photocopy requests, photography logs, as well as pencils.  Printed instructions on how to complete each form will be included. 

Archives staff will complete the call slips for the initial paging of materials. For subsequent pages, researchers will be expected to complete the call slips themselves and leave them on the front desk for a staff member to page. The cart containing the paged materials will be left in the entrance area of the reading room and will be retrieved by the researcher.

Researchers will return all paged items to the cart. This material will then be quarantined for 3 days before being reshelved.  Because of this, same day photocopying/scanning will not be possible

All photocopy and scanning orders will be accepted at the discretion of Archives & Special Collections staff. Due to staffing constraints, large orders are unlikely to be accepted. Photography (without flash) is permitted. Tripods are not allowed. We urge researchers to take photographs of documents where possible.

Finding aids for Archives & Special Collections manuscript and archival holdings may be found be found on our website.

These arrangements may change depending on the course of the pandemic in New York City.  Please be patient with us as we navigate this challenging situation.