Doing Research at the RBSCL

The Rare Books and Special Collections Library welcomes research use of its holdings by both researchers from a distance and on-site users. Besides the guidance below for each category of those users, see our guides for Using Rare Books and Historic Magazines, Using Special Collections Materials, Using Reserve Materials and Open-stacks Books, Journals, and Theses, and Crediting and Citing Rare Books and Special Collections Library Materials.

Research from a Distance

Before contacting the library check what kind of resources may be available by consulting the RBSCL collection strengths and curatorial areas web pages and the research tools and digital content links on the homepage.

A selection of RBSCL resources have been digitized and are available online in our Rare Books and Special Collections Digital Library, for worldwide access.

Users who cannot visit the RBSCL may request research assistance from library staff. Contact the library at or at 20.2.2615.3676. Research services desk staff will assist you or pass your question on to the appropriate RBSCL unit or subject specialists listed on the RBSCL Contact Us page. If you know the kinds of materials you require you may contact the following units or subject specialists directly with your request.

You may be requested to hire a research assistant to help you if your research project is too extensive or time-consuming. RBSCL staff may be able to suggest possible research assistants.

Reproductions (digital scans, photographs or photocopies) of library materials may be ordered if, in the judgment of library staff, doing so will not harm the item(s). Unit staff and subject specialists will coordinate the process of making and receiving reproductions; permission to publish must be received from library staff.  See the Reproductions and Digitization page for details.

Using the Library On-site and Visiting User Guidelines

Consult the Visiting and Access to the Library to plan your visit, especially for external (non-AUC) users, who require clearance to campus and the Main Library Building. If planning to use non-book special collections materials, make an advance appointment.

We kindly request researchers and other visitors to respect the following rules:

  • Upon entering the Rare Books and Special Collections Library users will be required by a security guard to place any bags into a locker at the entrance to the RBSCL. Laptop cases may not be brought into the library.
  • Users should be prepared to show photo identification.
  • No food and drinks are permitted in the library.
  • Keep mobile phones in silent mode. If you need to make a call, kindly step out of the library.
  • Users are expected to remain courteous and respectful of other users and staff at all times and those causing a disturbance or refusing to abide by the rules of the RBSCL will be asked to leave and their privileges may be revoked.
  • As you exit the RBSCL, library staff and security guards reserve the right to inspect anything being taken out of the library, for the security of the library’s collections.

Reproductions and Photography

Reproductions (photocopies, digital scans, photographs, media digitization) may be made from materials if, in the judgment of library staff, doing so will not harm the item(s).  A reproductions form must be completed and approved by a library staff member, who will direct the user to RBSCL Digitization Center facilities, which are the only places where reproductions may be made. See the Reproductions and Digitization page for details.

To use personal cameras, mobile phone cameras, or personal scanners, consult with the research help desk staff or the unit staff or subject specialist you are working with. There may be a cost for making digital images with your personal equipment.

Class Tours, Demonstrations, and Orientations

AUC Faculty seeking class orientations to the RBSCL or demonstrations of library materials for their classes should contact the Library research services desk at or 20.2.2615.3676 or a staff member in one of the RBSCL’s units or a relevant subject specialist, as listed on the RBSCL Contact us page. Information required to arrange your visit will include the name of the course, academic department, nature of the students (i.e. undergraduate vs. graduate), number of attendees anticipated, desired visit date and time and duration of the session, and any particular instruction topic or holdings or subject interests.