Policies and Procedures for the Public

I. General Policies

The collections of the Library have been developed for advanced information and research needs in the subject areas of anthropology, astronomy, geology, paleontology, and zoology. Seekers of general information may be better served by using collections at a New York Public Library branch.

All patrons must leave coats and bags in the designated area at the entrance to the Library, and must register at the Reference Desk before using Library facilities. Patrons may not bring food or drink into the Library, nor use mobile phones there. Patrons are allowed in the Reading Room and in designated areas of Special Collections. The stacks are not open to the public and Library materials cannot be borrowed.

II. Use of the Book and Journal Collection

Patrons may consult the reference collection (which is housed in the Reading Room) or submit call slips to request items from the general collection. Librarians cannot take requests to retrieve materials from the general collection and put them on hold for a patron prior to his/her arrival.  A maximum of ten titles may be requested per patron, per day. Materials will be paged at 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30 only. Patrons must submit picture identification (i.e. driver's license, school ID, etc.) at the time that materials are delivered.  That identification will be held at the Reference Desk until the patron has returned all Library materials.

At their discretion, Reference Staff may limit the use of especially fragile or rare materials. Rare books may be requested by appointment only; those requesting rare materials must complete a form stating the purpose of their research.

The computers located in the Reading Room are provided for research purposes only. These computers may be used to access resources such as the Library's CatalogResearch Databases, and E-Journals.

To request books, patrons should search the Library's Catalog and fill out a yellow call slip (provided at the Reference Desk) for each title that is needed. Patrons requesting journals should fill out a white call slip. All call slips must be filled out completely in order for the request to be processed.

Searching for journal articles on a particular topic is a two-step process. Patrons should begin by searching the Library's Research Databases. Once citations to journals are found, patrons then need to search the Library's Catalog to find out whether the Library owns the journal the article appears in, and to get a call number for retrieving the journal from the general collection.

III. Use of the Photo, Film, Archival, or other Special Collections

Visit Special Collections for information about access and use of photos, film, and archives.

IV. Photocopy Facilities and Services

A self-service photocopy machine is provided in the Library. Copies are $.20 a page. The time limit for use of the photocopy machines is ten minutes if others are waiting.

Rare, fragile, and oversize materials may not be photocopied using the self-service photocopy machine. Library staff will photocopy or scan these materials for you (providing the items are stable enough to be handled). The cost for this service is $0.50 per page. Please visit our Reproduction and Licensing page for more information.

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies and other reproductions of copyrighted materials; patrons using the photocopy machine are liable for any infringement of this law. 

V. Conservation and Preservation Policies

Patrons must exercise care when using fragile library materials. Under no circumstances may rare or fragile materials be photocopied without first consulting with a Reference Librarian. To avoid putting stress to the bindings of books and journals, materials must be photocopied by putting the crease of the book or journal along the slanted edge of the photocopy machine and copying one page at a time (rather than pressing the material flat on the machine in order to copy two pages at once). Paper clips or sticky-notes on any Library materials are not allowed; acid-free bookmarks are available at the Reference Desk.

For interested patrons, the Library’s Conservation Department has also compiled useful information and advice about preserving books and papers as well as a list of suppliers for archival materials.

VII. Reference Assistance

A Reference Librarian is on duty at all times to assist with research inquiries. Librarians are able to answer inquiries that can be resolved quickly using ready reference resources. For more in-depth inquiries, librarians will advise patrons on how to conduct research using Library resources.

The Library's Catalog as well as the Research Databases provide "Help" information for users who are unfamiliar with searching that database. Patrons should consult this online information for instructions on using the Library's electronic resources.

If you are unable to visit the Museum and cannot locate the information you require, the Museum Library's reference staff (libref@amnh.org) can be contacted for reference purposes. The response time is for inquiries is approximately 4 weeks. Please consult the Library FAQ page before making inquiries. Librarians cannot take telephone or email requests to verify the availability of Library materials or to pull an item from the general collection to verify information (with some exceptions for out-of-town researchers).