Planning Your Visit

Before visiting, please contact us as there may be delays in accessing materials in the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS).


Students, faculty, visiting scholars, researchers, and members of the general public are welcome to consult materials in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room on level one of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

A UBCcard or Alumni Library Barcode acts as your library card to request and access RBSC materials. Researchers without a UBCcard or Alumni Library Barcode can register for a free RBSC patron card. You may register for a patron card onsite or prior to arriving in the reading room.

If you register for a patron card in advance, please bring a piece of photo I.D. and let the RBSC team member at the front desk know that you have already completed the online patron registration form. The patron card is good for a year and allows you to access all of our available materials.

If you plan to consult archival materials, please also complete our research agreement.

Access to Materials

Rare Books and Special Collections is a closed-stack collection, meaning collections can be browsed through the Library catalogue and archival database, but not physically. RBSC is also a non-circulating collection, meaning that materials can be consulted in the reading room, but not checked out to take home.

Finding materials

For tips on identifying materials in the library catalogue and archival database that you may wish to consult in the reading room, refer to our Finding and Using Materials Research Guide, as well as other helpful Research Guides. For further assistance, please feel free to contact us or reach out to a specific librarian or archivist.

Requesting materials

Once you’ve located your item(s) of interest, you can request that materials be pulled for consultation. While you are welcome to drop-in during our reading room open hours, we do recommend that you request materials in advance to make your visit more efficient and to ensure that materials are available. For drop-in visits, please note that we stop retrieving materials for patrons at 1:30 p.m. during normal weekday open hours.

Patrons may consult three books or one box of archival materials at a time. For certain high research-value archival fonds or collections, we will provide access to one file at a time, as noted in the finding aids for these materials.

Due to space considerations, we can only pull one book truck of archival boxes for patrons at a time (about 12 boxes). Additional boxes may be requested after the initial boxes have been consulted. If your research requires the consultation of a large number of archival boxes, please contact us and provide a list of boxes in priority order.


Whether due to their age, condition, scarcity, or value, materials at RBSC must be handled with care. Please carefully read our handling guidelines for information about how to ensure the safety of materials during consultation.

Photography and scanning

Patrons are welcome to take photographs of the materials they consult (forms will be provided in the reading room). RBSC does not have a self-scanning station, but patrons can make reproduction requests in the reading room or online. RBSC provides one free hour of scanning to patrons (per research project). For larger scanning order, please consult our fees page.

Service Limits on Research

Rare Books and Special Collections team members are available to assist researchers in locating archival or published material, to advise on research questions, and to carry out copying requests. To contact a specific RBSC team member, please see our directory.

Requests from researchers of a librarian or archivist to conduct in-depth research fall outside the scope of work we are able to carry out. For example, we are unable to accept requests to search archival fonds or collections for all material related to a person/subject area or date range. Similarly, we are unable to carry out copying requests that do not indicate specific items/files in an archival collection. If you are not able to come to RBSC yourself, you may wish to hire an independent consultant to conduct research on your behalf.

The following links are intended to help you locate a researcher. (Please be aware that RBSC cannot guarantee the work of the service providers listed here.)

Independent research consultants