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Digital Camera Usage in the Reading Room

This policy is designed to assist readers with their research by permitting limited use of digital still cameras. Physical condition, copyright issues, donor restrictions, curatorial decisions and other factors may limit or prohibit photography. Photographs are for personal study purposes only and cannot be reproduced; transferred to any other individual, institution, or collection; exhibited; performed; broadcast; published; posted on the Internet; or used commercially.

Use of digital cameras is subject to the following conditions:

1. Those wishing to use digital cameras in the reading room must first fill out and sign an application form that will indicate that all images are provided under fair use provisions for personal study and may not be published without RBSC permission. All applications require the approval and signature of the appropriate curator. Curators may limit the number of copies that may be made by the researcher and may require the use of a paper or Mylar flag to be placed on materials which will read, “Original housed in the Princeton University Library. No copies may be made.”

2. It is the responsibility of each reader to keep complete and accurate citations for all items photographed. Requests for permission to quote or subsequent orders for high-resolution photographic images cannot be processed without this information.

3. The Department will provide each researcher a copy of the signed form and an information card about requesting permission to use the images captured. We will also provide information about copyright and how to determine what is in the public domain.

4. Cameras may not be brought into the reading room until necessary approvals have been obtained. Only cameras (not cases) may be brought into the reading room. Researchers need to allow sufficient time for curatorial approval and photography. 

5. All photography will be conducted using ambient lighting. No tripods, flash, or copy stands may be used. Audible features on the camera must be turned off. Scanners are prohibited.

6. Materials must be handled properly and with great care. 

  • Bound volumes must be supported by a book cradle, unless otherwise instructed. No pressure beyond book weights, snakes, or other items provided by the Department may be applied to the bindings, text block, or any other material.
  • Loose manuscript material must remain in its folder and kept in order at all times. Documents must be kept flat on the table. Fastened items may require special handling; please see the desk attendant before proceeding. Photographs and documents may not be removed from plastic sleeves.

7. No pictures may be taken of the room, readers, or staff.

8. Photographs will be taken at the reader’s desk. Patrons may not stand on chairs or desks or rearrange furniture to obtain a better image.

9. Special collections materials lent to Princeton by another library for use in our reading rooms may not be photographed.

10. The Department reserves the right to obtain a digital copy of any images obtained by the researcher under this policy.


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or other reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or other reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse the use of a digital camera if, in its judgment, such use would involve a violation of copyright law. Further, the user agrees to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the Princeton University Library, and the Trustees of Princeton University against all claims, demands, costs and expenses incurred by copyright infringement or any other legal or regulatory cause of action arising from the use of the Library’s facilities or materials.

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