Ask a Librarian


Common Questions About Researching at the BPL

  • In-Library Use Only Materials
    You can access materials found via the online catalog marked In-Library Use Only by coming to the Delivery Desk at the Central Library in Copley Square at least twenty-five minutes before closing. Some materials are stored offsite and may not be available right away.

    Other Materials

    Much of our research collections, particularly those older than 1974, are not represented in our online catalog. Please consult our special collections index to find contact information for requesting access to individual collections, or get in touch with our Research Services librarians via for help or to have materials pulled for you in advance of your visit.

  • Online
    Fill out our contact form or email us at Our librarians will be in touch over email within twenty-four hours. Depending on your needs, we might recommend a phone call or visit when we get back to you. If your research need is complex, please indicate in the form that you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss your research needs.

    We have librarians on-call to help you with research and reference from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. You can reach us at 617.536.5400.

    There is a librarian on duty at all BPL locations who can help you with research. More intensive research help is available at the Central Library in Copley Square in Bates Hall.

    Book a Librarian
    You can also book a 30 minute appointment with a research librarian. After you request an appointment, the Library will get back to you within 2 business days letting you know if your appointment was approved; information about joining the meeting will be sent in a separate email. Appointments must be requested at least 5 days in advance. 

  • You can get a research card at the Central Library in Copley Square at either the Borrower Services Desk (Level One of the Boylston Street building) or the Delivery Desk (Level Two of the McKim building). This card is free and allows use of materials inside the library. To get this card, you need a photo ID and a document that states your current address. A driver's license or state ID should fulfill both requirements.

    If you are coming to the BPL from far away for extensive research, we encourage you to reach out to our Research Services librarians ahead of your visit to ensure the most efficient use of your time here. You can email our Research Services librarians at

  • Generally speaking we do not make copies for patrons but we do offer photocopiers for your use. If you have trouble using one of our copiers let us know at the nearest service desk.

    Please note: some of our materials can’t be photocopied for preservation reasons. In many such cases digital photography would be allowed but please consult with a research librarian before photographing any research materials.

  • When you return your item to the Delivery Desk, be sure to let a staff person know you would like to extend your hold. The item will be put aside and will be available on the “holds” shelf the following day.

Print this page