Bancroft Library opens reading room to personal cameras

he Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley is opening its doors this fall semester to the use of personal cameras in the reading room. The trial program, which is implemented at many other institutions around the country, allows students and other patrons to photograph any of the items in the library’s vast collection for personal use.

Personal cameras may now be used i the Reading Room.  There will be a $10 charge per day.Susan Snyder, head of public services at The Bancroft, said the move will provide instant gratification to patrons and a more cost-effective approach to getting copies of materials. It also will give users increased access to many rare and often fragile items that cannot be photocopied due to the risk for damage, she said. Patrons’ personal contact with these items will help raise awareness about the library’s expansive collections, she added, and attract more visitors as a result.

Allowing library visitors to take their own photographs also provides more protection for the library’s materials than making photocopies. The Bancroft employs special photocopy machines, but there is always some damage done. According to Snyder, photographs are much more protective.

Before implementing the program, Snyder and her staff looked at about 100 other institutions that have similar policies, including Stanford University. After analyzing the pros and cons of different systems, they decided to charge patrons $10 per day to photograph an unlimited amount of materials. People bring their cameras to the library, sign a user agreement, pay by cash, credit, or check at the front desk and set up at one of 10 seats designated for photography. A student employee oversees the photography to ensure no one misuses any materials and everyone complies with the rules.

Snyder said the library is tracking who is using the service, what they are photographing and how it is done. She hopes that the data will help improve the service and work out any kinks that come up. The library would rather start with a very liberal policy and set limitations once it encounters problems, Snyder said.

So far, feedback from users of the service has been positive, Snyder said, noting that students appreciate being allowed to decide their own system for photographing and organizing materials.

Snyder hopes that classes, especially large undergraduate history courses, will use the photographs as part of a classroom tool to share The Bancroft’s images and collections. Snyder is hopeful that a system may be developed to photograph materials for instructors.

Overall, Snyder said she believes the program will be a great addition to the library and all the benefits will outweigh any costs. The Bancroft Library has a large community all over the world, she said, and this service will only help grow that population more.

For more information on The Bancroft Library’s policy for use of personal cameras, click here.