COVID-19 Update: Library Reopening FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about library services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nov. 18 update: The University recently moved its COVID-19 alert level to orange (moderate risk). Yale libraries will close to users at end-of-day on Tuesday, Nov. 24 – Jan. 4. See all library hours.

1. How can I access physical library materials while library spaces are closed to users?  Nov. 18, 2020

Current faculty, staff, and students may:

  • use the links in Orbis and Quicksearch to request library materials, including BorrowDirect and interlibrary loan materials, for contactless pickup at Thain Café at Bass Library or outside the entrance of Cushing/Whitney Medical Library.
  • request to have materials, including interlibrary loans and BorrowDirect materials, mailed to addresses in the U.S.  Please use the "Send to home address or campus residence" link in Orbis or Quicksearch. For more information, visit the Get it at Yale website.
  • request digital scans of chapters and articles from Yale Library collections and via interlibrary loan, which will be filled based on availability of materials at our partner libraries. Library users may request books for pickup or delivery through BorrowDirect and interlibrary loan. 

2. How can I access special collections materials? Nov. 18, 2020

Beinecke Library, Manuscripts and Archives, and other special collections reading rooms will be open to users only for previously scheduled appointments on Nov. 23-24, and cannot accept new reservations for those days. All special collections’ reading rooms will be closed to all users beginning Nov. 30.

Special collections staff are digitizing materials for classes and providing in-class material handling demonstrations and object engagements via Zoom. Faculty should contact the relevant special collection repository to discuss class support needs. For non-Yale researchers, the library's capacity to fill special collections scanning and reference requests is limited and may vary by repository, with no guaranteed fulfillment times.  We continue to expand the range of digital collection materials freely available to the public. 

3. How is Yale Library supporting students who are enrolled remotely? Nov. 18, 2020

We have enhanced online services and support for faculty, staff, and students in several ways:

  • Faculty, staff, and students can now access most e-resources off-campus from the library’s website without logging into the virtual private network (VPN). Watch this one-minute video for a demonstration. Please note: VPN access remains fully available for those who prefer it, and it will continue to be required for a limited number of e-resources.
  • Currently enrolled students may have books and other library materials, including BorrowDirect and interlibrary loan materials, sent to their home addresses anywhere in the U.S. Please use the "Send to home address or residential college" link in Orbis or Quicksearch to request this service. More information can be found on the Get it at Yale website.
  • Through our Ask Yale Library service, we are offering extended live-chat hours for more than 90 hours a week. Off hours, you may email your questions to
  • We have maintained the special access we secured last spring to several million e-books in the HathiTrust digital library through the end of the spring semester. As a condition of this access, our print copies of these titles may not be checked out, but they are available for chapter scan requests. (If you have questions about a specific HathiTrust title, please email We are also temporarily prioritizing e-book purchases over print.
  • All library instruction, workshops, and statistical support services are being offered online-only at this time. Consultations with research librarians are also be virtual. We encourage you to take full advantage of our online reference and research support. If you need assistance, please contact your personal librarian or the relevant subject specialist librarian.

4. Is there a limit on the number of items I can request for pickup or scanning? Aug. 27, 2002

You may request up to 20 items a day for pickup. There is no limit on the number of scanning requests.

5. When I pick up library materials, should I clean or disinfect them? Aug. 27, 2020

No. Please don’t clean or disinfect library materials.  Cleaning may damage the materials, and it’s not necessary given the precautions our staff will be taking, including the 48-hour quarantine of materials when they are returned to the library.  We encourage users to wash or disinfect hands before and after using library materials. 

6. Can I request books via interlibrary loan (ILL) and BorrowDirect?  Nov. 18, 2020

BorrowDirect and ILL materials may be requested for pickup or mail-to-address. We continue to accept and fill ILL requests for scanned articles and book chapters, based on availability of materials from partner libraries. BorrowDirect materials generally arrive within two to four business days.

Most of the 13 BorrowDirect institutions are lending from at least some of their library collections. Many titles currently available as e-books through the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) may be unavailable in print form through BorrowDirect because most of the BorrowDirect institutions are also participating in ETAS. Participating libraries, including Yale Library, cannot lend out physical copies of books for which they have obtained temporary e-book access from HathiTrust. 

We regret that we cannot offer BorrowDirect services to other Yale affiliates due to staffing constraints and the increased demands of supporting online teaching and research.

7. I have overdue library materials. Where should I return them? Oct. 15, 2020

Most library materials may be returned to any open bookdrop. Audio-visual and other fragile materials should be held until libraries reopen. If you have questions about returning library materials, email for options. Otherwise, please keep library materials, including BorrowDirect and Interlibrary Loan materials, until you return to campus or receive a return request from us. Due dates have been extended, and fines and late fees generated during the COVID-19 period are being waived. 

8. May I recall books that are checked out?

At this time, we are not recalling books because so many library users are away from campus and unable to return items to campus. If you need a book that is currently checked out, please submit a purchase request, and we will try to obtain an electronic copy for you.

9. I cannot travel domestically or internationally to work with the research materials that I need at another archive or library. Is there anything the library can do to help? July 31, 2020

As a general rule, our library staff do not have any special influence with other archives and libraries. We recommend that you contact the other institution directly to explain your problem and request their assistance. However, in some cases, our subject expert librarians and archivists may be able to help you identify related or alternative materials in Yale Library collections or licensed resources, or collections available in digital form at other institutions. If you aren’t sure who to contact, email Please note: At this time, because of staffing and other constraints related to the pandemic, library services are generally limited to current Yale faculty, staff, and students. 

10. Is the library accepting purchase requests for print and e-books? Oct. 15, 2020

Yes. Use this link to place a purchase request for any title; you will be notified by email when your requested material is available. Unless you specify otherwise in your request, we will fill your purchase request with an electronic version. Print will be ordered only if the requested item is not available electronically, or if you have specified print on the form. Because of material handling and quarantine requirements, print orders may take several days longer than in pre-pandemic times.

11. How can I get access to course reserves/course readings through the library? Sept. 3, 2020

Course Reserves is a service provided by the library to make course readings and audio-visual material available via Canvas. Faculty can initiate requests for e-books, scans, and streaming audio or video using the Course Reserves module of Canvas

To access readings and other materials "on reserve," students should look for the link that says "course reserves" on the left of the course website in Canvas. Students may also find copies of course materials in these ways: 

  • Use Scan and Deliver to request chapter or article scans of items that Yale Library owns. Look up the title in Quicksearch, then find the “Request scan of article / chapter” link. Log in with your Yale NetID and tell us which pages, chapter, or article you need. (*Note that US copyright restrictions prevent scanning an entire work.)
  • Use Interlibrary Loan  to request chapter or article scans of items not available at Yale Library.
  • Request Yale Library materials for delivery to on-campus housing or home address. Look up the book title in Quicksearch. If the library owns a copy, it will be listed there. If it's an e-book, look for the access link ("Online book") and log in with your NetId to read it.  
  • Fill out a purchase request to request e-book versions of class materials to be added to the Yale Library collection.
  • Request materials through BorrowDirect

For questions not answered here, use the live chat service at Ask Yale Library or email Ask Yale Library.  See also our COVID-19 library updates for additional information about the library's ongoing response to the pandemic.

Last modified: 
Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 4:30pm