Frequently Asked Questions

Visiting the Archives Library

10-5 Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday

800 E. 17th Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210
(614) 297-2510

Can I bring in my own scanner to make digital copies of materials in the Archives/Library?

Due to the fragile nature of items in the Archives/Library collections, scanners are not allowed in the Research Room. Placing books face down on flat surfaces puts stress on the bindings.  We have a special copier that cradles the books face up to alleviate the stress on the spine.  We can make paper copies for you using that.  If you need actual digital copies, arrangements can be made through our Digital Services department.

Can I use a camera to photograph documents and photographs?

The Ohio History Connection does encourage visitors to use digital cameras to photograph items from the collection. We ask that they agree to and sign the procedures specified in the Ohio History Center Digital Camera Use Form

What is “paging” why can't I go in the stacks myself?

Paging is having a library staff member retrieve a book from shelves that are not open to the public.  This is for conservation and security purposes.  We keep the most commonly used materials in the reading room, which the patrons may access themselves.  However, the vast majority of our collection is in the “closed” stacks.  If you need a book that is not in the reading room, we ask that you fill out a “call slip” at the reference desk to request it.  Depending on how busy we are, it can take between 15 to 45 minutes to retrieve the materials for you.  Due to the time involved in retrieving the books, we will only page books until 45 minutes before closing.

If you have requested materials such as manuscripts that are one of a kind, we will have you sit in a special corralled section of the library while using them.  

Why aren’t you open more hours?

Over the past decade, the Ohio History Connection has faced severe cut backs in state funding and other revenue.  As a result, our staffing levels have been cut back to less than half of what they were in 2000.  Nonetheless, the Society has worked to implement innovative methods for cost-savings, allowing the Archives/Library to be open four days per week. Help support the Archives/Library by becoming a member.

Why do you have so many rules?

Unlike typical libraries, the goal of the Archives/Library is to ensure that collections are preserved for generations to come.  Some of the rules are in place to keep the materials in the best possible shape.  Others are for security, to keep them from being defaced or stolen. The majority of our rules are in place to protect the collections. 

Why does paging take so long?

The closed stacks comprise 3 floors. It can take 10 minutes just to get to the upper floors and back without even retrieving any books while up there.  The pages often have to retrieve multiple items per trip.  Also, some of the materials we have to retrieve are large and unwieldy, requiring 2 staff members to retrieve them.

Why don’t you want us to reshelve books and microfilm ourselves? Wouldn’t that help you?

We do appreciate the desire on the part of our patrons to help us.  Unfortunately, some patrons either aren’t very familiar with our shelving system or aren’t very careful in putting things back.  When items are  misplaced, it takes a lot more staff time to find them than it would have to have us just put them back ourselves.  In the meantime, the misplaced books are unavailable to our other patrons.  Our staff and volunteers specialize in ensuring that materials are reshelved and also utilize re-shelving as an opportunity to review the condition of materials. 

Remote or Off-Site Services

I can’t come in to use your archives in person. How can I use your resources?

Depending on what you need, you may be able to have copies made or have microfilm sent to a nearby library through interlibrary loan.  Due to copyright and conservation issues, restrictions may apply.  Please see for information on copies and for information on interlibrary loan.

I don’t know what you have to even request copies. How do I find out?

Information on our holdings is available through our online catalog at  Many of the manuscript collections also have finding aids available at  that will give a more detailed breakdown of what is included in them to help you figure out what you need.

Why don’t you have everything available online?

Although we have scanned some items from our collections into the following online databases (see links below), this represents a small fraction of the collection contents in our archives.  We are continually working to make items available in digital format, but there is a cost in money, time, and staffing that makes it unlikely that all of our holdings will be accessible electronically.

African American Experience in Ohio 1850-1920:

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Fight For the Colors: The Ohio Battle Flag Collection:

Kilroy Was Here: The 1940s Revisited:

Ohio Memory:


Remarkable Ohio:

Significant Government Documents in Ohio’s History

Virtual First Ohioans:

Can you do the research for me?

We are happy to answer reference questions without charge if the answer is something that we can find out relatively quickly.  Due to our limited staffing, we have to charge a research fee for more complex questions.  Please see for more details.  For very complex, time consuming research requests, we will need to refer you to a professional researcher.  There is a list of them available at

How can I learn more about doing research myself?

We offer genealogy workshops every month on a variety of subjects.  Please see for more details.

I want a copy of my great-grandfather’s obituary. Can you send that to me?

Due to the labor intensive nature of newspaper research, we do not have the manpower to be able to provide that service.  However, you can have that roll of film sent to your local library through interlibrary loan and make a copy of it yourself.

How do I request something through interlibrary loan?

We can only make loans to others libraries for use within their facilities.  Please contact your local library and have them make arrangements. More information about out interlibrary loan policies is available at /collections--archives/archives-library/interlibrary-loan

I tried calling you on the phone with a reference question. Why was I told to send an email or letter with my question instead?

While our staff members are on phone duty, they are unable to leave the small office area where the phone is.  This limits them on how much access they have to our resources to be able to check on things for you.  For example, if you wanted to know what town in your county was the original county seat, they cannot get up, go into the Reading Room, and look at the county history to find that information for you.

Another issue is that many of the questions we get are very complicated.  We may need more information than you have readily available to be able to help you, or the question may be so complex that it is subject to a research fee.

Finally, our individual staff members have different areas of specialty.  The one who knows land records inside and out may not know all the intricacies of military history, and the military history expert won’t necessarily know everything about mental health records.  Getting your question in writing allows us to direct your inquiry to the person who is best able to answer it.  Due to issues with people forgetting to leave their contact information and with playing telephone tag, having you send an email has proven to be far more efficient than having you leave a voice mail message.

Birth, Death, and Marriage Records

How do I get copies of birth, death and marriage records?

You can either come to the Archives Library in person to make copies yourself or you can request copies of records by mail or the internet.  Details about obtaining copies can be found at the following:

Birth records:

Death Records:

Marriage Records:

These are government records. Why do I have to pay for copies?

While we receive some state funding, we are not a state agency.  The funds we receive from the state pays for the expenses involved in making the records available but does not cover the cost of providing copies of them.  In accordance with Ohio law, we charge fees based on our actual cost for paper, microfilm machine maintenance, and labor.  The fees we charge are actually much lower than those charged by state agencies for vital records.

Why do I have to pay the fee for a death certificate if you weren’t able to find it?

In rare cases, names have been mistakenly left off of the death index when it was originally compiled by the Department of Vital Statistics.  We have no control over that.  However, more often than not, the requestor provided incorrect information for us to pull the death certificate by.  They may have the death year wrong, or were unaware that Grandpa Joe’s real first name was Oleander, or didn’t know that their ancestor who was buried in Cincinnati died across the state border in Kentucky.  We have to spend staff time looking for the certificate regardless of whether we are given correct information to find it with.  It actually takes us more time to process orders where the name isn’t found in the death index than it does when the correct information is provided.  

Why does it cost more for death records from before December 20, 1908?

It takes more staff time to locate records from before December 20, 1908.  Before then, death records were kept as line entries in ledgers.  The indexing for them is not straightforward like the indexing for the post 1908 records is.  The records are also usually handwritten and often very difficult to read.

Can I get a certified copy from the Archives Library?

No.  Since we were not the issuing authority, we cannot provide you with a legally certified copy.

Getting Involved

What can I do to help the Archives Library?

Your support is always appreciated.  You can become a member of the Ohio History Connection or make a donation.  You can also volunteer to help with the behind the scenes work.  Please contact Annamae Kacsandi or for more information on volunteer possibilities.

I would like to donate a book, manuscript, map, photograph, etc. How do I do that?

Please contact with a description of what you would like to donate.  A curator will call you to make arrangements from there.  They may need more information to determine whether your item is appropriate for our collections.  We do appreciate all offers, but not everything is within the scope of what we collect here.  

What kinds of materials don't you accept?

Sometimes we already have multiple copies of something and do not have need of another one.  We can also only accept original materials.  For example, we could accept an original copy of a pamphlet from 1911 but could not accept a photocopy of one.  Family histories are welcome, but only if they are bound, indexed, and cover families that lived in Ohio.  We are unable to accept family Bibles due to space limitations.