Remote Consultation Recommendations

Recommendations for Safe Handling and Viewing of Library Materials Remotely 

Covid-19 has restricted access to library materials and in-person consultations. This document provides basic guidelines and recommendations to assist with remote communication within Harvard Library, (for example, between a repository and Preservation Services), and with faculty, students, and researchers. This document addresses virtual consultations with still images, recorded video, or live video.  

There are added challenges to careful handling of library materials in remote consultation. If you have any questions about handling library collections and/or would like further training, please contact Preservation Services. [ for general collections; for special collections]. 

Please Note: You will probably be handling materials without assistance. 


Equipment may include cell phone cameras, point-and-shoot or digital SLRs, either handheld or on a tripod, and document cameras (sometimes called remote cameras, teaching cameras, or by their brand name, for example, HoverCam). A laptop camera is not recommended. It is difficult to get a good view without manipulation that could be damaging to the material. 

Keep In Mind

  • If performing a live set-up, practice before the consultation begins. 

  • Some materials are particularly light or heat sensitive, (some photographs, colored media, blueprints, recordable optical media, etc.), and should not be exposed to light for long periods of time. Please consult Preservation Services for guidance. 

  • Always preference the safe handling of library materials over the quality of the view or image.  

Prepare for Your Session 

  • Discuss with your audience in advance about what they are interested in seeing 

    • For Preservation Services consultations: include representative images of damaged areas, if feasible. 

  • Consider how you will need to turn pages, move your material, or move your camera to view what is needed. What tools or supports will you need to do this? 

    • One simple solution is to support the material on a board or large piece of paper or folder stock. This will make moving it easier.  

  • Ask these questions:

    • What are the fragile areas of the material? (most common: fragile cover joint, tight opening, brittle paper, folds in paper)

    • What can I do to prevent further damage? 

Set Up Your Workspace 

  • Gather tools and supports: cradles, support boards to assist with moving materials, weights, etc. 

  • Make sure there is enough room to view your material with supports (cradles, weights, etc.).  

  • Make sure any wires, cords, ID lanyards or jewelry are away from the library materials.  

During Your Viewing or Image Capture 

  • Work slowly and deliberately. Observe the material’s physical reactions to handling. Do not force or bend the paper or other material. Stop if you hear buckling or cracking. 

  • Polyester sleeves (Mylar) may create some glare. Try changing the angle your light source to reduce glare. Materials that are sleeved often are fragile and/or have handling issues. Accept that some glare may be necessary as removing the material may be detrimental to its condition. 

  • Use two hands to move or shift the materials. If the material is large or fragile use a support board to assist movement. 

  • Do not move the material while looking at the camera/ screen. Shift the material to get it into position, then check the viewer, then adjust and repeat as needed. This will take longer than moving the materials while looking at the viewer but is safer for the collections. 

  • Move the material by moving the support board beneath rather than moving the material itself. 

  • Put the camera down before moving your material. Do not handle the materials and the camera at the same time. 


Basic handling guidelines may be found here, Top 10 Tips For Reading Room Success and on the Careful Handling website.