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Using the Billy Rose Theatre Divison's Collections: Strategies for Research


Located in the heart of the Lincoln Center complex on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the Billy Rose Theatre Division is housed on the third floor of the Library for the Performing Arts, along with the Music, Recorded Sound. and Dance research collections. Staff members, knowledgeable in all aspects of theatre history, are available to assist users in their research. 

Begin your work at the 2nd floor Theatre reference desk, located near the stairway leading up from the first floor entrance. A large collection of circulating items on theatre, television, film, and allied arts may be found in open stacks on the 2nd floor. All Research Collection materials are noncirculating and must be used on the 3rd floor. Materials from the noncirculating Research Collections are retrieved from closed stacks upon receipt of a call slip at the Delivery Desk on the 3rd Floor. Additionally, a growing portion of our collection is stored at NYPL's offsite facilities. Researchers may request offsite items for delivery to the library, as identified in NYPL's online catalog. 

Archival materials, rare books and other special collections materials may be used in the 3rd floor's Katharine Cornell-Guthrie McClintic Special Collections Reading Room. The Theatre on Film and Tape (TOFT) Collection can be viewed in the Lucille Lortel Screening Room also on the 3rd floor.

Locating Materials

Strategies for locating materials in the Division depend on the type of materials users seek. The Collection can be broadly divided into two categories: book and non-book material. Different approaches should be used to access each type of information. For a helpful guide to researching theatre at LPA and in other collections at NYPL, see "Welcome to the Theatre, to the Magic, to the Fun!"

Books and Periodicals

Easy access to books and periodicals can be obtained by searching NYPL's online Catalog. To consult published plays, users should visit the Circulating Drama Collection on the 2nd floor of LPA, or the General Research Division of Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The Billy Rose Theatre Division does not house such literary works, unless a copy has been used as a promptbook during production. For unpublished plays, you should also check out the scanned catalog cards.

Non-book Items

To locate the Division's extensive nonbook materials—including scrapbooks, clippings, programs, photographs, reviews, posters, and original artwork—start by consulting the free-standing card catalog on the 2nd floor near the Theatre Reference Desk. Material may be found under title (play, film, or television program), personal name, company, or subject heading. Programs and reviews are arranged chronologically. Users may also consult the 30-volume Dictionary Catalog of the Theatre and Drama Collections, Part III: Non-Book Collection, published by G. K. Hall and Company for non-book materials cataloged before 1974. Available onsite and at reference libraries throughout the United States, this resource is particularly valuable to out of-town researchers. These non-book materials must be used in the Katharine Cornell-Guthrie McClintic Special Collections Reading Room.

Archival Material

Archival collections held by the Theatre Division may be found by using the NYPL's Catalog. In many cases, detailed inventories called finding aids will provide in-depth information about the materials in each collection, and these documents are linked from the records in the Catalog. Archival collections must be used in the Katharine Cornell-Guthrie McClintic Special Collections Reading Room.

Theatre on Film and Tape

The Lucille Lortel Room, adjacent to the Special Collections Reasing Room on the 3rd Floor, houses the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive. Material can be located in NYPL's Catalog by searching under production title, author, theatre company, and/or dialogue participants. Advance appointments are required for viewing. Users may contact TOFT to ascertain tape availability at (212) 870-1642.

Reference Services

We provide basic reference services in person at the Theatre Reference Desk on the 2nd floor. For reference assistance by email, please contact If you aren't able to visit the library to conduct your own research, you may use NYPL's Premium Services research staff.

Copy Services

Information about obtaining photocopies of materials at LPA may be found here. Please note that although there are limitations on obtaining photocopies of some items in the Research Collections, patrons are allowed to bring their own digital cameras to photograph most items for their own personal use. The library's Photography and Photocopying Policy may be consulted for more specific information. Additionally, high-quality scans and photocopies may be ordered through NYPL's Premium Services.

Publication of Materials

Permission to reproduce materials from the Division for publication in books, magazines, documentaries, calendars, greeting cards, and advertisements, or for other use, including broadcasting, must be requested through NYPL's Premium Services. Users are responsible for obtaining reproduction and/or copyright clearances, which often do not rest with the New York Public Library.

Interlibrary Loan

In rare cases, books and periodicals may be requested to other libraries through interlibrary loan. However, the core of the Division, non-book materials, archives, AV, and scripts, may not be borrowed. For more information, please visit our ILL page.