Whereas in a library you may be able to use public photocopiers to take copies of pages from a book, in an archive you will not be allowed to do this yourself. Instead, you will have to complete a form with the reference number of the item(s) you would like a copy of. The form usually has a statement about copyright which you will be expected to read and sign.
Sometimes archivists will tell you they can’t copy something. This is usually due to copyright (for example, we can’t copy anything published in the last 70 years but librarians can), or the terms on which the documents were donated to the repository.
For an example of a collection which is held at King’s College, Cambridge, but which requires special permission before any copies can be produced see the ‘Access and Use’ section of the fonds level description of the Hayward Bequest (the papers of T.S. Eliot).
Copies of archival documents can cost more than library photocopies (see the details of our charges). They may also take a few weeks to prepare, especially if the documents are particularly fragile.
If you need the information in a rush or the archivist can’t copy the document you require, you may have no option but to transcribe it. In case of problems like these, it is good to plan ahead when using archives and avoid leaving things until the day before your essay is due to be submitted!