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last updated: 10/16/2013

Microforms in IUB Wells Library


About microforms

A microform consists of page-by-page miniaturized reproductions of printed materials in one of several formats.  IUB Wells Library holds large collections of microfilm (on 35 or 16 millimeter reels), microfiche (multiple pages reproduced on a flat sheet of film, usually about 4" x 6") and two obsolete opaque formats:  microcard and microprint.



microfiche Microfiche



microprint Microprint

Advantages and disadvantages of microforms

The advantages of microforms are that they allow for the compact storage of very large amounts of printed material in a small space and are not subject to the kind of deterioration that destroys print collections.  Microforms are often the only available access to certain types of printed matter.  Our collection includes a wide variety of primary source materials in all disciplines, as well as government documents, doctoral dissertations and back issues of newspapers and periodicals.

The disadvantages of microforms are that they are usually in black and white only and special equipment is needed to read them.  ET2 owns equipment which allows for the viewing and scanning of all four microform formats.

Location of microform collections

Most microforms are housed on the 2nd floor of the East Tower of the Wells Library in the Government Information, Maps and Microform Services Department and are filed under their call numbers, just as print materials are.  Please ask ET2 staff for assistance in locating microforms.  Other collections are available in the Education, Fine Arts, Law and Music Libraries.

Finding microforms

Microforms are cataloged in IUCAT, just as print books and journals are, and the IUCAT record may give a start in determining which part of a microform collection is needed.  Print or online guides are available for many collections.  Print guides are cataloged in IUCAT and are shelved on the Microforms Reference Shelf under the same call number as the microform.  Please see our Guides to Microforms page for links to online guides.  Also, ET2 staff are available to assist patrons.

Reading, printing and scanning microforms

ET2 has microform readers with scanning capabilities.  Scanning is done one page at a time usually using Adobe Acrobat; instructions for scanning can be found in the Patron Guide located at each workstation.  The resulting pdf's can be printed, saved to a flash drive, or attached to an e-mail.  Direct printing is not available.  ET2 staff are always available to assist patrons.  Non IU-affiliated patrons who want to scan microforms can obtain a temporary logon at the main circulation desk in the East Tower.

Microform readers/scanners in ET2

Canon Reader/Printer/Scanner

The gray Canon machines are recommended for viewing and scanning microfiche and microfilm.  Scan using Adobe Acrobat.
ST 200 Reader/Scanner

The black ST200's are the only choice for opaque formats:  microcard and microprint.  Scan using ScanWrite.

Circulation and Inter-Library Loan

With certain exceptions, microforms can circulate.  However, since special equipment is required to read them, circulation is rare except in the case of inter-library loan.  ET2 owns several portable microfilms readers, which can be checked out, but these are heavy, awkward to carry and have no printing or scanning capabilities.

Microforms owned by a regional campus library may be obtained using the Request Delivery button that appears in the upper right-hand corner of the IUCAT record. 


Microforms not owned by IU Libraries may be obtained through Inter-Library Loan.  Go to the Documents Delivery Services page and click on Request an Item Not Available in an IU Bloomington Library.

Patrons are welcome to use our machines for reading/scanning borrowed or personally-owed microforms.

Services and costs

Self-service scans are free, and IU students, faculty and staff can print using their print quotas.  Non-IU affiliated patrons can purchase a print quota at the UITS help desk in the Information Commons (1st floor, West Tower).

For more information see: Microforms Services & Costs.


Patrons experiencing problems with the machines or who have questions concerning their operation should consult ET2 staff.

For further information, please contact us at

last updated: 10/16/2013