User Guide & Registration

The mission of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library is to make its collections accessible to all who wish to consult them, while doing its best to preserve these collections for future users. We ask that readers familiarize themselves with the guidelines for requesting and using materials in the Reading Room. The staff of the Library will be pleased to assist you.

Registration and Security

All readers must register annually in order to request Rare Book & Manuscript Library material (the registration year runs from July 1 to June 30). Registration is NOT required by patrons wishing to view exhibits or consult our reference collection. We require that patrons conform to the rules and regulations outlined here. Please note that we reserve the right to inspect library materials and personal items prior to entry and upon departure from the Reading Room.

Click here for The Rare Book & Manuscript Library Registration Form, or ask for it at RBML's Public Services Desk.

How to Request Materials

Readers may request material by completing and signing (in pencil) a Rare Book & Manuscript Library call slip. A separate call slip must be completed for each title requested. All materials requested (except microforms) may be used only in the Reading Room.

Reading Room Rules

The Reading Room is normally open 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Coats, hats, purses, bags, computer cases and other belongings are to be stored in lockers or on coat stands provided for the convenience of readers.

Laptop computers are allowed in the Reading Room, provided other users do not object to the noise they create.

Reference material may not be taken into the Reading Room except with the approval of a librarian.

Readers may only take colored loose-leaf paper and pencils into the Reading Room; the Library will supply paper and pencils for those who need them. Ink of any kind is prohibited in the Reading Room.

Permission of a librarian is required for the use of personal digital cameras. Items to be photographed must be evaluated for condition and handled as directed by Reading Room staff. Material designated as restricted or fragile may not be photographed. Final permission to take pictures is granted conditional on the full and accurate completion of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library Personal Photographing Form.

Handling Rare Books and Manuscripts

Readers are generally allowed one archival box or folder, or up to five books at a time in the Reading Room.

The exact order of unbound material must be preserved. Only one folder at a time should be removed from a manuscript box.

All items should be handled with care and should be rested on the table, in a book cradle or on foam supports at all times. Staff will assist and may direct readers in the proper handling of materials.

Special weights are available to keep tightly bound books open. Readers should not use force to open tightly bound books.

Pencils are the only form of writing implement approved for use in the Reading Room. Ink of any kind is prohibited in the Reading Room.

Readers must not make tracings, rubbings or marks of any kind in or on any library materials.

Readers must not attempt to cut unopened gatherings in books.

Returning and Reshelving Library Material

Before leaving the library, readers must alert the Reading Room Attendant and indicate whether they are finished or need to return for further consultation. Readers may ask to have material placed “on hold” for up to a week from the last time used.

Reference Questions

Curators are happy to provide reference assistance to all users, with onsite patrons receiving first priority. The Library’s staff are also able to provide reference assistance by mail, telephone, email, and fax, but please understand that due to staffing constraints, we are not able to provide in–depth research services. Questions are addressed in the order in which they are received, and response time will vary.

In all reference requests, please include your name and complete contact information, as well as your specific question. Please consult the staff directory, or use our "Ask a Curator" form.

Rights and Reproductions

For information about reproduction options, prices, and rights and publication permissions, please visit our Reproductions Services page.