Special Collections & Archives

Archives and Manuscripts and Rare Books

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Using Special Collections

Special Collections welcomes and encourages use of its collections. We maintain reading rooms at the Brody Learning Commons, the George Peabody Library, and the John Work Garrett Library. A photo ID is required for both Hopkins and non-Hopkins researchers.  You also need to fill out a registration card with us.  Registration cards are valid from July 1-June 30 and are renewable each year. In case you are wondering . . .

Phone #: 410-516-8348

Book Inquiries: rarebooks@lists.johnshopkins.edu 

Non-Book Inquiries: archives@lists.johnshopkins.edu 

Library Catalog: https://catalyst.library.jhu.edu/

Did you know that rare books, manuscripts, and archival materials are stored in several different locations?  It's always best to let us know in advance what you would like to look at.  The good news is that we can meet most requests within 2 business days

Simply follow these handy-dandy steps to request material and you'll be on your way to using all sorts of unique, old, and wonderful things! 

1.)   Tell us what you want to see. You can visit us on M-Level of the BLC, give us a call, or send an email.  For books, we will need the call number, title, and author.  For non-book material, please tell us the collection name, number, series (if applicable) and the boxes you want. Note: You cannot request boxes via the library catalog.  All this information is available in the library catalog or in the finding aid for non-book material. 

2.)   Be sure to leave contact information so we can inform you when the materials arrive or if there will be a delay! 

3.)   Having problems finding material?  Don’t worry, we are here to help! Staff will be happy to help you navigate the library catalog. 

Tips for Book Requests

  • Books from the George Peabody Library and Garrett Library can be delivered for use in our Reading Room.  There may be some limitations on what can be safely transported, but we do try our best to meet the needs of our researchers!  Book transport normally occurs once a week, so it's best to let us know far in advance if you need a book delivered!
  • Most of our rare books are housed offsite.  If what you wish to look at is stored in the library, we can retrieve it for you same day.
  • You may notice that some rare books are in the library catalog, but don't have call numbers yet.  That's just because they are awaiting cataloging.  You can certainly ask to see books that are "in process"!
  • Some of our books are housed at the LSC (Libraries Service Center).  You  might be able to request these online.  If you have any problems requesting a Special Collections book at the LSC, contact us. You can visit us on M-Level of the Brody Learning Commons, give us a call at 410-516-8348, or send an email to rarebooks@lists.johnshopkins.edu

Do you have a digital camera?  If so, you may take photographs free of charge of our materials if the condition permits! The images are to be for research purposes only and are not be used in publication without the permission of the department. Unfortunately, no fancy-schmancy light set-ups are permitted because we don't want to bother other researchers!  We also have a Book Eye Scanner that is freely available for your use.

The Sheridan Libraries have a special responsibility to maintain in good condition all materials entrusted to its care in Special Collections. Readers are asked to exercise the greatest care in handling fragile documents and books and not to mark them in any way. The following regulations are intended to help preserve these materials for your use as well as for the use of future readers.

1. Readers are required to register annually to use Special Collections. Your registration form will become part of the department's permanent records. Our registration period follows the fiscal calendar (July 1- June 30).

2. Materials are to be used only in designated areas.

3. Readers may not take personal belongings such as briefcases, book bags and coats into the Reading Room. No drink containers or gum chewing are permitted. Such items are to be left in lockers located  near the Reading Room entrance.

4. Readers may use pencils or laptop computers for note taking. Pencils and electrical outlets are available in the Reading Room. Pens or scanners may not be used in the Reading Room.

5. Care must be taken in handling rare and unique materials. Materials must be flat on the table. Nothing (including elbows!) should be placed on materials. Book stands and "snakes" are available to hold bound items open. The original order of unbound materials must be maintained. Do not rearrange manuscript or archival materials. Please report any apparent disarrangement to the staff member on duty.

6. Requests for new manuscript or archival material, collections of books, or materials held on reserve must be placed before 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and before 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings when the Reading Room is open until 8:00 p.m.

7. Most archival and manuscript materials are housed outside of the Library. Any materials not housed in the Library must be requested at least 24 hours in advance of intended use.

8. Researchers are permitted to take photographs for research purposes only with personal cameras or using the department's Book Eye scanner, provided that the imaging will not damage the materials or impinge on copyright or other restrictions.

9. Readers who wish to publish, reprint or reproduce in any form materials in the collections must complete a request to publish form.

The Department of Special Collections offers patrons three different ways of receiving copies of our material:

  • Researchers may take images of resources using a digital camera, but hand-held scanners and special light set-ups are not allowed.  Images taken with your camera are for research purposes only.  If you need images for publication, please speak to staff.
  • Researchers may also use our Book Eye Scanner.  You can email images or save them to your own thumb drive.
  • Do you need materials but can't make it to our Reading Room? If you are unable to view the materials yourself, please contact staff about options.

Please remember that certain restrictions may apply to what we can copy, such as if a book is in poor shape, under copyright, or if a particular collection has embargos on its use.