Researcher Guidelines

Welcome to the Special Collections of the John M. Kelly Library. By definition, the items in the Special Collections are unique and irreplaceable. All items in the Rare Books Collections and the Archival and Manuscript Collections are non-circulating and can only be used in the Special Collections Reading Room.

The Library has established these procedures to ensure that items in its collections are preserved for future scholars.

  • You may bring a pencil, paper, and a tablet/laptop into the Special Collections Reading Room. All other personal items (including coats and bags) must be left in a locker. Lockers for day use can be signed out at the Circulation Desk on the ground floor.
  • Researchers must fill out a Researcher Registration form and show a piece of photographic identification to the Special Collections staff member.
  • Request for Materials form is to be filled out for each item you wish to consult and presented to the Special Collections staff member. The material will be brought directly to you in the Special Collections Reading Room.
  • Access to some materials may be restricted. The Special Collections staff member will inform the patron of any conditions that may restrict access to materials being requested. The use of certain documents may be restricted by statute or the donor. The researcher must assume full responsibility for fulfilling the terms connected with the use of the restricted material. For the protection of its holdings, the Library also reserves the right to restrict the use of materials which are not arranged or are in the process of being arranged, materials of exceptional value, and fragile materials.
  • Only three book volumes or boxes of archival material will be provided at any one time.
  • Items may only be used in the Special Collections Reading Room and may not leave this area.
  • Items must not be left unattended. If you need to leave the Special Collections Reading Room and are not finished with the items, please return them to the Special Collections staff member.
  • When you have finished consulting the materials and at the end of the day, return all items to the Special Collections staff member.
  • Patrons are not permitted to copy items in Special Collections themselves; the Special Collections staff member will copy requested items, provided they are in suitable condition. For more information on duplicating materials, see Reproduction Policies, Services, and Fees.
  • Digital cameras and camera phones (without flash) can be used with permission. Consult with a Special Collections staff member who will provide you with a Personal/Research Use Agreement form.

Rules for Handling Materials

  • No eating or drinking (including water, candy, and chewing gum) is permitted in the Special Collections Reading Room.
  • Ensure your hands are clean; thoroughly wash and dry your hands before using materials; refrain from applying hand lotion or cream before handling materials.
  • Remove any dangling jewelry, identification cards, or loose clothing, which may come in contact with the materials.
  • Only pencils may be used. If you do not have a pencil, the Special Collections staff member can supply you with one.
  • Never mark pages or write on paper laid on top of a book, manuscript, or archival records. Tracings are not permitted.
  • Turn pages slowly, carefully and deliberately; the turning of pages should not be audible.
  • Take extra care when handling oversize or brittle materials, and in opening folded plates and maps.
  • Use the strips provided on the tables to bookmark an item. Do not use “post-it” or other self-sticking notes or paper clips.
  • Gloves (white cotton or nitrile) will be provided for patrons using photographs, film, drawings, and other sensitive material.


  • Do not force books open so that they lie flat. Use the provided book foams, wedges, and weights. Staff will demonstrate the proper use of these aids.
  • Never lay an open book face down on the table, lean on a book, or place other books or objects on it.

Archival material

  • Only one archival record should be handled at a time. If records are kept in folders, remove only one folder from one box at a time and do not remove records from the folder.
  • Keep archival records flat on the table surface as much as possible. Do not allow records to overhang past the table’s edge.
  • Maintain the exact order of documents in a folder and folders in a box. If you think that there is an error in arrangement, please advise the Special Collections staff member. Do not rearrange archival records yourself.

Service Limits on Research Questions

Special Collections staff are available to assist researchers in locating archival or published material, to advise on research questions and to carry out copying requests.

Requests from researchers of a librarian or archivist to conduct in-depth research fall outside the scope of work we are able to carry out. For example, we are unable to accept requests to search archival fonds or collections for all material related to a person/subject area or date range.

Similarly, we are unable to carry out copying requests that do not indicate specific items/files in an archival collection.

If you are not able to come to the Kelly Library yourself, you may wish to hire an independent consultant to conduct research on your behalf.