We get a lot of visitors who haven’t visited a special collections library before, so this updated guide is aimed at helping them. If you have any questions please get in touch with us. The guide features Bendy Brunel, whose Day in the Library you can also see on Pinterest.
You can decide what Special Collections manuscript/archive items you’d like to see by searching our archive catalogue. You can also search for printed books (not manuscript material) on our library catalogue. Further details about individual collections, and detailed finding aids, are available on our collection webpages.
To make an appointment to view the items, or if you need help with searching please get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Access to Special Collections is by appointment only. You will find further details about access, including opening times, on our Special Collections guide.
When you arrive at Special Collections you will be asked to leave any bags, coats or umbrellas in a locker or in a locked area. New readers have to fill in a reader registration form on arrival. Before using Special Collections, you must have clean hands. We don’t wear gloves to handle items (you can read guidance from the British Library on why we don’t here). But don’t worry, there are toilet facilities (including an accessible toilet) adjacent to Special Collections.
Once you are ready, Special Collections staff will bring out a maximum of three items at a time for you to look at. They will also show you how to handle the items correctly. Please ask them for help if you are unsure.
If you have requested books you will be given some foam wedges to support the book whilst you look at it, and some “snakes” to hold the pages open. Again, Special Collections staff will show you how to use them.
Whilst you are looking at Special Collections material a member of staff will be watching. Don’t worry about this, we invigilate all of our users and it is simply to ensure the security of our unique and rare Special Collections, and to make sure we are there to help you, should you need assistance.
There are some restrictions within Special Collections. Pens and Post-It notes aren’t allowed. Laptop computers are fine.
Pencils and notepads are also OK. Photography (without flash) is allowed of items for personal study and research, but you will need to fill out a form before taking photographs, and specify what images you are taking.
Finally, food and drink are not allowed in Special Collections. However, there is a coffee shop on the ground floor of the library should you need to take a break. We hope this has answered most questions about how to use Special Collections, but please get in touch if there is anything else you would like to know.