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Special Collections Research Guidelines

A closeup photo of someone itemizing and reviewing a collection.

Special Collections’ main reading room is located in Olin Library (Level 1) at the center of the Danforth Campus where researchers, visitors, and classes can access a wide range of collections. Researchers, visitors, and classes should adhere to Special Collections Policies when accessing the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections.

For more on planning your visit, see the Special Collections Research & Access page.

Special Collections Reading Room Rules

  • Patrons who fail to adhere to established rules and policies may be denied access to Special Collections materials.
  • Food and beverages are not allowed in the reading room.
  • Briefcases, bags, coats, purses, backpacks, and any other bulky items must be placed in the space provided for patron belongings.
  • Please silence all mobile devices. If you need to make or receive a call please leave the Reading Room.
  • Collection materials are non-circulating and may not leave the Reading Room. Patrons may be limited in the amount of collection material received at one time.
  • Patrons may take notes with paper and pencil, a laptop computer, or other electronic devices. Pens, highlighters, markers, or similar implements are not allowed around the collection materials. Post-it Notes, paper clips, rubber bands, etc. may not be used on the collection materials.
  • Marks may not be added or erased from collection material. Tracing over collection material or otherwise writing on top of material is not permitted.
  • Patrons should use one box of collection material at a time and should have only one folder or item out at a time. All collection materials must remain on the table while being researched. The staff will inform patrons if the use of gloves or book cradles is required, and these will be provided.
  • All items must be kept in the order in which they are found. Should a patron discover errors in arrangement or description, he/she should call this to the attention of the Special Collections staff person on duty. Patrons may not rearrange or in any way alter the order, contents, or descriptions of collection materials.
  • When patrons are finished with their research, leave collection materials on the table, and inform the staff whether or not you intend to return.

Research Procedures

  • Patrons must complete and sign a Patron Information Form and read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies as defined on this Web page.
  • Patrons request access to collection materials using the Paging Request Form. Patrons request photocopies or digital reproductions using the Reproduction Request Form.
  • Patrons who wish to reproduce the content in a publication, performance, or broadcast should complete a Notification of Intent to Quote From or Publish Materials Form.
  • Special Collections can grant permission to publish or otherwise use material where Washington University is the copyright holder. Patrons must complete a Request to Quote From or Publish Materials Form and in some cases pay a use fee and/or complete a license agreement.
  • Special Collections may charge duplication fees to create scans or other copies of materials. Payment for reproductions is due 30 days from the date on the invoice. Orders over $100 require prepayment and will be provided to the patron within 30 days of payment.
  • In some cases, the use of cameras, portable scanners, mobile devices, and the Reading Room scanner is allowed. Please ask before scanning or photographing material.
  • Washington University Libraries reserves the right to make decisions about what materials can be photocopied, photographed, scanned, or otherwise reproduced based on the condition of collection materials, access restrictions, and copyright restrictions.

Additional Considerations

  • Access and authorization. Providing access to materials or furnishing reproductions does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. In all cases, it is the patron’s responsibility to obtain any necessary permission from the copyright holder(s) and assure that the use of the materials is permitted under applicable law.
  • Reproductions for private study. Under certain conditions specified in the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code), libraries and archives are authorized to furnish reproductions of textual material. One of these specified conditions is that the reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship or research.” If a user requests for or later uses a reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. Special Collections may require patrons to demonstrate that they have obtained appropriate permissions before providing publishable reproductions of copyrighted materials or sound and audio-visual recordings.
  • Permissions and determination of rights. Washington University does not hold copyright in all of the works in its Special Collections, and so often cannot permit to use of materials or otherwise grant exclusive rights of the copyright holder. Items may be subject to copyright held by third parties, and reproduction or distribution may require the additional permission of copyright holder(s). Special Collections staff can help identify copyright owners and share acquisition information. Some material may be in the public domain, but University Libraries cannot and do not certify that. For works that are not in the public domain, certain uses may be allowed as fair uses or under other exceptions. Washington University does not assert copyright in reproduction scans of public domain materials made openly available on its websites.
  • Privacy, confidentiality, and other non-copyright restrictions. Some materials reproduced from Special Collections may be subject to rights of privacy, publicity, and trademark as protected under federal and/or state privacy laws and regulations. Such rights are likely to be controlled by parties other than Washington University. Though Special Collections staff attempts to identify such content, sensitive or confidential information may exist unknowingly in folders not otherwise marked as restricted. Researchers are advised that disclosure of certain information about identifiable living individuals may have legal implications. Note that what may be permitted in one state may not be permitted in another. It is the obligation of the user to determine and satisfy such rights and restrictions when making use of materials.
  • Citation and credit. Special Collections requests as a matter of good scholarly practice that users who quote from material in its collections for publication or distribution provide attribution to University Libraries in the following form:

    [Name of the Collection], Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections.