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Olin Library Guidelines and Policies

Exterior roof of the Olin Library with a yellow ginkgo tree.

Building Access

The John M. Olin Library will require a card swipe with a valid WashU ID for entrance after 8:00 PM until Olin Library closes, Sunday-Thursday.

All users without a valid WashU ID are expected to leave Olin Library at 8:00 PM, Sunday-Thursday, and not to visit Olin Library during the swipe-access-only hours. No card swipe is required on Friday or Saturday, and visitors are welcome during all operational hours.

See the Library Hours page for Olin Library and other Danforth Campus library regular hours, as well as special hours and closures due to breaks and holidays.

Users should have their WashU ID with them at all times; for safety and security reasons, library staff may request to see a library user’s identification.

There is an automated door at the north and south entrances to John M. Olin Library, and an elevator is located on each floor. Please see People with Disabilities under For Visitors and Alumni for more information


Visitors are responsible for being abreast of and adhering to the University’s visitor guidance and protocols and the Library Usage Guidelines on this page.

Eating and drinking are permitted in some Olin Library spaces according to the Food and Drink guidelines below.

While visitors to the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections reading room are always welcome during their open hours of operation, Special Collections research visits are by appointment only and limited capacity. Please see the Plan Your Visit portion of the Special Collections Research & Access page for more information.

Closing Time

A closing announcement will be made prior to closing each day. At that time, prepare to leave the library. Users who have materials to check out at the Help Desk should prepare to arrive at the Help Desk at least 10 minutes before closing time to check out materials.

Personal Property and Lost Items

Protect your personal property from theft or damage. Do not leave any personal property (including laptops, mobile devices, bags, and other articles of value) unattended. The University Libraries are not responsible for lost or stolen property and there is no guarantee that an item left or lost in the library will be found and turned in.

Lost items are kept at the Help Desk on Level 1. WashU Police (WUPD) pick up the lost items they deem valuable and transfer them to the WashU Police Department’s Lost & Found, which is the central location for those seeking lost items on the Danforth Campus. Items such as mobile devices, laptops, and wallets that are not claimed at the Help Desk will be sent to WUPD’s lost & found. Items that WUPD does not deem valuable may be retained for a limited time in Olin Library. In addition to checking with WUPD, users are encouraged to ask at the Olin Library Help Desk during its open hours in case a lost item was not deemed valuable by WUPD and/or has not yet made its way to WUPD.

Library Usage Guidelines

For the comfort and safety of library users and the security of the building and collections, the University Libraries expect users to observe the following guidelines when using Olin Library. The University Libraries reserve the right to address behaviors that do not adhere to these guidelines.

University Libraries reserves the right to restrict the access of any person who abuses the following: 

  • Using resources for any purpose that violates federal or state laws 
  • Using resources for unauthorized commercial purposes 
  • Using resources in a manner that is disrespectful or intimidating to others 
  • Damaging materials, including pest infestation, furnishings, or any building structure  

To provide a secure environment for all, library staff or security are authorized to: 

  • Request current photo identification of any person in the library 
  • Question any person if it appears that this policy or Washington University policies are being disregarded and call for other assistance if necessary 
  • Limit or revoke library privileges at any time if policies are disregarded  

Persons who violate this policy may also be subject to disciplinary or legal actions.

Study Spaces

See the Study Rooms page for information on available study rooms and spaces in Olin Library and other Danforth Campus libraries. Olin Library currently has university study cubbies in the southwest area of Level 1, ideal for participating in Zoom classes.


When using Olin Library, be respectful of other library users and mindful of the surrounding noise level. The following chart is intended to help users choose study spaces according to desired noise and activity levels. Note that not all areas of Olin Library are represented in the chart. Users are encouraged to explore the library to find the environments that best support their needs.

Looking for spaces where…Try these:
Talking and activity are expected and encouragedLevel 1: Study areas near the Help Desk, Thomas Gallery, and building entrances; Whispers Cafe
Level 2: Risa’s Landing, Morrow Group Study Room 217
Level A: Newman Exploration Center
Talking and other noise-generating activities should be kept to a minimumLevel 2: Roffer Lerner Study Room 215
Level A: Silent Graduate Study Room A30 (no keyboard/laptop usage)
Level B: Quiet Study Room B24; Graduate Study Room B25

Item and Activity Restrictions

  • Please talk on your cell phone only in the staircase landing area on each floor, and keep your phone on silent or vibrate at all times.
  • Running, skating, and similar activities are not allowed. Carry (do not ride) your skateboard, in-line skates, or collapsible scooter in the building; do not place these items where they obstruct pathways or stairways, and do not leave them unattended.
  • Bicycles and non-collapsible scooters are not allowed into the building.
  • For safety reasons, do not stretch electrical cords across or within pathways. Doing so creates a trip hazard.
  • Due to safety and fire regulations, do not linger or sit on staircases.
  • Do not smoke (including e-cigarettes) or chew tobacco. These activities are not allowed anywhere on the Washington University campuses.
  • With the exception of trained service animals, do not bring animals into the library.
  • Balloons are not permitted in the library.

Food and Drink

The University Libraries strive to maintain an environment conducive to user comfort, study, and research while preserving library collections, equipment, and furnishings.

Eating and drinking are permitted in some areas of John M. Olin Library as outlined below.

Food and Drink Allowed

  • Food and covered drinks are not generally monitored in most spaces except the areas listed in the “Restricted Food and Drink Spaces” section below.
  • All food deliveries must be received outside the library.
  • Cooking appliances, such as griddles, hot pots, and crock pots, are not permitted.
  • Users are expected to properly dispose of all food and drink waste.
  • Promptly report all spills to the Help Desk or email

Restricted Food and Drink Spaces

  • The book stacks
  • The Special Collections Reading Room and Mendle Classroom
  • No food in the Research Studio; covered drinks are allowed
  • Library Instruction Rooms 1 and 2
  • No food at library computers, microform readers, and DVD/VHS viewing stations; covered drinks allowed
  • No food in Graduate Study Room A30; covered drinks are allowed


Olin Library spaces primarily support study, learning, and research. Olin Library spaces are, therefore, not generally appropriate for campus events. Special events in Olin Library are programmatic to the University Libraries or are sponsored or co-sponsored activities. In the case of such events, Olin Library spaces are reservable only by University Libraries staff. Those seeking event spaces for campus activities are directed to Washington University Event Management.


The University Libraries must grant permission in advance to film in Olin Library. Requests to film will be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account factors such as the requested location, duration of filming, and impact on study, learning, and research. To request permission, email Kimberly Singer ( at least one week prior to the desired filming date and include a brief description of the intended project along with the date, time, anticipated duration, and the number of people involved.


The University Libraries do not offer tabling inside Olin Library or on the grounds outside the library, except by University Libraries staff for content that is programmatic to the University Libraries.

Posters and Flyers

Do not hang, place, or distribute posters and flyers within or outside the building, except on the bulletin board in Whispers Cafe, near the vending machines and printers. Users are welcome to submit content for display on Olin Library’s digital signage. The complete University Libraries Posting Policy is available here.