Research & Access

Special Collections is open to students, staff, faculty, and alumni of Washington University, as well as community members and outside researchers.


Open Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. (except University holidays*)
Hours at West Campus by appointment only

*NOTE: Special Collections will be closed on December 27-30, 2016, and on January 2, 2017. Please call 314-935-5495 or email for reference assistance. Thank you.

Olin Library is in the center of the Danforth Campus. The closest visitor parking to Olin Library is in the Danforth University Center (DUC) Garage. Cost is $1.00 per hour.

When planning your route via online map services (Google Maps, etc.), choose your destination as: Danforth University Center at 6475 Forsyth Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130.  Olin Library is a short walk from the Danforth University Center complex.

Drivers with GPS devices can enter these coordinates: Danforth University Center -90.3060526,3 8.6464866,0

Campus can also be reached via Metro public transit.

  • From MetroLink (light rail) exit at the Skinker Station
  • by Bus take the #1 Gold or #2 Red line to the MALLINCKRODT CENTER LOOP stop

For more information, consult WUSTL Visitor Information  or consult the map WUSTL Libraries

West Campus Library is located at 7425 Forsyth Blvd. St. Louis, 63105.

Metered visitor parking is available in the nearby surface lot.  This is a Yellow-zoned parking lot for WU students, faculty and staff.

West Campus is easily reached via Metro public transit.

  • by MetroLink (light rail) exit at the Forsyth station immediately adjacent to the parking lot for the West Campus Library
  • by Bus take the #1 Gold line
  • Complete a Patron Information form (once an academic year).
    • You can return this by email, or completed on your first visit.
  • Complete a Paging Request Form to indicate the materials you want to use.
    • You can return this by email, or fill it out in person
    • As a general guideline you can request up to 6 boxes or books for each day you plan to visit.  Please contact the staff if you have extenuating circumstances regarding your visit (international travel, etc).
  • We recommend making an appointment to ensure the items you want are available.
    • Most (but not all) rare books and manuscript collections  can be retrieved from storage within the same day
    • Archival collections are primarily stored off-site and it can take us 3-5 full business days to bring them to the reading room.
  • All materials are used in the Special Collections Reading Room; items cannot be borrowed or checked-out
    • Staff will bring you the items requested and go over how to handle the items safely.
    • Each visit you will be asked to sign-in and indicate the time of your arrival/departure.
    • You can keep items on hold if you want to return and use them again
Rare Books, Manuscripts, and University Archive collections are accessed at Special Collections in Olin Library.  After entering the library stay on the first floor, go past the main stairs, and look for a door on your left.  This is also where to go if notified about an  Inter-library Loan (ILL) or non-circulating book from West Campus.

Collections from the Modern Graphic History Library (MGHL) and Film & Media Archive are accessed by appointment at West Campus (lower level).

The Preservation Unit is also located at West Campus.

Not sure where to go? Contact us!

(Some departmental libraries on campus also have specialized collections.  Please contact these department libraries directly for more information)

  • camera
  • cellphone (on silent or vibrate)
  • paper
  • pencils
  • laptop / tablet (without its case)
  • USB drive

We have closets that you can use to store your other belongings that cannot come into the reading room with you, such as:

  • bags & purses
  • drinks (including water bottles)
  • food
  • pens

A full and detailed list of our policies for use of Special Collections materials is also available.

  • Ask questions!  Special Collections staff is available to help you.
  • Take notes with pencil and paper, or type on a laptop / tablet.
    • Computers are also available in the reading room ( WUSTL KEY or visitor log-in).

Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research provides general suggestions about conducting research with Special Collections

Making copies:

  • Bring your camera or camera phone to snap digital photos of materials (allowed for most materials - please ask first)
  • Use our free, self-service scanner which can accommodate flat documents up to 8.5" x 11" (allowed for most materials). 
    • Log-on with your WUSTL-Key or ask for a visitor log-on.
  • Some reproductions can only be done by staff due to fragility, size, or format.  Fees for such requests vary.

The Department of Special Collections welcomes classes from all academic disciplines. The format is flexible: we encourage faculty or instructors to select the materials they would like to present in a classroom setting, or the Special Collections staff can assist in selecting and introducing materials.

The Mendle Classroom, located adjacent to the reading room, can be configured to accommodate seminars, lecture-style presentations, or small groups at multiple study stations. We are happy to bring out materials for single class visits or to put them on reserve for consultation in the reading room during normal open hours.

To make arrangements for a class visit or other study opportunities, please contact us.

The classroom is heavily used, so be sure to reserve early. Provide your name, the name of the class, a desired date and time for your visit (with alternates if possible), the materials you’d like to have available, the approximate number of students, and whether you’ll require a computer/projector.  Our staff will confirm your visit details and room reservation by email.