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Guide to Using Special Collections at the Yale University Library: Register

Why do I need to register?

Because special collections materials are rare, unique, and usually irreplaceable, they are subject to a higher level of security than other library materials. Therefore, special collections materials can only be used in a secure reading room under the supervision of repository staff, and cannot be checked out. Accordingly, researchers must register to be a special collections researcher, and check in and out each time they visit a special collections reading room. Registering as a special collections user also allows you to conveniently request materials online before your visit.

What do I need to do to register?

All researchers using collection material in the secure environment of one of Yale University Library's special collections reading rooms must agree to the terms, conditions, and guidelines specified in the Yale University Library User Agreement for Special Collections as a condition for access to Yale's special collections. The agreement language, supplied for consultation in a separate box in the right-hand column, is an integral part of the special collections registration process.  Researchers with a valid Yale NetID can use Yale’s Central Authentication Service (CAS) to register online and create a special collections account. All other researchers must provide a valid email address in order to complete this registration/account-creation process. Without exception, researchers must complete the online registration process before any access to special collections materials will be provided.

In addition to assenting to the user agreement, the following are required the first time you come in person to a Yale University Library special collections reading room in order to complete the registration process to access collection material:


Supply ONE of the following:

  • A currently valid Yale photograph ID.
  • A government-issued passport bearing your name, your photograph, and an expiration date indicating current validity.

Supply the following:

  • A non-passport government-issued ID bearing your name, your photograph, and an expiration date indicating current validity. Examples: driver's license, U.S. state-issued identity card, military ID.

AND ONE verification document containing your name and issued by a school, agency, or corporate body.

  • A verification document does not need to contain a photograph or an expiration date, but the latter must be currently valid if present. Examples: a second non-passport government-issued ID; a school, college, alumni, or employment ID; a utility or other bill less than 2 months old; a voter registration card; a credit card; a Yale Library unaffiliated researcher ID; a signed letter of introduction from a teacher or supervisor on institutional letterhead and dated within the previous year.


  • Have a current photograph of yourself taken by special collections staff for inclusion in the internal patron database used to confirm the identify of patrons using special collections.

Once your registration is completed you can be signed into any Yale University Library special collections reading room without presenting an ID each time. 

Your special collections account information will need to be updated and your current photograph re-taken annually.

Register Online

Yale's special collections units are currently working to develop a single common online registration system for researchers.

    • Click here to register online as a user at any of the following repositories.
      • Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
      • Divinity Special Collections
      • Gilmore Music Library Special Collections
      • Haas Arts Library Special Collections
      • Lewis Walpole Library
      • Manuscripts and Archives
      • Medical Historical Library

For information on registering at other Yale special collections units, please click on one of the following links:




Yale University Library User Agreement for Special Collections

The Yale University Library (YUL) exists to preserve the heritage of the past and to make it available to researchers. These terms govern use of our holdings whether in original form or as surrogates. Original materials in our holdings are non-circulating and must be used in a controlled reading room environment. Upon registration, the Yale University Library grants permission to examine its holdings to qualified researchers, subject to restrictions that may have been placed by donors or depositors. We will not grant exclusive rights to examine holdings.

As a researcher using Yale’s unique and irreplaceable collections you are responsible for adhering to terms of this agreement. Failure to do so may result in loss of access privileges for Yale University Library’s special collections. This agreement is a legal contract between you and Yale University that permits your use of special collections materials. The agreement is organized into five sections:

  1. Non-disclosure Agreement
  2. Reproductions and Copyright
  3. Publication Permissions
  4. Security
  5. Terms and Conditions for In-Person Use of Materials in a Special Collections Reading Room

I. Non-disclosure Agreement

Social Security Numbers: Holdings may contain Social Security numbers. The researcher agrees not to record, reproduce, or disclose any Social Security numbers that may be included in requested materials.

Privacy and Publicity Rights: Privacy and publicity rights reflect separate and distinct interests from copyright interests. Neither privacy nor publicity rights are the subject of federal law. While fair use is a defense to copyright infringement, fair use is not a defense to claims of violation of privacy or publicity rights. Privacy and publicity rights are the subject of state laws. What may be permitted in one state may not be permitted in another. Note also that related causes of action may be pursued under the federal Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125 (a), for example, for unauthorized uses of a person's identity in order to create a false endorsement. While an individual's right to privacy generally ends when the individual dies, publicity rights associated with the commercial value connected with an individual's name, image or voice may continue.* Researchers bear the responsibility of making individualized determinations as to whether privacy and publicity rights are implicated by the nature of the materials and how they use such materials.

* For additional information on Privacy and Publicity rights see the Library of Congress website.

II. Reproductions and Copyright

Researchers are permitted to use their personal cameras to take images for their private study, and agree to adhere to the following stipulations in the use of their personal cameras:

  • Flashes must be disabled and special lighting may not be used.
  • Camera cases and auxiliary equipment are not permitted in the reading room.
  • Lanyards worn around the wrist or neck are encouraged in order to prevent dropping the camera on collection material.
  • Cameras may not be placed on top of or come in contact with collection material; hand-held scanners are not permitted.
  • All handling rules for special collections materials outlined in Section V of this User Agreement apply when photographing items; please request supports or snakes from a staff member if needed to facilitate photography.
  • Tripods, furniture, and other supports may not be used to improve photography without permission.
  • Photography, including sounds emitted by cameras and camera applications, may not disturb other researchers working in the reading room.
  • No photographs of researchers, staff, or reading room spaces may be taken without permission.
  • Staff may refuse permission to photograph items due to their size or condition.

Researchers are responsible for keeping complete and accurate citations (call numbers, accession numbers, ID numbers, page numbers, and box and folder numbers) for all items photographed for personal research use. Subsequent requests for high-resolution reproductions for publication cannot be processed without accurate citation information.

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of all reproductions of copyrighted material, regardless of who makes the reproductions. Libraries and archives are authorized to provide a photocopy or reproduction for private study, scholarship, or research. For collection materials that are not in the public domain in the United States, researchers may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce except for teaching and scholarship, create new works from, distribute, publically perform or display, or in any way exploit any of the content in whole or in part without the permission of the copyright holder. Researchers making use of any copies in excess of the "fair use" exception may be liable for copyright infringement.

YUL special collections provides fee-based reproduction services for collection material based on the following stipulations:

  • All requests for scanning, photographing, or other forms of duplication will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account donor stipulations, the condition of the item, and the availability of alternative formats. Many items from Yale University Library’s collections have already been digitized and are available to download for free from our digital library. Researchers are encouraged to check there before placing their order.
  • Reproduction requests cannot be accommodated when collection materials are inaccessible due to processing or conservation treatment. Please consult the individual special collections library to inquire about specific materials.
  • The choice of reproduction format is up to the researcher. However, YUL special collections reserve the right to revise or refuse an order due to preservation concerns; time constraints; size, type, and quantity of the material; or the availability of staff resources. If an order must be changed to a different format, the researcher will be notified of the change and of the associated price adjustment. Please note that some materials may be too large or too fragile to be scanned. Additional charges may apply to complex and large orders requiring special handling.
  • All reproductions in all formats are provided for individual scholarly use and are not to be sold or to be deposited in another repository.
  • Due to the volume of requests and staffing constraints, YUL special collections staff can spend no more than one hour assisting remote researchers in identifying materials to be reproduced and in preparing order forms. Researchers who submit reproduction requests requiring more than one hour of staff time will be asked to do the additional work in person to identify materials or to hire someone to do so on their behalf.
  • YUL special collections accept Visa, MasterCard, and checks made payable to Yale University. Overseas customers paying by check must send payment in U.S. dollars drawn on a U.S. bank. Payment is required before services are rendered.

III. Publication Permissions

In granting permission to examine holdings or providing reproductions for personal use, YUL is not authorizing publication. The researcher is solely responsible for investigating the holder of the copyright (if any) and obtaining permission from the copyright holder for publication of copyrighted material. The researcher indemnifies and holds the Yale University Library harmless for any infringement of intellectual property rights held by others. In all cases, the researcher must cite the appropriate collection at YUL as the source.

Except in a few special circumstances, Yale University does not own the copyright to most of the materials in its special collections. YUL can only grant permission to publish those holdings for which Yale University is unambiguously the copyright holder. We reserve the right to assess a use fee when granting permission to publish materials for which Yale University does hold copyright. By granting permission to publish, YUL does not surrender its own right thereafter to publish the material or to grant permission to others to publish it. As soon as a work is published, please present the appropriate special collections library with a copy of any publication (except a dissertation) that relies heavily on the library’s holdings.

VI. Security

For protection of the materials, security devices, such as CCTV, still cameras, and alarms, are in use in special collections reading rooms at the Yale University Library. Video records are maintained as long as is necessary. Members of YUL Security and Yale University Police routinely patrol all areas of the Library. You may be asked to provide identification at any time.

V. Terms and Conditions for In-Person Use of Materials in a Special Collections Reading Room

Each special collections reading room at Yale University may have additional policies and procedures that apply locally.  These must be adhered to in addition to the following general rules:

  1. All researchers must be registered before materials may be consulted.
  2. Yale affiliates must present a currently valid Yale ID to register.
  3. Non-Yale affiliates must be 18 years of age or older, provide an email address as part of the online registration process, and present official identification required by YUL policy. See
  4. All researchers (Yale and non-Yale) must have their photograph taken upon registration. This photograph will be stored in the special collections registration database that is available only to YUL staff.  A new photograph will be taken during the yearly registration update process.
  5. Researchers are required to deposit all personal property in the designated location before entering a special collections reading room. This includes briefcases, laptop and camera cases, coats, hats, eyeglass cases, and any clothing that will not be worn while in the reading room.
  6. All materials must be requested through the online system (Aeon) or by paper call slip per the requirements of the individual reading room. Researchers are requested to supply the call number and as much bibliographic information as possible to facilitate retrieval of their requests.
  7. Researchers are responsible for maintaining their own records about items they have viewed or photographed, and may consult their use history of special collections in their Aeon account; staff cannot supply additional citation data for materials a researcher has used. Circulation records are retained permanently.
  8. All materials consulted on site must be used in the reading room. Born-digital materials may not be copied, emailed, or otherwise transferred from the reading room.
  9. If the researcher desires to take notes on paper, it will be provided. Only graphite pencils may be used for note taking.  One will be provided, if needed.
  10. Other materials may be brought into the reading room with permission and after examination by a Library staff member.  These materials will also be inspected after use in the reading room.
  11. Researchers may have one box or volume at their reading table at a time.  Up to 10 items can be requested for use at a time. Materials will be held for 5 business days, unless other arrangements are made.
  12. All items must be handled with care and should be rested on the table, or in a book cradle or on foams, at all times. All material must remain on the table, and never in the researcher’s lap, on the floor, on a chair, or other locations off the reading table.  Staff will assist and may direct researchers in the proper handling of materials.
    • Special weights are available to keep tightly bound books open. Researchers should not force open tightly bound books.
    • No marks may be added or erased. No tracings or rubbings may be made without specific permissions.
    • No books, papers, or other objects (except weights specially provided for holding books open) may be laid on or affixed to the material.
    • The arrangement of manuscript pages must not be altered. Only one folder may be removed from a box at a time and original order of the box must be maintained.
  13. Aside from the materials located on open shelves in the reading room, all materials must be paged for researchers by the special collections staff.
  14. Researchers may select any open seat in the reading room, but at the discretion of the staff, some materials must be used at specific locations.
  15. As a courtesy to other researchers, please refrain from loud conversations or dictation, and silence all electronic devices. Researchers must leave the reading room to make or receive telephone calls.
  16. All materials must be returned to the reading room attendant when the researcher leaves.  Materials will be inspected upon return by a staff member. Arrangements for future use can be made at this time, if needed.
  17. Researchers must remove all personal belongings from the department at the end of day. Any personal materials, including laptops, which were inside the reading room will be inspected by a staff member when a researcher leaves for the day. We reserve the right to search any notes or personal belongings at any time.
  18. Special exceptions may be made by the staff on a case-by-case basis and are not applicable to other researchers or future visits.
  19. No smoking, food, or drink is permitted in the reading room, including chewing gum.
  20. All special collections reading rooms on the Yale campus are ADA accessible.  However, we encourage researchers needing special accommodations to email the specific special collections library in advance of their visit to discuss their needs.
  21. Consult a staff member at any time if there are questions about the above rules.