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Care & Handling of Special Collections Materials: Home

This guide offers best practices for handling and using special collections materials in the Library's reading rooms. The guide is intended for those staff who work with readers, provide instruction using special collections, and security staff who monit


This guide provides a set of best practices specific to the use of special collections materials in the reading rooms of the Yale University Library.

Quick Reference FAQ's

Why do we not ask readers and researchers to always use gloves when handling all materials in the reading rooms?

Some special collections require gloves for all handling. At the Yale University Library, we do not require that all readers wear gloves when handling the majority of collections. We believe it is important for people to retain their tactile sense when turning the pages of a book or consulting paper documents.  Cotton gloves, in particular, can make it difficult to sense brittleness or fragility.  Sometimes the threads of cotton gloves can catch on tiny tears along the edges of books leaves. The thickness of the cotton cloth may also make it harder to page through individual leaves of books or archival documents.

In the Yale Library's special collections reading rooms, we only require gloves when handling certain types of material that are especially sensitive to contaminants, like oils, introduced from our hands and fingers.  Gloves are required or preferred for photographic materials that are not in protective polyester sleeves; and objects, like glass, ceramics or metal.  In these cases, we provide Nitrile examination gloves to readers, which protect the objects and offer better dexterity than the cotton gloves might.  Some people have allergic reactions to Latex, so we only provide Nitrile gloves, which do not pose this risk and are Latex-free.

Why do we provide book cradles and foams to readers consulting books?

Book cradles and book foams provide support for the covers, spine and text when a book is opened for consultation or reading.  Most books, especially those in special collections, have a limited degree of open-ability that is the result of the binding structure and the ways the book was handling in the past.  Foams provide a surface with a small amount of traction to keep books supported at a slight incline without slipping.  Foams are often used because they are a modular system of pieces that can be adjusted as one moves the front the book to the back, in response to the opening.


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