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Guide to Using Special Collections at the Yale University Library: Find & Request

Finding & Requesting Materials

Special collections at Yale are described in a variety of databases and discovery tools.  This page will demonstrate how to find and request materials in all formats.  Reference librarians and archivists are always able to assist you.   Contact individual repositories if you need assistance.  The Primary Sources at Yale site provides additional information that will help you identify, find, and explore primary sources in all of Yale's libraries and museums.

Most special collections materials at Yale are stored in secure, closed stacks that are only accessible to staff members, and many of our collections are stored in an off-site facility, requiring extra time to retrieve materials for patron use in our reading rooms. By requesting materials online prior to your visit to a special collections reading room, our staff can ensure that everything will be ready for you when you arrive.

Registering for and requesting materials from Special Collections repositories is increasingly done in Aeon, a workflow and materials' control software designed for special collections libraries and archives. 

Orbis: The Yale University Library Catalog

Orbis is the Yale University Library's online catalog and it serves as a powerful tool for finding information about the university's many special collections. Books, pamphlets, periodicals, microfilm collections, government documents, and oral histories are just some of the materials that one may search for using Orbis.

Advanced searching in Orbis is the best way to construct targeted, sophisticated searches for specific collection materials. The following can be especially effective in focusing advanced Orbis searches for special collections:

  • Limit Location to the relevant special collections unit
  • Limit Type to Archives or Manuscripts, Manuscript Maps, etc.

Additionally, including Genre/Form terms such as oral histories or diaries as a component of a search strategy is a useful way to focus a keyword search on specific forms or genres of material across all collections within the Yale University Library system.

Consult Help with Special Collections in Orbis for further information on searching in Orbis.

Requesting from Orbis

Books, periodicals, microfilm, and other individually cataloged items from special collections units can be requested directly form an Orbis  record once you've found something you want to use in one of our supervised reading rooms. For catalogued materials found in most special collections units, the request process is expedited by a link from the Orbis and Quicksearch record to your Aeon special collections account, which you set up when you complete our online registration process. The image below illustrates where to find the Request link in an Orbis record. 

  

     

Reference archivists are available to help you in a special collections reading room whenever they're open. Please contact the relevant special collections unit if you need help requesting material from Orbis.

Quicksearch: The Yale University Discovery Layer

Quicksearch unites unites several search services under one discovery interface.  It includes Orbis (the Yale University Library catalog), Morris (the Law Library Catalog), Yale's Digital Collection, and many of the Library's licensed electronic resources such as databases, articles, and ebooks.

 

Advanced searching in Quicksearch is the best way to construct targeted, sophisticated searches for specific collection materials. You can access  advanced searching under Books+ in the main menu:

 

The following can be especially effective in focusing advanced Quicksearch searches for special collections:

  • Limit Location to the relevant special collections unit
  • Limit Format to Archives or Manuscripts, Manuscript Maps, etc.

Additionally, including Genre/Form terms such as oral histories or diaries as a component of a search strategy is a useful way to focus a keyword search on specific forms or genres of material across all collections within the Yale University Library system.

After you conduct your search, you will notice facets on the right that may help you limit your results by subject, language, etc.  Note that, within each record, you can click on subject headings to find similar results.

Requesting from Quicksearch

Books, periodicals, microfilm, and other individally cataloged items from special collections units can be requested directly from a Quicksearch record once you've found something you want to use in one of our supervised reading rooms. For catalogued materials found in most special collections units, the request process is expedited by a link from the  Quicksearch record to your Aeon special collections account, which you set up when you complete our online registration process. The image below illustrates where to find the Request link in a Quicksearch record. 

 

      

Reference archivists are available to help you in a special collections reading room whenever they're open. Please contact the relevant special collections unit if you need help requesting material from Quicksearch.

Searching YUL Digital Collections and Specialized Databases

(Please note that this section is under construction...)

Requesting Material from other Yale Special Collections Libraries

The following repository will soon implement Aeon. Meanwhile, follow the links for more information about placing requests.

Divinity Library Special Collections

 

Archives at Yale

In early January 2019, the Yale Finding Aid Database will be replaced by Archives at Yale.   Its help page contains instructions for searching and requesting materials.  The instructions below will be updated in the coming month to reflect search strategies in this new interface for discovering archives and manuscript collections at Yale.

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The Yale Finding Aid Database (YFAD) served until early 2019 as the central place to search finding aids for archives and manuscript collections held by many Yale special collections repositories.

Finding aids are tools that describe in varying levels of detail the contents of archival and manuscript collections. By linking collection contents to information about the containers that house those contents, finding aids are a key component of access for researchers who wish to request and use those collections. Finally, because it is important to understand the context of the accumulations of materials that an archival or manuscript collection typically comprises, finding aids provide information about collection creators--individuals, families, and organizations--and the functions and activities that caused the materials in the collection to be created, accumulated, maintained, and used over time.

Although YFAD does give users the ability to target searches to specific fields, the most effective way to search Yale's finding aids is using keywords. The YFAD Help page provides a very useful overview of strategies for searching.On the Advanced Search form the NEAR option is an excellent way to search for a multi-word term, such as civil rights (civil NEAR rights), in a way that will eliminate many false results from finding either of those terms by themselves or associated with other terms. 

Once you've found finding aids for specific collections of interest, one easy way to do more diligent searching within a single finding aid is to use the Full HTML or Printable PDF link in the navigation bar above the finding aid.  The Full HTML link will display the entire finding aid at once in your browser (note: this is not availalbe for larger finding aids).  The Printable PDF link will  generate a PDF version of the finding aid.  You can then use Control-F to find specific keywords.  The navigation bar PDF link is illustrated below.

Requesting from YFAD

Finding aids in YFAD for collections found in most special collections units include links that permit a researcher to easily request materials for use in a special collections reading room.  Note that these links only appear in the HTML version.   In the example illustrated below, a researcher interested in collection materials on redwoods and Muir Woods contained in several folders in Box 65 would click on the Request Box 65 link, which populates a request form in the researcher's Aeon special collections account. This is the account you create when you complete the online registration process. Once you've logged into your Aeon special collections account, you simply need to select the date on which you are planning to come in and use the requested material, and submit the request. Be aware that while you are limited to 10 active requests at a time, you can keep as many requests as you like in review, allowing you to move them into active status as you finish using boxes you're requested.

 

 

Using Aeon, our online request system

After you click on request links in Orbis, Quicksearch, or YFAD, you will be asked to log into your special collections account or, if are a new user, create one. 

The request form will be pre-populated with information about the item you are requesting.  Schedule your visitation date and press the Submit Request button to send the request to the repository. At this stage, you may also elect to Keep for My Review if you're unsure if you want to immediately order the box; doing so allows you to queue any number of requests without ordering them, important as most repositories allow you to order just ten items per visit.

 

You can find your request by accessing Previous Requests, found in the navigation menu. The Status column on the right will update as the item is physically moved from one place to another. Ultimately, when this reads "On Hold", it's available for your use at the repository.

 

Click the Transaction Number to track, edit, cancel, or clone the request.

Note that you may alternate between special collections repositories that use Aeon's request system by selecting one from Other Yale Special Collections in the navigation menu.

 

 

 

Beyond Yale's Special Collections

Your research may take you well beyond Yale and New Haven. Use the following research tools to further enhance your inquiry.

  • WorldCat connects you to the collections and services of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.
  • ArchiveGrid includes over three million records describing archival materials representing over 1,000 institutions.
  • Archive Finder is a directory describing over 220,000 collections of primary source material housed in thousands of repositories across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.