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Guide to Using Special Collections at Yale University [Revised Draft]: Search, Request & Use

Register before Requesting Special Collections Materials

The following Yale special collections share a common Yale Special Collections system, often referred to as Aeon, for registration and requesting materials:  Arts Library Special Collections ♦ Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library ♦ Divinity Library Special Collections ♦ Lewis Walpole Library ♦ Manuscripts and ArchivesMedical Historical Library ♦ Music Library Special Collections ♦ Yale Center for British Art Institutional Archives and Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Click here to register online as a researcher at any of these repositories. One registration is good for all of the above. Registrations must be updated annually as you continue to use these repositories.

Once registered, you can use Archives at Yale, Orbis, and Quicksearch to request to view and research most of the items in the special collections listed above.  Review the box below to see how to request materials in each system, with additional tips and tricks.

Requesting materials before your visit

Requesting in Archives at Yale
  • The request button can be found above the “Navigate the collections” box. The example screenshot of a collection in Archives at Yale below shows the location of the request button circled in red for reference.

screenshot of location of request button circled in red

  • Click through the “Navigate the collections box” until you find the part of the collection containing the item you want, and you will see the request button get dark.
  • You cannot request a whole collection, only specific boxes, so the request button will only work when you have navigated to a specific part of the collection.
  • Clicking the request button will open a new window where you can log into Aeon to request your items or create an account if you don’t have a Yale account.
  • You can only request up to 10 boxes at a time to the reading room.

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. 

  

Please contact the relevant special collections unit if you need help requesting material from Orbis, or contact askyalelibrary@yale.edu.

Quicksearch 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 individually 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. 

 

      

Please contact the relevant special collections unit if you need help requesting material from Quicksearch, or contact askyalelibrary@yale.edu.

Many of Yale's museums and galleries provide access to their holdings for individual and group study. These are available to Yale community, and often, more broadly to the public.

Things to keep in mind

- Depending on what the item is and its location or repository , it’s possible to request something for same day viewing but this is not the case for the majority of items.

- Some storage locations for items are different from the reading room location, so expect a few business days for access services staff to retrieve your item(s).

- Check to see if the item you want is in the Digital Library first before booking a visit to save yourself time!  We are transitioning to a new digital library system, which currently contains over a million items digitized by the Beinecke Library.

- Not all items can be digitized due to various reasons such as being too fragile or copyright.

- Getting materials digitized may take a while due to a high volume of materials in the work queue from university classes, non-Yale researchers, and COVID-19, so plan out your research schedule accordingly.