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Guide to Using Special Collections at Yale University [Revised Draft]: Visiting the Reading Room

What do I need to bring to complete my registration in person?

Once you register as a researcher using Aeon, 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.

General Rules

Each special collections reading room at Yale University may have additional policies and procedures that apply locally.  Check repository's website for specific rules. 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 photo ID.
  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. Please take a look at this guide on the care and handling of special collection 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. Some items may contain Social Security numbers.  As a researcher, you agree not to record, reproduce, or disclose any Social Security numbers found in requested materials.
  19. Special exceptions may be made by the staff on a case-by-case basis and are not applicable to other researchers or future visits.
  20. No smoking, food, or drink is permitted in the reading room, including chewing gum.
  21. 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.
  22. Consult a staff member at any time if there are questions about the above rules.

Things to keep in mind

- The reading room is for everyone! The library staff is there to help you with anything you need. Just ask reading room staff to assist you if you’re unsure about anything while in the reading room.

- You’ll see uniformed security when you visit the reading rooms. The staff of the Library Security Department enforces the library's policies, rules and procedures with respect to the operations, security and safety of the library, its collections and occupants. They can also explain how the reading room works and help you get settled, and they know the buildings like the back of their hand if you need directions! 

-Additionally, there are cameras, alarms, and other security devices in special collection reading rooms. Staff also monitor researchers using collections.

- Bring a pencil, not a pen, and your cell phone if you want to take photos (most collections allow this for private study). The reading room staff can provide paper for you to write notes, as well as additional pencils.  You are also welcome to bring in your laptop!

- Special collections reading rooms are for viewing materials and have limited space, so don’t use the reading rooms to surf the web or look at your phone.

- Born-digital materials may require special equipment or computer programs/systems to view depending on format. It may take a while to get used to using or viewing, but reading room staff can help you with using the technology.

- Most written materials are written in cursive or hard to read handwriting. The more you read, the more you will adjust to the style of writing of both the person whose material you're reading and the general time period's style of writing. The further back in time you go, the harder handwriting can be to read.

- Some collections do contain foreign languages! This is a good time to document the writing with your phone camera or your handy pencil and paper to translate later with Google translate, or find someone who can read that language to help you translate.

Handling Special Collections

Special collections are often very fragile and require special handling. The guidelines on handling materials in the reading room at the Beinecke Library is applicable to all reading rooms. This is a good video to watch before your visit to the reading room to reduce time you spend there familiarizing yourself with the tools available to you in the reading room.