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Special Collections Research Guide: Reading Room

This guide describes types of material available in Special Collections and provides tips for finding resources.

General Guidelines

The following use policies have been established to provide public access to our collections while maintaining archival standards to protect the collection. Users who violate the guidelines for use may be denied access to the collections. If you need assistance or have a question about the use guidelines, please see the staff person on duty, call the department (615-322-2807), or send us an

  • Special Collections is open to university staff, faculty, and students, as well as members of the public.
  • Researchers must complete a Research Application in order to use Special Collections material. Applications are renewable every three years. Photo identification is required.
  • Outer wear, umbrellas, purses, briefcases, and other items must be deposited in the vestible lockers. They may not be taken into research areas.
  • All Special Collections materials are non-circulating and must be used in the Reading Room.
  • All Special Collections materials are housed in closed stacks and are not available for browsing. A Request Form must be filled out for each item or collection requested to facilitate its retrieval and to establish responsibility for its use. No materials will be paged within fifteen minutes of Special Collections closing time. Although multiple items may be requested at one time, only one box or volume (or other unit) will be issued to a researcher at a time.
  • All materials must be returned to a staff member on duty before the researcher leaves Special Collections. Arrangements may be made to reserve materials for continued use.
  • Requests for limited reproduction of material is available when such duplication can be done without injury to materials and when duplication does not violate donor agreements or copyright law. Copies cannot be given to other institutions without prior permission of the Department Head.

Reading Room Guidelines


1.     Photo ID must be presented at the beginning of each visit to the Reading Room.

2.     All visitors must sign in and out using the Register of Visitors at the reception desk.

3.     Researchers may request up to two manuscript boxes and two books at a time.

4.     Documents may not be removed from the Reading Room without permission.

5.     Briefcases, bags, backpacks, purses or outerwear may not be brought into the research area.

6.     Smoking, eating or drinking is not permitted.

7.     Pens are prohibited in the Reading Room; pencils may be used for note-taking.

8.     Computer laptops or tablets may be used in the Reading Room;

9.    Small cameras and cell phones may be used to take photographs for personal research use.  Handheld scanners or other digital capture devices are prohibited.

10.     Materials may not be leaned on, written on, folded, traced from, or handled in any way likely to damage them.

11.  Materials must be kept in the folder and in their original order; only one folder at a time may be removed from a box or container.

12.  Special Collections reserves the right to set restrictions on access to and photocopying of archival materials.

13.  Special Collections staff will make all photocopies and/or digital reproductions.

14.  Materials to be copied should not be removed from folders.

15.  All references to materials in Special Collections should cite archival collection title and acknowledge “Vanderbilt University Special Collections.”  When publication is intended, an application for publication rights for any material quoted must be submitted.  These stipulations also apply to dissertations and research theses.