Using the Special Collections Reading Room

The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center welcomes faculty, students, and staff of the University of Chicago and visiting researchers. The Reading Room is reserved for registered users of Special Collections. Since many of the materials are rare or unique, readers are expected to treat all materials with care to avoid loss or damage and to follow these guidelines:

Getting Settled In

Do bring any of the following items into the reading room or group study spaces:

  • Pencils
  • Notebooks or notepaper
  • Computer and/or tablet device, removed from case or sleeve
  • Cell phone, set to silent
  • Headphones, kept at a non-disruptive volume
  • Other materials relevant to your research (e.g. books from the general collection)
  • Camera or phone for self-service photography, removed from its case and the flash turned off

The following items should be left in a locker in the Visitors' Locker Room:

  • Pens
  • Liquids of any kind (coffee, water, etc.)
  • Food of any kind
  • Bags or cases (backpacks, briefcases, computer cases, handbags, etc.)
  • Excess clothing and outerwear (coats, hats, etc.)
  • Folders of any kind
  • Scanners of any kind
  • Umbrellas
  • Newspapers

We reserve the right to ask users to check electronic devices that are not set on a silent or quiet setting. Phone calls may not be taken in the department; please step outside if you must use your phone.

Free lockers are available to check your belongings.

Special Collections materials are paged by staff for readers and may be used only in the Reading Room or group studies.

Self-service digital photography is for reference purposes only. Materials must remain in their folder, mylar sleeve, or book cradle. If you are not able to obtain the desired shot, please place an order for a PDF or high-resolution scan.

Library materials and personal items are subject to inspection prior to entering and upon leaving the Reading Room.

Readers are expected to follow the Library’s “Maintaining a Scholarly Environment” policies, including wearing shoes at all times.

Using the Reading Room

Archival materials

  • Researchers are allowed one box at a time.
  • Only one folder is allowed outside of a box at a time.
  • The order of all items inside each folder must be maintained.
  • Keep archival materials as flat on the table as possible (no reading “newspaper style”).
  • Do not weigh down archival items with other objects or lean on them.
  • Gloves (supplied) must be worn when looking at photographs, slides, or similar materials.
  • Any issues should be brought to the attention of the staff members at the desk.

Bound volumes

  • Books and bound manuscripts must be placed inside a book cradle of appropriate size.
  • Book weights may be used to hold bound volumes open; please do not use any other objects to keep volumes open.
  • Maps or other foldouts may need special handling; please see a staff member for assistance.

All items

  • Treat all materials with care and respect to ensure longevity
  • Make sure your hands are clean before handling any materials.
  • Please do not add or remove any marks on any Special Collections or Library materials.
  • All written notes must be taken in pencil.

We will keep paged material on hold for up to two weeks after the requested date or the most recent use. Please let the desk staff know whether you need an item kept on hold when you return it.