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Visiting the Brown University Special Collections

Instructions for selecting materials and requesting reading room appointments at the John Hay Library's Gildor Family Special Collections Reading Room

Planning your Visit

The Gildor Family Special Collections Reading Room is open to all researchers by appointment only. The reading room hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am - 5pm, with a lunch recess from 12-1 pm and Wednesday from 11am - 6pm with a lunch recess from 1 - 2pm. See Library hours for additional information. 


  • All Special Collections materials are non-circulating and are available for use in the reading room by appointment only. 
  • Appointments are required and must be booked at least 3 days in advance and up to 180 days in advance.
  • Seats are limited and appointment bookings are first-come, first served. We cannot guarantee the availability of your preferred appointment dates/times. 
  • Researchers may request up to six items per appointment which will be prepared in advance by library staff.
  • Appointment requests are not finalized until an appointment confimation email has been received.
  • Class visits, joint research appointments and instructional sessions must be scheduled in advance. Visit our teaching guide for more information.

Reading Room Policies



Please exercise all possible care to prevent damage to materials: Foldered materials should be laid flat on the table, should not be placed face down, rested on another book, or in held in one's lap.

Book rests are available to help support reading materials; special weights (snakes) are available for holding pages open; acid-free slips are available for use as placeholders. Marks or annotations should neither be added nor erased. Tracing or rubbing is not permitted. Please do not write on paper laid on top of books (whether the books are open or closed).

Please turn pages gently. Readers should not attempt to cut unopened pages. Such books should be brought to the attention of the Reading Room monitor.


Manuscript materials are examined one folder at a time. Foldered materials should be laid flat on the table, should not be placed face down, rested on another book, or held in one's lap. Please maintain the exact order of items within a folder; acid-free placeholders are provided to mark the place from which a folder is removed from a box. The table directly in front of the Reading Room desk is reserved for users of manuscripts.


Audiovisual materials (film, magnetic audio recording, video cassette, DVD, CD) cannot be played in the reading room but they can be viewed as physical objects. The John Hay Library will create digital copies of audiovisual material to the extent that physical condition and copyright or other legal restrictions permit. Email for information about digital copies.


Researchers using archival materials may not simultaneously consult a box. Materials used for joint research project are subject to staff approval. All researchers in the reading room must create their own accounts and schedule their own appointments. Materials used for joint research project are subject to staff approval. For groups of more than 3 individuals please email


Pencils are the only writing implements allowed in the Reading Room while library materials are in use. A supply is available at the Reader Services and Reading Room desks. Please return them before leaving.


Readers are encouraged to bring to the attention of the staff all items in need of repair as well as suspected cataloging errors or misfiling of materials. 


Only those books and papers necessary for research are permitted in the Reading Room.  All papers, folders or any other materials taken into the Reading Room, including personal effects, may be subject to inspection by the monitor before a reader may remove them from the Reading Room

Register, Find & Request Materials


  • Register online for your special collections research account before your visit. You can use this account to schedule appointments and request materials to be prepared for your visit. 
    • All first time visitors, including Brown community members, need to review the special collections policies and complete the registration forms



Scheduling Reading Room Appointments


The most efficient way to request an appointment is by first placing a request through the BruKnow catalog:

  • Locate the materials you wish to see in BruKnow and click the reading room request button:Screen shot of the reading room request button in BruKnow
  • Log in to your special collections account using the login button relevant to your affiliation.
  • Review the details carried over from BruKnow and add any relevant notes or tags.
  • At the bottom of the request form, you can link the request with an existing appointment, if you have one, or create a new appointment.
  • Submit your request.

Appointment Scheduling Instruction Videos

These videos are included to further illustrate the process of making requests and scheduling appointments. Please email if you have additional questions.

Requesting Special Collections Materials using BruKnow

Scheduling Special Collections Reading Room Appointments

Rescheduling Special Collections Reading Room Appointments

When you Arrive


  • Please arrive with clean hands, washed with only soap and water. Lotions are to be avoided before handling materials as they contain harmful residues.

  • Food and drink are not permitted, there is a water fountain available in the lobby.

  • Non-flash photography is allowed;  there is an overhead scanner available for use with support provided by the reading room monitor.

  • All personal items, such as coats, bags, briefcases, purses, and backpacks, binders and laptop cases must be stored in lockers.

  • Cellphone use, except photography, is prohibited and all phones must be silenced.


Street parking is available and can be paid for using the Passport Parking App. Brown University also has a visitor parking lot, located at 111 Power Street. The garage entrance is located at the intersection of Power and Thayer Streets.