Special Collections General Use and Policies

Special Collections General Use and Policies

User Registration & Access

William & Mary Libraries’  Special Collections is open to all researchers. Our rare books, manuscripts and university archives are available to researchers in the Special Collections reading room only. Users must have a registered Special Collections Account to request and use materials.

With an account you will be able to:

  • Request materials on-site or remotely before your visit to assure accurate and prompt service.
  • Access materials in our reading room.
  • Submit digital copy requests, remotely or onsite.
  • Review past and manage current requests.


At your first visit, you will:

  • Register for a Special Collections account (if you haven’t already done so) and agree to the rules of use.
  • Present a valid, government-issued photo ID or W&M ID to verify your account information. Your ID number will not be stored in our system.
  • Have your picture taken for your Special Collections account.

On each visit, you will:

  • Check in at the Special Collections reception desk.
  • We will periodically ask to verify your Special Collections account information to ensure our records remain current.
  • Leave all personal possessions in our lockers with the exception of cell phones, laptops and photo cameras. A coat closet and umbrella stand is also available.


Be advised:

24-hour video surveillance is in use at Swem Library.

Before you visit:

  • Please create your Special Collections account if you have not already.
  • Request the materials you are interested in through your Special Collections account.
  • Items must be requested 1 hour in advance of your visit, and some items may take 48 hours to retrieve.


  1. Have your government-issued photo ID or W&M ID available for check-in.
  2. Leave all personal possessions in our lockers including food and beverages. A coat closet and umbrella stand are available.
  3. Bring your cell phone, laptop and photo camera (but no flash or tripods) with you into the Reading Room
  4. Reading Room tables will be assigned by staff.
  5. Notepaper and pencils will be provided. If a researcher needs to bring in leaves of paper (e.g. for fact checking), staff will review and mark the paper with a Special Collections stamp.

In the Reading Room:

  1. No Special Collections materials may be removed from the reading room. All materials must be left with staff at the reading room desk.
  2. If you need to leave the Reading Room, check-in with staff and present any items you are carrying out for inspection. If using a laptop, please open it and show it to staff.
  3. Food, drink (including water) and gum are not allowed. You can leave these items in our lockers.
  4. Collections and books must be handled with extreme care and with clean hands:
    • Use pencils only.
    • Use care in turning pages to prevent tearing and damage.
    • Keep materials in the exact order you found them.
    • When serviced an entire box, only remove one folder at a time.
    • Place materials flat on tables, or on angled foam supports as provided by staff.
    • Do not lean on the materials and do not place anything on top of the materials except string weights provided by staff.
    • Magnifying glasses are available for easier viewing.
    • Staff will provide gloves (nitrile or cotton), if any, are needed while handling materials.
  5. Use of digital cameras by patrons is allowed with some restrictions:
    • Digital photographs taken by researchers are for private research only, not for publication.
    • Camera must be handheld.
    • No flash or tripods are allowed.


Digital copy services are available for materials in our collections.

All requests are reviewed by staff, and Special Collections may revise or refuse a request on the basis of physical condition and preservation concerns, copyright or donor restrictions, or size of the request. Special Collections may set limits on the amount of copying and reformatting it will undertake.

Requesting Reproductions
Submit requests through your Special Collections account. Digital Copies will be delivered electronically (online) unless otherwise requested. Turnaround time varies depending on physical condition, format and complexity of the order, as well as staff availability. On average requests take 6-8 weeks.

The library provides the following reproduction options for analog materials:

digital copies options
Type Format

Personal Research Use

Reference quality color scans in PDF format.
Graphics/Photographs in jpg format.

High resolution publication quality

Standard archival quality (400 dpi) color scans in TIFF format.


Audio and Video digitization
Our in-house AV reformatting capacity is limited. Requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by our staff. Please submit your request details and you will be contacted to discuss options to access content. High-volume requests, rush requests or formats we cannot currently support.

Theses & Dissertations
All W&M master theses & dissertations are freely available online in W&M ScholarWorks. Honors theses are restricted to on-campus use. Copyright to William & Mary honors theses, master's theses, and doctoral dissertations is held by the authors.

To request a personal copy of master's theses and doctoral dissertations not available via ProQuest or honors theses not available via W&M ScholarWorks, contact Special Collections, spcoll@wm.edu

Personal Cameras Use
Researchers who visit Special Collections may use personal cameras to photograph materials for personal use only with some restrictions.

  • Copyright law or other restrictions on materials may prohibit the use of cameras. 
  • Only handheld cameras are permitted, and operated with no flash or tripods.
  • Digital photos taken by researchers are for private research only, not for publication.

Before publishing or exhibiting Special Collections materials (including quotations & excerpts), permission must be obtained from Special Collections and/or the copyright holder.

Submitting a Permission to Publish form is the simplest way to request permissions.

We appreciate receiving a copy of any published work that features our material.

When using images or quoting from non-book materials such as manuscripts, basic citations should include at the minimum:

[Name of collection], Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries.

Your field's preferred citation style (Chicago, MLA, APA, etc.) may require additional information such as a description of the item as well as series, box and folder information for the item.

Special Collections materials are made available for research and educational uses. Any other uses may require permission of the copyright holder.

Materials held by Special Collections may be protected by United States Copyright Law and/or by the copyright laws of other countries. Copyright law protects unpublished as well as published materials.

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” Reproductions may not be made for or donated to other Repositories. Special Collections reserves the right to refuse a reproduction request if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the request would involve violation of copyright law. If a user makes a request for or later uses a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

It is the responsibility of the user to investigate the copyright status of any given work and to seek and obtain permission from the copyright holder.

Copyrights held by William & Mary Libraries
Copyright to the First and Second Series of the William & Mary Quarterly is held by Earl Gregg Swem Library. Effective December 2011, the First and Second Series of the William & Mary Quarterly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

William & Mary is committed to ensuring the security of your information. We have put in place reasonable physical, technical and administrative safeguards designed to prevent unauthorized access to or use of the information collected online. We may retain indefinitely the information we collect from you in connection with your use of the Special Collections Request System. (Please note that no driver's license or W&M ID numbers will be collected.) Atlas Systems, on behalf of the William & Mary Libraries, collects and stores data on your use and interaction with its Aeon requesting software. We may use this information, or provide the information to third parties to use (with the exception of your photograph), in a variety of ways, including but not limited to, satisfying any applicable law, regulation, legal process, or governmental request; detecting, preventing or otherwise addressing fraud, security or technical issues; protecting the rights, property or safety of the library, its users and others; conducting research; administration and maintenance of collections or library operations; and otherwise supporting William & Mary's mission.