Special Collections General Use


The first time you visit, you will:

  • Register for a Special Collections Request System account and agree to the rules of use.
  • Present a valid photo ID verifying your address (a valid William & Mary ID is acceptable from current students, faculty, and staff).
  • Have your picture taken for your Special Collections Request System account.

You will be asked to update your information annually, so that our records remain current. On each visit, you will need to check in at our Special Collections reception desk whether it is your first or fifteenth visit of the year for us to verify that your Special Collections user account information is remains accurate and up-to-date.

User Registration and Access to William & Mary Libraries' Special Collections

The Special Collections Research Center is open to all researchers. Our rare books, manuscripts and university archives may only be accessed in the Special Collections reading room. All users need to be registered in order to request and use material. First-time users can create a Special Collections Request System account by following the instructions below.

Once you have created your account, you will be able to:

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

During online registration, you will be asked to create a username (which may be your email address) and password. At your first visit, we will take your photograph and verify your information, so make sure to present a valid, government-issued photo ID or your W&M ID (we will not store your ID number in our system). If you have any questions about the registration process, please contact spcoll@wm.edu or ask a staff member.

Special Collections Use Policies

Working in the Reading Room

Please be advised that video surveillance is in 24-hour use in Swem Library.

  1. Researchers are required to leave all personal possessions in the lockers--with the exception of cell phones, laptops and photo cameras--and to make use of the coat closet and umbrella stand as needed. Notepaper and pencils will be provided. If a researcher needs to bring in leaves of paper (e.g. for fact checking), the paper will have to be reviewed and marked by staff with a Special Collections stamp.
  2. Researchers will need to register in order to place requests for materials. We reserve the right to verify your ID at any time so make sure to bring a valid government-issued ID or your W&M ID to each visit.
  3. Reading room tables will be assigned by staff.
  4. Researchers will need to check in with reading room staff every time they need to leave the reading room and present any item they carry out to staff for inspection. If using a laptop, please open it and show it to staff.
  5. Materials need to be requested online through your SCRC account no later than 45 minutes before closing.
  6. No Special Collections materials may be removed from the reading room. All materials must be left with staff at the reading room desk.
  7. All collections and books must be handled with extreme care and with clean hands.
    • Neither food, drink (including water), nor gum is allowed in the reading room.
    • Use pencils only. Take care to make no marks on the materials.
    • Keep materials in the exact order you found them, and do not remove materials from their folders.
    • When serviced an entire box, only remove one folder at a time and take care to replace folders in the correct order.
    • Place materials flat on tables, or on angled foam supports provided by staff.
    • Materials may not be held in the hands or lap.
    • Do not lean on the materials and do not place anything on top of the materials except string weights provided by staff.
    • Use care in turning pages so they will not be torn or otherwise damaged.
    • You may request a magnifying glass for easier viewing.
    • Gloves must be worn when handling photographs or artifacts. Staff will advise on which type of gloves (nitrile or cotton), if any, should be used while handling materials.

Digital Copies

  1. We offer digital copy services for materials in our collections. All requests are subject to review by SCRC and the library reserves the right to revise an order due to preservation concerns or time constraints.
  2. Turnaround time varies depending on physical condition, format, and complexity of the order, as well as staff availability. Submitted requests through your Special Collections Request System account.
  3. In reading room, if reproduction is desired, mark the location of items to be copied with a paper strip. Ask staff for assistance.
  4. Use of digital cameras by patrons is allowed with some restrictions.
    • Digital surrogates taken by researchers are for private research only, not for publication.
    • Use handheld cameras only.
    • No flash or tripods are allowed.


When quoting from non-book materials, basic citations should at minimum include:
[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.)

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from the Director of Special Collections and/or the holder of the copyright. Consult the Special Collections website for the permission-to-publish form and further information.

Copyright Section

Under the U.S. copyright law, the copyright to any unpublished writing, whatever its date of creation, is held by its author or his/her heirs until the later of: 70 years after the author's death, or December 31, 2002. Works published before 1923 are in the public domain; works published from 1923 on are likely to still be under copyright. William & Mary Libraries does not assume any responsibility for infringement of the copyright held by the author or heirs of Special Collections materials. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain permission for publishing quotations or excerpts from any Special Collections materials from the holder of the copyright.

Data Collection and Use

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, to satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process, or governmental request; to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security, or technical issues; to protect the rights, property or safety of the library, its users or others; to conduct research; for administration and maintenance of collections or library operations; and otherwise in support of William & Mary's mission.

I agree to indemnify and hold the Commonwealth of Virginia and its affiliates, employees, faculty members, members of its governing boards, and agents harmless from and against any and all claims, losses, liabilities, damages, costs, and expenses (including, without limitation, reasonable attorneys' fees) arising out of or relating to my use of William & Mary Libraries materials or my failure to comply with any of the foregoing terms and conditions.