Before visiting special collections, researchers should always contact the specific department whose collections they plan to work with. Please note: some departments may be closed for renovations and/or inventories and some collections are not available for in-person access.
Although an appointment is not necessary in all cases, contacting us ahead of time is strongly encouraged, and will allow us to assure that materials are available and ready for use. Researchers are also advised to check relevant department websites for hours of operation and reading room guidelines.
Certain materials may be pre-requested and placed on hold to expedite your visit.
Know your options
Special collections materials are discoverable through a variety of reference tools, both online and in printed lists and databases.
Most collections can only be fully searched by consulting both types of resources. Understanding how to effectively search for BPL special collections materials will ensure a productive visit to our reading rooms.
Users are required to present a valid photo ID and a current Boston Public Library card or researcher card to view special collections materials.
Out-of-state researchers may also use the collections but are required to sign up for a research card in person on the day of visit.