Planning a Visit

Before visiting

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. 

Refer to the department's hours and locationsFor general travel information, please review location information and holiday hours for the Central Library in Copley Square. 

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.

Registration Requirements

Users are required to present a valid photo ID and a current Boston Public Library card or researcher card to view special collections materials.

First time visitors who are Massachusetts residents can register for a BPL card online or a obtain a permanent card at the circulation desk at any BPL location

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.

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