Books, Manuscripts & Archives: Care & Handling Guidelines

General Instructions

Because many of the department's holdings are unique, we ask patrons to follow some simple guidelines designed to protect the materials. Please help to protect our materials and maintain their condition by observing the following conservation guidelines:

  • Keep hands clean and dry; place material on clean surface
  • Do not use staples, adhesive tape, post-its, metal paper clips, ink, thick marking strips or other non-archival material
  • Avoid leaning on materials or piling them up, especially in an open position
  • Food and drink (including water) are not allowed in the Reading Room
  • Use carrying cases, folders, supports whenever possible
  • Notify library staff if you see any evidence of insects or rodents, mildew, damp, or unusual dirt or deterioration
  • Do not attempt to repair material yourself. You may use the "Comments for Curator" flag or other appropriate method to communicate problems of any kind
  • Do not bend, fold or roll flat material such as maps or other oversize items
  • Refer to the Library photocopy policy or library staff regarding restrictions on photocopying fragile or restricted material. Photographic reproduction or microfilming may be possible
  • Material should be used on a table or other flat, elevated surface; do not put on the floor or on your lap


Instructions for handling paper-based material including books, broadsides, maps, pamphlets, letters, and ephemera

Paper-based materials, including such historical documents as broadsides, maps, pamphlets and ephemera, record the life and collecting interests of previous owners. In addition, all the parts of a book--the binding, paper, and text--afford evidence of its past. Your cooperation and care in handling ensure the preservation of their physical as well as textual integrity. Please note that certain individual items or kinds of material may require advance notice and additional staff time in order to be prepared for safe use in the Reading Room.

  • Staff will present books in foam, plexiglass, or cardboard cradles, with or without liners, designed to prevent stress to all parts of the book. Please keep books in the cradle, which should sit squarely on the table. Cradles are designed for use by one book at a time.
  • Do not rest anything on top of books. Special weights are available at the Reading Room desk to hold books and pamphlets open safely and securely. Never put anything in a book; acid free markers will be provided when needed. Books should be closed if left for any period of time.
  • Gloves may be provided with material that is especially sensitive to damage from direct handling such as photographs, negatives, and metal bindings.
  • Please notify a member of the Reading Room staff if you find damage to paper or bindings which prevents safe handling. All pieces of bindings or paper that break off should be kept with the original material and shown to a staff member.
  • Illustrations, letters, and other sheets that fold out or are tipped into books may require special handling procedures or materials; please consult a staff member. Materials housed in boxes or cartons should be kept in the order received; please remove one item at a time using place markers provided by a staff member.
  • Unopened pages (where the folds in the quires have not been cut, preventing the turning of single pages) should be referred to the Reading Room staff.
  • Use only paper for bookmarks.
  • Never force open a book with a tight binding. Do not stack opened books or place them face down.
  • Avoid touching the surface of pages with writing or painted or gold leaf illustrations. Especially on vellum, ink can chip or be rubbed off. Turn pages only at their outer edges.
  • Be aware of the condition of the books you are handling. Even new-looking books can be at risk, e.g., perfect-bound books with pages that are simply glued into the spine and that can easily pop out when roughly handled.
  • To turn a page of a book, lift the top outer corner and lightly slip the fingertips down the fore-edge, supporting the page. Do not attempt to turn a page while holding something else.