When you arrive at the reading room, check in with the front desk. You will be asked to present photo identification (e.g. student card or drivers’ licence). In most archives, if it is your first visit, you will also be asked to register and sign a researcher agreement.
There are a few general things to remember when working in an Reading Room which will be the same at most archival repositories:
→ Food or drinks, pens, highlighters or markers, bags and coats are strictly prohibited in the Reading Room. Items like these can cause irreversible damage to irreplaceable archival material and/or jeopardize the security of the collection. You will be asked to leave your belongings in a locker or coat rack.
→ Reading rooms are quiet spaces meant for research. You will be expected to work quietly and with respect for other users of the space. Phone conversations and other distracting activities will not be permitted.
→ Reading Rooms are meant solely for the use of archival materials; they are not general study spaces. If you are not using archival materials, you will be asked to leave.
→ Many archives have specific retrieval times. This means that the staff will only retrieve material at set times (maybe only once or a few times a day). It’s best to plan early and let the archives know what material you will need before you visit.
→ Archival material is often held in other facilities off-site. So don’t expect to be able to see something right away! It may take days or weeks for the material to be ready for you. Again, it’s best to plan early and let the archive know what material you will need before you visit.
But most importantly…
⇒ Every reading room has their own rules! It’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules of the archives prior to your visit and to bear them in mind when you arrive. If you are unsure about the rules, please ask staff!
The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections rules can be found here.
There are a few things to keep in mind while working with archival material. Some of these pointers are rules and others are friendly advice which we recommend for the best possible experience in the archives!