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Jean & Alexander Heard Libraries

Special Collections
and University Archives

Reading Room Guidelines

The following use policies have been established to provide access to our collections while maintaining archival standards to protect the collection. Users who violate the guidelines for use may be denied access to the collections. If you need assistance or have a question about these use guidelines, please call the department (615-322-2807) or contact us.


  • Use of the reading room is restricted to Special Collections patrons only.
  • Photo ID must be presented at the beginning of each visit to the Reading Room.
  • Researchers may use one manuscript box and/or two books, but no more than three total items at a time.
  • Materials may not be removed from the Reading Room without permission.
  • Briefcases, bags, backpacks, purses, or outerwear may not be brought into the research area.
  • Smoking, eating, or drinking is not permitted.
  • Pens are prohibited in the Reading Room; pencils may be used for note-taking on paper provided by Special Collections staff.
  • Patrons must always sit facing the public services desk.
  • Computer laptops or tablets may be used in the Reading Room.
  • Cell phones and other communication devices must be silenced to avoid disturbing other researchers.
  • Selective photography with hand held cameras/phones is permitted; hand held scanners or other digital capture devices are prohibited. Special Collections staff may limit photography due to preservation concerns or other reasons.
  • Special Collections reserves the right to set restrictions on access, photography, and photocopying of archival materials.
  • The researcher is responsible for the careful handling of all materials made available. Extra care should be taken in handling large volumes, brittle pages, and in opening folded plates and maps. Manuscripts and books may not be leaned on, written on, altered, folded, traced over, or otherwise handled in any way that may damage them.
  • Book cradles should be used for all books from our collections. They are available from the research desk. Book weights to hold pages open are available from the Reading Room staff.
  • Materials must be kept in the folder and in their original order; only one folder at a time may be removed from a box or container. A placeholder card can be provided upon request to mark the place of a removed folder.
  • Only Special Collections staff may retrieve and replace items on these carts.
  • Use requests must be limited to one cart of materials at a time.
  • All references to materials in Special Collections should cite archival collection title and acknowledge “Vanderbilt University Special Collections.” When publication is intended, an application for publication rights for any material quoted must be submitted. These stipulations also apply to dissertations and research theses.