Reading Room Procedures

A reader studies a 16th century book in the Special Collections Reading Room.
A reader studies a 16th century book in the Special Collections Reading Room.

The majority of the Newberry’s collections are stored in its stacks building, which is not open for browsing. Upon request, staff members will retrieve specific items from the stacks building, and deliver them to readers in the reading rooms. To find items in the collections, search the Catalogs and Guides.

In order to access the reading rooms, you must present a valid reader’s card and sign in to the reading room register. When you sign in, you agree to follow the Newberry’s reading room policies. Seats in the reading rooms are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The Special Collections reading room has 17 tables. These tend to fill up quickly during the summer months and during times when conferences are in town, so it is best to arrive early in the day if possible. During busy periods, any materials left unattended in the Special Collections reading room for more than 30 minutes will be removed from the table and the table may be assigned to another reader. 

Reading Room Schedule, Tuesday through Friday

9 am until noon: Reading Rooms open at 9 am. Items may be requested from 9 am until noon.

Noon until 1 pm: Circulation stops between noon and 1 pm. You are welcome to remain in the reading rooms and work with materials you already have, but no additional items–including items on reserve–will be retrieved during this hour.

1 pm until 4 pm: Items may be requested from 1 pm until 4 pm.

3 pm: Photocopy requests placed after 3 pm will not be completed until the following day.

4 pm: Circulation stops for the day. You are welcome to remain in the reading rooms and work with materials you already have, but no additional items–including items on reserve–will be retrieved during this hour.

4:30 pm: Vault materials must be returned to the Special Collections circulation desk.

4:45 pm: The first warning bell rings at 4:45 pm. Please wrap up your research and start organizing materials for return. If you would like to place materials on reserve, please bring them to the desk and complete the yellow reserve cards at this time.

4:50 pm: All materials must be returned to the circulation desks.

4:55 pm: The final warning bell rings at 4:55 pm. Please vacate the computers, microfilm areas, and study tables and return your seat assignment cards to the circulation desk.

5 pm: Reading Rooms close.

Reading Room Schedule, Saturday

9 am until noon: Reading Rooms open at 9 am. Items may be requested from 9 am until noon.

11 am: Photocopy orders placed after 11 am will not be completed until the following Tuesday.

Noon: Circulation ends for the day at noon. You are welcome to remain in the reading rooms and work with materials you already have, but no additional items–including items on reserve–will be retrieved during this hour.

12:30 pm: Vault items must be returned to the Special Collections circulation desk.

12:45 pm: The first warning bell rings at 12:45 pm. Please wrap up your research and start organizing materials for return. If you would like to place materials on reserve, please bring them to the deesk and complete the yellow reserve cards at this time.

12:50 pm: All materials must be returned to the circulation desks.

12:55 pm: The final warning bell rings at 12:55 pm. Please vacate the computers, microfilm areas, and study tables and return your seat assignment cards to the circulation desk.

1 pm: Reading Rooms close.

Requesting Items

After identifying relevant items, fill out yellow call slips to request materials from the bookstack building. One call slip is required for each call number.  You may submit three requests at a time. Call slips for General Collections items should be submitted to the second floor reading room. Call slips for Special Collections items should be submitted to the fourth floor reading room. Desk staff are available to assist with any questions you may have.

Delivery time is typically between 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the number of other requests pending. We regret that we cannot accept requests in advance of your visit. We do, however, welcome advance notice of your visit, and if you Contact a Librarian we would be happy to verify the availability of items for you.

Occasionally we are unable to bring out vellum or parchment materials due to unstable environmental conditions. For more information on our vellum handling practices, please see Reading Room Policies.

Using Manuscripts

Most of the Newberry’s manuscript collections are housed in the Roger & Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections. Readers interested in viewing manuscripts must fill out an Application for the Use of Manuscript Collections form. 

Appointments are required for unprocessed collections. Please note that some collections may be closed due to processing. Contact a Librarian if you have any questions about the Newberry’s manuscript collections.

Placing Items on Reserve

If you plan to consult items for more than one day, you may place items on reserve.  Items will be on reserve for you for two weeks from the day you last consulted them. Reserve requests are not accepted in advance of your visit.

Open Shelves

Some items are stored on the “open shelves” in the reading rooms and Reference Center.  You do not need to fill out a call slip to use these books.  When done, please return these books to the reading room staff; they will re-shelve them. Open shelf call numbers have the following prefixes or location notes:

  • Ref: located in the Blatchford Reference & Bibliographical Center (third floor); for example: Ref BX841 .N44 2003
  • Local History Ref: located in the General Collections Regenstein Reading Room (second floor); for example: Local History Ref F548.25 .D86 2005
  • Chicago Browsing: located in the General Collections Regenstein Reading Room (second floor); for example: Chicago Browsing HA730.C5 L63 1995
  • Case Ref: located in the Roger & Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections (fourth floor)
  • Map Ref: located in the Roger & Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections (fourth floor)

Using Microfilm and Microfiche

Some of the Newberry’s microfilm and microfiche items are stored in drawers in the General Collections Regenstein Reading Room. By and large, these items relate to local and family history research. Readers may help themselves to these films; kindly return them to their places when you are finished. If you have any questions about the open shelf microforms, please visit with the Local & Family History Reference Librarian on the second floor.

For more information about rules, security and conduct, and the digital camera policy, please access Reading Room Policies. For photoduplication services, see Rights and Reproductions. Please Contact a Librarian if you have any questions.