Special Collections - Policies and Guidelines

Anyone currently registered as a Berenson Library reader may consult materials from the library’s special collections (see admittance policy). Special Collections include rare books, photographs and photo albums, archival collections, early auction catalogs, microforms, maps, CD-ROMS, and DVDs. These items may be consulted only in the Ahmanson Reading Room for Special Collections and during opening hours (Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.).

photograph of Bernard Berenson's studioRequests for Special Collections materials may be made to the Reading Room staff only until 5 p.m. and all items consulted should be returned by 5:45 PM.  Requests to consult archival materials should be made to the archivist in advance via this form. Materials from Special Collections may require extra time to retrieve from storage, and patrons should plan their visits accordingly. 

Patrons are advised that where a microform or digital surrogate of an item in Special Collections is available, this will be provided instead of the original where appropriate.

How to find and request Special Collections materials

Use the HOLLIS Classic  or HOLLIS+ catalogs to locate all Special Collections materials except images that are held by the Berenson Library. These are classified in two collections -- Special Collections, and Microforms -- which are indicated immediately preceding the item’s call number or shelf mark. The Special Collections designator includes rare books, photographs, archival documents, maps, rare auction catalogs, and CD-ROMS.

For archival collections, more detailed finding aids are available in the OASIS catalog, but box numbers used for requesting archival materials are found in the HOLLIS record of the collection. For images, summary collection-level records that describe the library's photograph holdings mainly by artist and occasionally for named collections are available in the HOLLIS catalogs; for records of individual artworks, consult the HOLLIS Images catalog. Note that in-line links to archival finding aids in OASIS and records for images in HOLLIS Images also appear in the HOLLIS+ catalog record. 

All items must be requested at the Ahmanson Reading Room desk. Requests should include the item’s complete call number and the specific volume(s) or box(es) desired (open the Locations & Availability tab or link in the catalog for complete item information).  

For rare books and microforms, requests may be made for multiple items at the same time. Requests may be made for up to three boxes of photographs or of archival documents at a time, and for only one map or CD-ROM at a time. From a box of archival documents, readers may consult only one folder at a time.

Consultation and Handling

All patrons who wish to consult materials from Special Collections must leave a government-issued ID on deposit at the Reading Room desk. Items from Special Collections must be returned before 5:45 p.m. the same day. Materials may be placed on hold for ongoing consultation; please advise the librarian at the desk of your needs.  

Do not rest anything on top of Special Collections material, with the exception of special weights provided at the Reading Room desk. Materials should be kept on the tabletop at all times. Acid-free marking slips are also available at the desk; no other material should come into contact with the items.

The use of pen is not allowed. Patrons must use a pencil or a portable electronic device  to take notes.

Special Collections material should be handled as little as possible. Pages, leaves, and photographs should be turned gently one at a time, touching blank areas of the sheet or print whenever possible.

No marks should be added or erased from library material. Please advise the Reading Room staff if you have information that can help update our records for the items you are consulting.

Archival documents and photographs:  Archival and photograph folders must remain flat on the table at all times. Contents should be kept in order in their opened folder while being consulted. No item should be removed from the folder for any reason.

When handling photographs, patrons must use gloves. Photographs must not be removed from transparent sleeves.

Rare books: Please keep books in the cradle if one is provided by staff. The cradle should sit squarely on the table.


Photographs:  For study purposes, reproductions may be made only with portable electronic devices, without flash. Reproductions must be documented using the apposite form. Requests for high-resolution scans of photographs must be made using the appropriate form at the Reading Room desk.

Archival documents:  Requests for reproductions must be made to the archivist using the appropriate form at the Reading Room Desk.

Books: Rare books that are not already available in digital format may be reproduced using portable devices as long as the books are handled carefully and not forced open. If a high-resolution scan is required, a request may be made at the Reading Room desk.

Microforms:  Some libraries that own the original items impose regulations regarding their reproduction, allowing only partial printing/copying or no reproduction of any kind. When such rules apply, readers who wish to consult a microform must sign a compliance form, available at the Reading Room desk.