Rules for Use of Rare Materials in the
African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room
All researchers requesting rare materials are advised
to write, email or telephone the African and Middle Eastern Division
prior to their visit as advance notice may be needed to retrieve
rare items for research use.
Reference Desk Telephone (M - F) 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM - (202) 707-4188
Fax: (202) 252-3180
Mailing Address: 101 Independence Ave.S.E., Washington, D.C. 20540-4820
staff of the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room is
dedicated to helping users in their research by making its important
rare items available to them. We are, however, charged with the
safety and preservation of these precious items for the future.
In order that we satisfy both these missions, the following policies
are in place for those researchers who intend to use our rare book
and manuscript collections:
- Before entering the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading
Room for the purpose of using rare books and manuscripts, readers
must deposit in lockers all coats, hats, briefcases, notebooks,
and other personal property not essential to their research.
- Under no circumstances will food be allowed into the reading
- In general, any person engaged in serious research who presents
proper Library identification may consult AMED’s rare materials.
Student access to collections is generally limited to those engaged
in graduate study. Undergraduates with previous experience in
using manuscripts who are working on a senior thesis need a letter
of introduction from their advisor.
- A first-time user of rare materials must complete the appropriate Registration
of Researchers Using Rare Books and Manuscripts form (pdf
format) and be interviewed by the specialist responsible for
the materials to be consulted. Proof of knowledge of handling
rare materials must be made. If there has been no previous
use of rare books and manuscripts, the specialist will instruct
the user in the proper methods of handling and in the Division’s
rules about their use.
- All researchers using rare materials must sign a special daily
register and record each entrance and exit from the reading room.
- Only researchers who have completed the registration form will
be allowed to sit at the desk for rare materials use.
- Only the specialist responsible for these collections, the
section head of the section in whose custodies the materials
reside, or AMED’s Division Chief may retrieve the materials
to be used by the researcher. (Arrangements may be made in the
absence of the specialist for a qualified technician to retrieve
- The researcher must complete a Request
for Rare Materials form (pdf format) and submit this to
the appropriate specialist. At the discretion of the specialist,
deliveries may be limited to one item at a time. The previous
item given to a researcher must be returned and examined before
another is given. To the degree possible, deliveries will usually
be at 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm.
- Before a rare book or manuscript will be delivered to the researcher,
the specialist will determine:
- If there is a microfilmed copy. If so, this will be presented
to the reader in place of the actual materials. The original
material may be given to the researcher performing artistic
and materials’analyses (e.g., binding, measurements,
- If no microfilm copy is available, the specialist will
examine the original to determine its condition. If the original
is deemed usable, the specialist will deliver it to the researcher.
- If there is some impediment to the use of the material, the
specialist has the right to deny its use until preservation
is accomplished. (e.g., brittleness, loose binding, loose leaves
- If the specialist judges that use will not injure the
materials further, any pre-existing damage will be noted on
the request sheet before it is given to the researcher. If
loose leaves are involved, the number of leaves will be noted.
- Once the materials are delivered:
- The specialist will provide the researcher(s) with any needed
stands, snakes, or gloves.
- Researchers must use the materials at the table set aside
for such research.
- Ink pens are not permitted on the person of those using rare
materials. Only pencils may be used in taking notes.
- Researchers must make no marks on materials, write no notes
on top of materials, rest no books or other objects on the
face or surface of items used, and handle loose sheets or bound
pages by their edges, avoiding insofar as possible touching
the surface with their hands.
- Researchers should exercise the greatest possible care to
prevent damage to materials and exercise extreme care in handling
fragile items. If necessary, gloves will be provided for handling
of certain materials.
- Researchers may not photocopy any rare material.
- Researchers are expected to preserve the existing order and
arrangement of any unbound materials and to report any disarrangement
to the librarian in charge.
- Researchers must return the materials to the specialist or
his or her designated agent before receiving another manuscript.
- Arrangements may be made in advance via the specialist or his
or her agent to reserve an item needed for the next day. Reserve
is only possible for the next day (i.e., an item may not be placed
on reserve for an advanced date as a few days or a week later.)