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How to use special collections

The Library’s special collections include original material and rare printed material that’s unique and surprising but also often irreplaceable and fragile.

Visit the Special Collections area to use material from the Library’s special collections. These collections include original material and rare printed material such as manuscripts, pictures, oral histories, maps, rare books and realia.

You will need a Special Collections card to use material from these collections. Ask staff at the Special Collections desk about getting a card.

Staff can also help you with your research and with using the collections. Can’t come to the Library? Contact us at Ask a Librarian.

The Special Collections area is in the Mitchell Library Reading Room.


When you visit

You need to follow the PDF iconSpecial Collections conditions of use (101 KB)  when in the Special Collections area. These guidelines help us to protect and preserve the Library’s special collections for future generations.

You're not able to bring any bags into the Special Collections area. This includes handbags, camera bags and laptop bags. Lockers are available for hire in the Mitchell Library.

Other items that you're not able to bring in, include:

  • food and drink including bottled water
  • scanners including hand-held scanners
  • pens, ink and highlighters.

You can bring in your own books and materials by completing a form at the Special Collections desk. Staff will need to view the completed form and your materials.

Do you also need to use material you’ve requested from the Library’s other collections? Speak to staff at the Special Collections desk to arrange for this material along to also be brought to the Special Collections area.


How to request material

You will need a Special Collections card to request material.

Complete a stack request slip for each item, box or album and give to staff.

Want to request material before you visit? Complete the access to collections form. We’ll get back to you within 4 working days.

Some material has restrictions and you may need permission or an appointment to access the material. Check the catalogue record and if there's restrictions, complete the access to collections form. Appointments are between 2 pm and 3 pm, Monday to Friday.

Offsite material

Ask staff at the desk for an offsite request form to request offsite material. Not at the Library? Complete the access to collections form.

Material requested from offsite will be available after 4 pm the next working day. Material is not delivered to the Library on weekends and public holidays.


Where to collect material

Collect material including offsite material from the Special Collections desk. Staff will generally give you one item at a time. You may need to wait while staff weigh and record the material’s weight.

If available, staff will give you a microfilm or digital copy instead of the original. This is to help preserve the original.

Pick up published material from the ‘collect shelves’ in the Special Collections area. Speak to staff to have published material you’ve requested brought to the Special Collections area.


How to handle material

When handling collection material you need to:

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Staff and client using special collections material

  • have clean, dry hands and wear gloves if asked
  • rest items on the table
  • use pencils only
  • keep material in the same order or folder
  • do not mark documents or take notes on top of the material
  • do not use post-it notes to mark pages.

Staff can provide you with resources to help with handling material, including:

  • weights
  • book rests
  • item supports
  • cushions
  • gloves
  • alcohol hand wipes
  • acid free paper markers.

Staff may ask you to move material, use a specific table or to change seats. Other clients are not able to use material without speaking to staff. You’re not able to remove material from the Special Collections area.

Speak to staff at the desk if you’re unsure or need any help with handling material.


How to copy material

Speak to staff before photocopying and photographing material. Staff will need to check that it’s not in copyright, restricted or too fragile.

Use your Special Collections card or copy card to print and photocopy material. Find out more about printing and copying.

You can also use your own equipment including a tripod to photograph material. You will need to complete a form before you can use your own equipment. Flash must be turned off when photographing material.

Scanners including hand-held and flat-bed scanners are not allowed in the Special Collections area.


Where to return material

Return material to staff at the Special Collections desk. Staff may need to weigh the returned material.

If you'd like to use the material again, speak to staff about having it put aside for your next visit.