Special Collections Conditions of Use

The Special Collections area in the Mitchell Library Reading Room is a space reserved for the use of original material and rare printed items. This includes manuscripts, pictures, oral history, maps, rare printed items and realia. These collections are irreplaceable heritage material which is unique, significant, and often fragile.

To ensure that we preserve our collection items appropriately and make them available for future generations, we ask you to comply with all staff directions.

You will need a Special Collections card to access this material.

Where appropriate, you are expected to have consulted other relevant resources prior to requesting the original material. This includes:

  • published items (print and online)
  • guides and indexes
  • surrogates (digitised, online, microform)

If you still require access to the original item for your research, please speak with Library staff.

Requesting material

  • Present your Special Collections card when requesting material.
  • Most printed items can be requested via the online catalogue.
  • If the catalogue indicates that material has special conditions of use or access restrictions, speak with staff in the Library or enquire online using the Ask a Librarian service.
  • If the item is in offsite storage, it will usually be available after 4 pm the next working day.
    • Speak with staff in the Library to request these items, or enquire online using the Ask a Librarian service.
    • You can request items in advance of your visit using the Ask a Librarian service.
Due to the unique value of the collection, staff will assess if items are suitable for viewing or handling on a case by case basis.

If unsure, please check with Library staff in advance of your visit using the Ask a Librarian service.

Issuing Special Collections material

  • Material is typically issued one box, folder, or item at a time. Keep material in the same order and in the same folder as it is issued.
  • If you require more than one unpublished item at a time to enable comparisons, please consult with the librarian at the Special Collections desk.

Security of the collection

  • Surveillance cameras are positioned throughout the Special Collections area to ensure the security of the Library’s collections. Staff may direct you to use a particular table, to change seats or to move personal effects to enable a clear line of sight from the Special Collections desk.
  • Original material will be weighed in your presence before it is issued to you. 
    • The weight will be recorded. 
    • You must return the material to the Special Collections desk after use and wait while the material is weighed again, and the weight compared. 
    • The Library will retain a record of any discrepancies.
  • The following material will be weighed: 
    • all manuscript material
    • albums and boxes of pictorial material
    • boxed printed material
    • selected items from the Rare Books collection.
  • Material must not be removed from the Special Collections area.
  • Material issued to you must not be used by another reader without consultation with staff at the Special Collections desk.
  • Viewings of high security items are conducted as supervised viewings by Library staff and must be booked in advance.
  • No other material may be used in the Special Collections area without the permission of Special Collections desk staff.

Care of Special Collections material

  • Food and drinks are not permitted within the Special Collections area.
  • Bags of any kind are not permitted within the Special Collections area (including handbags, camera bags, laptop bags etc). Lockers are available for free for Library Card holders.

Correct handling requirements as specified in Techniques for Handling Special Collection Items for Clients and Staff must be followed. Copies of this printed guide are available at the Special Collections desk.

This guide includes:

  • Clean, dry hands are required when handling items. In some instances, staff will ask you to use gloves to handle the collection for its protection. Gloves will be provided.
  • Only pencils may be used in the Special Collections area. Ink, pens and highlighters are not permitted.
  • Making marks on documents and taking notes on top of materials are not permitted.
  • Acid-free paper markers are available for use. Do not use sticky notes to mark pages.
  • Ensure that you do not touch the surface of an item unnecessarily.
    • Items in protective sleeves are not to be removed from those sleeves.
    • All materials must rest on the table when being examined. If staff supply book rests, cushions, gloves, acid free paper, or supports for items while being viewed, you must use these when viewing the material.
    • If you need any help with the material due to its size, weight or fragility, please ask staff for assistance.

Copying material including use of cameras and phones

Items from original materials collections cannot be photocopied or scanned.

Staff will advise whether items from printed materials collections are in suitable condition for photocopying or scanning.

  • You are responsible for observing the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) with respect to materials in copyright. The copying of in-copyright material is only permissible where it constitutes fair-dealing for the purposes of research or study, or where a rights owner has granted explicit permission.
  • Permission to access material is not equivalent to permission to copy.
  • Before you make or request copies of material, please speak to Library staff. Items may have copying restrictions in place that have been specified by the donor. The Library will always honour such restrictions. Staff may direct you to complete a 'Copying in Special Collections for the purpose of research and study' form.
    • Researchers who intend to reproduce First Nations cultural material from the Library’s collections are encouraged to contact and consult with the relevant traditional knowledge holders for permission to publish.
  • When using your own equipment:
    • Flash must be switched off on all devices.
    • Tripods may be used after checking with staff. Tripods must not be placed on or directly over an item.
    • A camera bridge and adjustable height table are available for use on request.
    • Hand-held scanners and flat-bed scanners are not permitted in the Special Collections area.