Rare Books Reference and Use Guidelines

General overview of department and collections

The Rare Books Department offers documentation of various aspects of humanity through the custody, care, and access of its materials. The Rare Books Department holds materials totaling approximately 80,000 items including books, pamphlets, broadsides, ephemera, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, incunabula, facsimiles, posters, and prints. The collection encompasses examples from nearly all eras, geographic regions and Library of Congress subject headings. The materials in Rare Books are held for a variety of reasons – scarcity; fragility; historical, artifactual, aesthetic and/or monetary value.

The primary function of the Rare Books Department is to collect and provide access to its materials for students, scholars, faculty and staff of the University of Utah; for off-campus visitors from other academic institutions; and for local, regional and international communities. Access and use of rare book materials is provided in conjunction with preservation in mind for future generations.

The Rare Books Department collections are one of Utah’s most valuable assets. The division depends upon the generosity of the Utah State Legislature and private donors to help create and maintain collections that have an increasingly important national and international reputation for excellence. The donation of materials and funding builds on existing collection strengths and steers us towards new scholarly directions. The impact of these donations on future scholarly pursuit is immeasurable.

Accessing material from Rare Books

Security of our collections, while providing reasonable access to them, is a major component of our mission.

  • All personal belongings must be stored in lockers located in the the Special Collections Reference Room. Researchers are provided a key to their locker.
  • All researchers are asked to provide a current, valid photo ID and to register before using our materials.
  • Researchers are provided with yellow paper and pencil for taking notes. Researchers may use laptops, tablets, and smart phones minus any casing.
  • Rare Books materials may be used only in the Special Collections Reading Room. Researchers do not have access to the closed stacks.
  • More than one item may be requested, but only one item may be used at a time.
  • Material is delivered to the researcher by staff.
  • While photographs may be carefully taken of rare book material, photocopies and scans will be approved on an item by item basis by the Rare Books managing curator or curator. A minimum of 24 hours may be required to provide reproduction. Reproduction is damaging to print material. We strongly discourage reproduction unless absolutely necessary.

For help in planning or executing specific research strategies using Rare Books material, researchers are invited to request assistance from the staff at Special Collections Reference or by contacting the Rare Books Managing Curator or Curator.

Handling material from Rare Books

Careful use of our collections ensures that they will be available for generations to come. Staff provides researchers with the necessary tools to help properly care for material.

  • Patrons must have clean hands. Please wash hands with soap and hot water. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Patrons will be asked to use a baby-wipe product to clean hands before working with rare material. Wipe hands thoroughly front and back, paying particular attention to fingertips. Repeat. Shake thoroughly dry.
  • Staff positions material on cradles, or other supports, if necessary, to protect the structural integrity of the item.
  • Carefully draped beads over open material may help researchers read without pressing on the item.
  • Open material from the center, working backward and forward as needed.
  • Gently turn one page at a time.
  • Leave material flat or as positioned by staff. Please do not pick up material.
  • Do not alter, deface, trace, or lean on material.
  • #2 pencils, yellow sheets of paper, provided by staff, and mobile devices without housings may be used

If a researcher fails to exercise good judgment in the use of material, staff is authorized to take necessary actions, including refusing further use of material. Failure to follow the handling procedures determined and explained by staff may result in the loss of research privileges.


Rare Books


Luise Poulton
Managing Curator & Department Head

Lyuba Basin


Digital Humanities

Digital Exhibitions

Open Book - Rare Books blog

Open Book - Archive

Rare Books Digital Collections

Use Guidelines

Reproduction Request Form


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 Last Modified 8/15/19