Frequently Asked Questions
- What hours are you open?
- Where are you located?
- Where can I park?
- There are things in Special Collections I want to consult, but I simply can't come in during the hours you're open. What do I do?
- I don't attend the UW. May I still use Special Collections?
- What kind of things can I bring with me into the Special Collections reading room?
- Is there an easy way to find out what is in Special Collections?
- Are Special Collections books ever allowed to circulate? Can I go into the stacks to browse or retrieve materials?
- What if I'm not finished with my research at the end of the day?
- Will you provide photocopies of particular items? What do photocopies cost? How long do I have to wait for them?
- Special Collections has some old photographs I'd like to see. How do I arrange to view them?
- May I get a copy of a photograph? How much does it cost? How long does it take?
- May I use photographs from Special Collections in my project or for publication?
- I'm interested in donating materials to Special Collections. Whom should I contact?
- I have an old book (or manuscript, painting, cartoon, antique object, miniature book, etc.). Will you tell me how much it is worth?
- I have a collection of old books that I want to sell. Is the library interested in buying them?
- I want to buy copy of a book I found in Special Collections. Where can I go to do that? Does Special Collections ever sell their books?
Please refer to our Hours & Location page.
The Special Collections Division is located in the basement of the south wing of the Allen library on the UW campus. From the Allen arcade, enter the Allen South lobby and take the elevator or the stairs one floor down to the Special Collections lobby. To view a map, refer to our Hours & Location page.
Consult University of Washington Commuter for more information about visitor parking and rates.
We can provide basic reference service, via , or in person. Clients who come into Special Collections get the first priority. We encourage our researchers to use our UW Libraries CatalogDatabases & ListsCollection Guides Search. Our Digital Collections contain a range of materials including photographs, books, manuscripts and archives. Searching these resources from your home computer will allow you to focus your visit to the Division on materials not available to you remotely.
Special Collections provides reference services to anyone seeking information about our holdings. Our primary responsibility is to UW students, faculty, and staff, and we may need to put their requests first during the busiest parts of the school year.
After you sign in, you will need to check all of your belongings into a locker. You may keep loose paper, pencils, and laptops and cameras [without cases]. Liquids cannot be stored in lockers unless in spill-proof containers. Consult our page on Using the Collections for more information.
Many of our collections are described in the UW Libraries Catalog. A small part of the photographic materials may be viewable in our Digital Collections. Consult Databases & Lists for more complete information, or contact for help with your research needs.
All collections are non-circulating. Except for some reference resources which are on open shelves, all materials are housed in secure, non-browsing stacks and are retrieved for users upon request. The majority of materials are stored on-site and can be retrieved quickly. Some manuscript and archival materials stored off-site are retrieved on a set schedule. Advanced planning is needed to see these items.
If you are not finished with your research materials, Reference Desk staff can put them on hold for you. Please ask the staff for assistance.
Most materials in the collection, including books, manuscripts and archival documents, photographs, maps, architectural drawings and ephemera may be photocopied subject to size, condition, and copyright restrictions. Self-service photocopying is not available. Information about cost and speed is available on the page.
A small part of the photographic materials may be viewable in our Digital Collections. Descriptions about our photograph collections may be searched in our and the online Collection Guides Search (Finding Aids). If you do not find what you need, contact for help. Appointments to view materials are not required, but some collections and materials are best accessed through consultation with the subject specialist.
Yes, you can get a photographic copy or digital file made from photographs in Special Collections. To order prints and scans of photographs, you will have to fill out the Reproduction Request Form (PDF). For further information (i.e. about costs, speed, and types of reproduction available), consult the page Reproduction Services: Reproduction Information, or contact PhotoQuestions.
The Special Collections Division accepts donations of materials that fits into the scope of their collection policy. If you have something to donate or you wish to make a monetary gift, you may contact us at (206) 543-1929.
We cannot provide formal appraisals, but many of our staff are experts in specific fields. We may be able to advise you about an antiquarian dealer who can help you or we can give you assistance in determining the appropriateness of a formal, paid appraisal. Such assistance is done on an appointment basis with considerable lead time, especially during the regular school year. You can call Special Collections and be directed to the appropriate .
Special Collections does occasionally purchase books from private collectors, but very infrequently; most collections come to us as gifts. Because our collections already have significant holdings, we seldom find that local collectors have materials we lack. If you are interested in offering us something for sale, please check our UW Libraries Catalog in advance to see if the book is something we do not have. If you have something you want us to consider, please send a letter and a list to Special Collections. Please realize that during the school year, we may not be able to respond to these inquiries immediately.
Special Collections does not sell materials. Our are experts in particular subject matters and can often refer you to an antiquarian book dealer who can meet your needs. You can check Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America for many currently available antiquarian books.