I’m planning a visit to Special Collections. What should I know before I visit? 

Drop in research hours in the Reading Room are open 1:30-5pm Monday – Friday. We may occasionally  be closed to researchers if hosting a class during this time. Interested in a morning visit? Connect with us and we may be able to accommodate an appointment at another time pending staff availability. Materials housed in Grinnell College Special Collections and Archives are non-circulating and can be accessed in the Reading Room only.

Where do I go? 

Grinnell College Special Collections and Archives is housed on the lower level of Burling Library. An interactive campus map can be found here. Visitor parking on campus is highlighted on this map, or visitors can park along city streets following public parking signs.

Do I need to make an appointment? 

No appointments are required, but advance notice of your research interest and intended visit time to access SHLC can help save time during your visit. We are a closed stacks archive–materials are paged to researchers in the Reading Room on request and are not browsable. With advance notice, we may be able to pull your requested items in advance and provide additional recommendations, saving you time upon arrival.

*The SHLC is currently being processed, but is open for research. Select materials may not be available if being actively cataloged, on loan, exhibit, or being assessed for conservation.

Do I need to be doing research to visit?

No–Special Collections is open to all! The collection is open to anyone with interest in seeing it. Having some idea of genre, topics, or era that you’d like to see in a visit will help staff to page material of most interest to you, but we’re happy to show you some of our favorites as well.

What should I bring? 

  • Technology. Laptops, phones, and cameras are welcome. Please silence your tech while researching. Photography is welcome–no flash! A light sheet, measuring tapes, and magnifying glasses can be provided on request for examining material. Consult with staff before using any further tools for examining material.
  • Pack light. We will ask you to leave bags and coats away from your table while researching. Nearby lockers are also available to secure personal belongings during your visit. No food or drink in the Reading Room.
  • A sweater–no kidding! Extra layers are recommended–the controlled temperature ideal for the books is chilly (about 63°F).
  • Pencil and paper. We can provide pencils and paper by request–no pens!
  • Your patience and respect. The Reading Room is a shared research space. Please help us to maintain a comfortable research environment and keep noise to no more than a conversational level when researchers are working. Paging material can take time–thank you for your patience.

Can I handle material? 

Yes, you can handle collection material. Staff will go over handling requirements for individual items. Particularly fragile material may require assistance. Before handling collection material (or before your arrival to the Reading Room), please wash your hands. Hand sanitizer and gloves can be damaging when handling material. Archives staff and student workers monitor the Reading Room to support researchers and assist with handling rare materials.


Have other questions before visiting? Get in touch! We look forward to seeing you in the Reading Room soon.