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Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is committed to preserving the materials in its collections and making them accessible to students, scholars and the wider community.

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The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections holdings can be accessed by APPOINTMENT ONLY.  The Smith Reading Room hours are Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and all users will be required to register and request items in advance. Users should contact us to confirm their visit with the Irvin Department.

For more information, please see our Policies and Procedures at the bottom of this page.

For remote research assistance or to plan a future visit, please contact


Our holdings include approximately 500,000 items and over 50 archival collections, ranging from early medieval manuscripts and incunabula to historical scientific works and modern literature. You can explore our holdings by searching the library catalog or by using one of our finding aids. You can also browse a selected list of the department’s named collections, all accessible through the catalog and finding aids, but also made available through this keyword searchable list.

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Policies and Procedures

The Smith Reading Room is open from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, by appointment.  Users should contact us to confirm their appointment.

Researchers and other visitors should also be aware of the general policies of the Hollings Library, including the prohibition on food and drink. Only pencils, paper, laptops and cameras are allowed in the Smith Reading Room. Self-service lockers are available for securely storing coats, purses, bags and other personal items.

Researchers must request items in advance of arrival. Items can be requested via the online catalog, or by emailing the department in advance of visit. Items will then be on hold in the Smith Reading Room for supervised use. Descriptions of items are available in the libraries’ online catalog and through finding aids.

Some materials in the department’s care are housed offsite in remote storage and may need to be recalled further in advance of use. These items generally appear in the library catalog as: “Columbia Annex: Ask at Rare Books & Special Collections, Thomas Cooper Library (Library Use Only).”

Researchers not connected with the university, or traveling from a distance, are asked to contact the department ahead of their visit to ensure that the needed items and relevant staff help is available when they arrive. Researchers can request materials from the Irvin Department stacks and/or Irvin Department materials from the Annex in advance of their visit by emailing

Faculty and instructors who wish to bring their classes to special collections for an instruction session are encouraged to contact Michael Weisenburg:

Those interested in scheduling gallery tours or public lectures are encouraged to contact Michael Weisenburg:

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