Using the Collection
The Vail Collection is available for use in the Distinctive Collections Reading Room, located at 14N-118.
Searching the collection
The books, journals, and pamphlets in the Vail Collection are searchable in Barton, the MIT Libraries’ public catalog. For those interested in searching only the Vail Collection, a dedicated “Vail-only” search screen is available.
Books that appear in Barton with the shelf location “Noncirculating Collection 1” can generally be retrieved within an hour, and made available for use in the reading room. Books with the shelf location “Noncirculating Collection 3” require at least 24 hours notice for retrieval.
The most efficient way to request specific titles is via our “Ask Distinctive Collections” web form. In the “What is your question” box, please give the book’s call number and title, and let us know when you’d like to visit.
You may also stop by the reading room to request materials. Our normal operating hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 am till 4 pm, with exceptions listed here – always check for special hours, because the reading room sometimes closes for visits by MIT classes.
Using Vail books
Readers must exercise appropriate care when handling our rare collections. Many volumes are hundreds of years old; others have been heavily used and may be extremely fragile. Book cradles, special weights, and other materials will be provided, along with instructions on how to handle rare books.
Clean hands are the best tools for handling most of our books, so please try to wash your hands just before coming into the reading room. For certain materials, gloves (which we provide) may be required.