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Reading Room Policies

Reading room

The Distinctive Collections Reading Room (14N-118) is open to all, regardless of institutional affiliation, for use of our collections. Our collections are original, unique and/or rare. They are sometimes fragile or on loan from other institutions. Therefore, we ask all users to help us keep the materials safe and secure by observing the following policies and procedures. All materials must be used within the Reading Room; items do not circulate.

Before you visit:

  • The Reading Room will remain open through the Hayden renovation (mid-December 2019–fall 2020), but our regular hours may at times be affected during the construction. Before planning your visit, please check our hours for updates.
  • Many of our collections are off-site and require advance notice for use in the Reading Room, review our information on requesting materials for more details.
  • Make sure you’ve made arrangements with our staff in order to have your materials ready for you in the Reading Room by contacting us ahead of time via Ask Distinctive Collections.
  • Please review the item lists below to learn what is and isn’t allowed to be used during your visit. 

During your visit:

  • We are located in 14N-118 (building 14N, room 118), 160 Memorial Drive, Cambridge
  • Like most limited access reading rooms, the entrance door is kept locked and you will need to buzz in to enter. 
  • When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by our friendly staff who will help you sign in and register. Please note that photo identification is required. All registrations are valid for 1-year (July-June).
  • Eating and drinking are not allowed in the reading room. This includes water, candy, cough drops, and gum. Please dispose of open food and drink, including coffee cups, outside of the room. 
  • Coat racks and lockers are available for use and clear plastic bags are available to help you carry personal belongings to your seat in the Reading Room.
  • We provide and encourage the use of hand wipes before working with collections.
  • You are welcome to take reference photographs of materials. We can also arrange for digital photography and imaging services
  • During your visit, please help us maintain a quiet environment by turning off the sound on your electronic devices; use headphones; take cell phone calls outside; keep conversations low or step outside.
  • Let staff know if you need anything to help facilitate your work. We maintain tools for use in the Reading Room such as: magnifying glasses, ruler, tape measure, lightbox, or other equipment as we have many such items available for use.
  • The MIT “GUEST” wireless network does not require a password and is open to all on campus.

Personal items which may be used:

  • Laptops and/or tablets
  • A bound notebook
  • Camera and/or cell phone camera
  • Power cords and chargers  
  • Personal notes (we encourage the use of paper provided at the Service Desk, all other loose materials will be stamped for admittance)
  • Book(s) for reference purposes (must be logged with staff at the service desk)
  • Pencils (provided) 

Items which may not be used:

  • Pens/ink
  • Backpacks, bags, cases, covers, envelopes or enclosures, eye-glass cases, folders, luggage, purses, and other containers (must be placed in a locker or on the coat rack)
  • Like many closed Reading Rooms, our temperatures fluctuate. Layers of clothing such as jackets, sweaters and scarves, may be advisable for comfort. However, when not in use they must be returned to the locker area, not stored on chair backs or tables.