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African and Middle Eastern Reading Room (African and Middle Eastern Division)
  Home >> Rare Materials Policy

Rules for Use of Rare Materials in the
African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room

All researchers requesting rare materials are advised to write, email or telephone the African and Middle Eastern Division prior to their visit as advance notice may be needed to retrieve rare items for research use.

Reference Desk Telephone (M - F) 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM - (202) 707-4188
Fax: (202) 252-3180

Mailing Address: 101 Independence Ave.S.E., Washington, D.C. 20540-4820
Section Contact Information:
Near East

            The staff of the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room is dedicated to helping users in their research by making its important rare items available to them. We are, however, charged with the safety and preservation of these precious items for the future. In order that we satisfy both these missions, the following policies are in place for those researchers who intend to use our rare book and manuscript collections:
  • Before entering the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room for the purpose of using rare books and manuscripts, readers must deposit in lockers all coats, hats, briefcases, notebooks, and other personal property not essential to their research.
  • Under no circumstances will food be allowed into the reading room.
  • In general, any person engaged in serious research who presents proper Library identification may consult AMED’s rare materials. Student access to collections is generally limited to those engaged in graduate study. Undergraduates with previous experience in using manuscripts who are working on a senior thesis need a letter of introduction from their advisor.
  • A first-time user of rare materials must complete the appropriate Registration of Researchers Using Rare Books and Manuscripts form (pdf format) and be interviewed by the specialist responsible for the materials to be consulted. Proof of knowledge of handling rare materials must be made. If there has been no previous use of rare books and manuscripts, the specialist will instruct the user in the proper methods of handling and in the Division’s rules about their use.
  • All researchers using rare materials must sign a special daily register and record each entrance and exit from the reading room.
  • Only researchers who have completed the registration form will be allowed to sit at the desk for rare materials use.
  • Only the specialist responsible for these collections, the section head of the section in whose custodies the materials reside, or AMED’s Division Chief may retrieve the materials to be used by the researcher. (Arrangements may be made in the absence of the specialist for a qualified technician to retrieve the materials.)
  • The researcher must complete a Request for Rare Materials form (pdf format) and submit this to the appropriate specialist. At the discretion of the specialist, deliveries may be limited to one item at a time. The previous item given to a researcher must be returned and examined before another is given. To the degree possible, deliveries will usually be at 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm.
  • Before a rare book or manuscript will be delivered to the researcher, the specialist will determine:
    • If there is a microfilmed copy. If so, this will be presented to the reader in place of the actual materials. The original material may be given to the researcher performing artistic and materials’analyses (e.g., binding, measurements, etc.).
    •  If no microfilm copy is available, the specialist will examine the original to determine its condition. If the original is deemed usable, the specialist will deliver it to the researcher.
    • If there is some impediment to the use of the material, the specialist has the right to deny its use until preservation is accomplished. (e.g., brittleness, loose binding, loose leaves etc.)
    •  If the specialist judges that use will not injure the materials further, any pre-existing damage will be noted on the request sheet before it is given to the researcher. If loose leaves are involved, the number of leaves will be noted.
  • Once the materials are delivered:
    • The specialist will provide the researcher(s) with any needed stands, snakes, or gloves.
    • Researchers must use the materials at the table set aside for such research.
    • Ink pens are not permitted on the person of those using rare materials. Only pencils may be used in taking notes.
    • Researchers must make no marks on materials, write no notes on top of materials, rest no books or other objects on the face or surface of items used, and handle loose sheets or bound pages by their edges, avoiding insofar as possible touching the surface with their hands.
    • Researchers should exercise the greatest possible care to prevent damage to materials and exercise extreme care in handling fragile items. If necessary, gloves will be provided for handling of certain materials.
    • Researchers may not photocopy any rare material.
    • Researchers are expected to preserve the existing order and arrangement of any unbound materials and to report any disarrangement to the librarian in charge.
  • Researchers must return the materials to the specialist or his or her designated agent before receiving another manuscript.
  • Arrangements may be made in advance via the specialist or his or her agent to reserve an item needed for the next day. Reserve is only possible for the next day (i.e., an item may not be placed on reserve for an advanced date as a few days or a week later.)


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  March 18, 2022
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