Handling Guidelines

RBSC is home to outstanding research collections of rare books, archival materials, historic maps, photographs, broadsides and pamphlets, artifacts, and more. These diverse genres and formats each require special and distinct care and handling because of the differences in production, condition, and age. Always feel free to ask an RBSC team member for recommendations in handling materials during consultation.

Here are some handling guidelines that will help protect materials and maintain their condition:

General guidelines

  • Food and drink (including water) are not permitted in the reading room.
  • Be mindful of materials throughout your consultation.
  • Keep hands clean and dry; gloves are only recommended for photographic materials and some objects with metal components. Hands should be free of lotion and hand sanitizer.
  • Remove or tuck in items of clothing or accessories that dangle and may unintentionally catch on an object; take care with or remove rings, bracelets, watches, etc. that may scratch.
  • Place material on a clean, uncluttered, flat surface; do not put materials in your lap or hold them above the table. Avoid leaning on materials or stacking them, especially in an open position.
  • Take special care with acidic paper that is brittle or has chips or tears.
  • When taking photos, please ensure your camera or cell phone never come into contact with the object itself. ┬áIt is also extremely important to have a secure hold on your cellphone or camera when taking photos.
  • Do not use staples, adhesive tape, sticky notes, metal paper clips, ink, thick marking strips, or other non-archival material.
  • Please limit use of flash photography, especially when working with photographs from the 19th century.
  • A magnifying glass is available at the circulation desk if needed.
  • Despite all possible precautions, materials can sustain damage as a result of normal consultation or unfortunate accidents. If you notice anything that requires preservation attention when consulting materials, please let a member of the RBSC team know, and they will alert the conservator.

Handling books

  • Be aware of the condition of the books you are handling. Even new-looking books can be at risk (e.g., perfect-bound books with pages that are glued into the spine and that can easily detach when roughly handled).
  • Use book supports / cradles provided by RBSC team members whenever possible. Cradles are designed to prevent stress to all parts of the book. Please keep books in the cradle, which should sit squarely on the table. Cradles are designed to be used for one book at a time.
  • Do not rest anything on top of books. Special weights (snake weights) are available at the circulation desk to hold books and pamphlets open safely and securely.
  • Acid free markers will be provided when needed to mark your place or pages for reproduction; nothing else should be placed in between the pages of a book.
  • Books should be closed if left for any period of time. Do not stack opened books or place them face down.
  • Illustrations, letters, and other sheets that fold out or are tipped into books may require special handling procedures or materials; please consult a member of the RBSC team.
  • Uncut / unopened pages (where the folds in the quires have not been cut, preventing the turning of single pages) should be referred to an RBSC team member.
  • Never force open a book with a tight binding.
  • Avoid touching the surface of pages with writing or painted or gold leaf illustrations. Especially on vellum, ink can chip or be rubbed off
  • Turn pages slowly and carefully from their outer edges.

Handling archival materials

  • Archival materials housed in boxes and folders should be kept in the order received. Please remove one file at a time and refer to the numbering on the file to return it to the correct order in the box. Items in each file should also be kept in order and should not be removed from the file. Patrons should remove the entire file from an archival box, rather than trying to remove just the item of interest.
  • When reviewing files, please them keep flat on the surface of the table. Avoid holding or thumbing pages while you are reading, and turn only one page at a time.
  • Do not rest anything on top of files. Special weights (snake weights) are available at the circulation desk to hold papers open safely and securely.
  • Acid free markers will be provided when needed to mark your place or pages for reproduction; nothing else should be placed in files.
  • Files should be closed if left for any period of time, and returned to their box.
  • Never force open a sealed envelope, pages stuck together, or tightly folded sheets. Please consult with a member of the RBSC team.
  • RBSC team members will provide gloves for consulting photographic materials.

Handling maps and oversized materials

  • Do not bend, fold or roll flat material such as maps or other oversized items; make sure oversized items are completely supported on a flat and clear surface.
  • RBSC team members will provide map weights for keeping a rolled map flat for consultation. If the maps resists being flattened, please ask for assistance.
  • If you need assistance to turn over an oversized item to access information on the back, please ask a member of the RBSC team for assistance.
  • Please allow an RBSC team member to retrieve oversized materials from your place in the reading room after consultation.

Handling objects

  • If an object is made of metal or wax, and / or if the object has a fragile surface, an RBSC team member will provide gloves for handling.
  • Handle objects over the table at a reasonable height to reduce the risk of breakage in case of a fall.
  • You can use the velvet mats provided in the reading room to move or rotate the object to avoid unnecessary handling.
  • Support the object with your whole hand when moving or lifting it. Refrain from holding or lifting the object by its most vulnerable part (i.e., the handle).