[HNW] (long) Getting in to see rare books

Deborah Pulliam pulliam at acadia.net
Sat Feb 2 10:46:08 PST 2002

A couple of additions:

<<If you have the least intention of publishing your findings, say
what the sketches will be used for (some libraries do not allow
images of their holdings to be re-used in any public manner without
specific permission.)>>

I would say *most* libraries (and museums) do not allow images of
holdings to be published or reused without specific permission. And
you cannot assume they will allow you to - you *must* ask, if for no
other reason than it's polite. If you publish photos from a
collection, say by posting them on your website, and they find out,
trust me, you will never get back in (and it's a small world - word
will get around.)

If you do get permission to photograph things, most likely you will
be asked to signed a form saying you understand your images are for
personal use/research only, and specifying what you  need to do if
you want to publish images.

<<If you are able to afford it, volunteer a contribution to the library's
support fund.>>

*Very* good point that most people overlook. And do not forget to
write a thank you letter after the visit, usually to the person who
helped you, or whoever made the visit possible.

<<Persistence can pay off, but don't become a
nuisance or you'll become known as a pest and you'll NEVER get in.>>

Absolutely. In my experience, refusals come with a reason - sometimes
lack of staff time, space, problems with facilities, etc. (I don't
think I've ever gotten a flat "we don't let people in"). If it's a
matter of facilities problems (once it was dry rot in a collection,
another time - literally - the ceiling had fallen in, in their work
area), I usually write back and say sorry to hear about the problems,
thanks for the consideration, and please let me know if/when the
situation changes. They usually don't - they've got much more
interesting and important things to do with their time. *But*, when I
write again 6 mo. or a year later, they remember me - favorably, I
believe! It's worked every time I've tried again.

Keep in mind many rare book departments of libraries, and curatorial
departments, have limited staffs, and often they simply set the
number of visitors they feel they can deal with (it maybe they devote
one or two afternoons each week to outside research), and it's often
first-come, first-serve  -- after you're established  your interest
is more than casual.

I teach a six-hour workshop on all this - there's more to it than you
might think!


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