Rare Books & Special Collections FAQs

1. Are you still adding to your collections?

2. Do I need to make an appointment to use the Library?

3. I don't have time to read this book now. Why can't I check it out?

4. If I can't check the book out, could it be photocopied?

5. I have an old book--can you tell me how much it's worth?

6. This book isn't old, why is it in Rare Books & Special Collections?

7. What is your oldest printed book?

8. When are you open?

9. Where are you located?

10. Why aren't your collections digitized and on a website, so that I can look at them on my computer?

11. Why can't I use a pen to take notes in the Department? I'm not going to mark in the books.

Are you still adding to your collections?

Absolutely! You can see some recent additions on our New Books page. We have a limited budget for buying books and manuscripts, but have been fortunate to receive gifts of collections and of individual items which we have gladly added to the Department. We're always happy to hear from prospective donors; please contact us at rarebks@library.rochester.edu.

Do I need to make an appointment to use the Library?

No, you can use the collections or see our exhibitions whenever we're open. However, it may be to your advantage to make an appointment, if you can, particularly if you are visiting on a Saturday. There are times when the librarians are unavailable; and if we can talk with you in advance about your research, we can tell you if we have what you're looking for, or if there are related materials in the collections you might not have known about which may help with your project.

I don't have time to read this book now. Why can't I check it out?

Most of our books would be difficult or impossible to replace if they were lost, and expensive to repair if damaged. Each of our manuscripts, of course, is unique. Therefore we do not allow any of our books or other materials to circulate. This is an almost universal policy in special collections libraries. Although we can't let you check materials out, we do try to be open when you need us, and we are open on Saturdays.

If I can't check the book out, could it be photocopied?

We can sometimes photocopy a few pages from our books, on occasion even whole pamphlets, but we have to impose limits. Aside from staff time that must be given over to photocopy requests, we have to consider the well-being of our books -- some are just too fragile to permit copying without damage. We want you to be able to use the materials, but we must think also of the students and researchers who follow you; we want them to be able to use the materials, too. For more information about photocopying in Rare Books, go to Using the Collections.

I have an old book--can you tell me how much it's worth?

We are happy to answer email or telephone inquiries about the materials in our collections or regarding making donations to our collections. For general information about rare books and book values, please visit the "Your Old Books" section of the American Library Association's Rare Books and Manuscripts Section at <http://www.rbms.info/yob.shtml>. To find/contact a bookseller who might be of assistance, please visit the membership directory of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America . In the Rochester area, visit the website of the Rochester Area Booksellers Association.

This book isn't old, why is it in Rare Books & Special Collections?

A rare book isn't necessarily an old book. Most of the books in the William and Hannelore Heyen Collection of Modern Poetry are less than 50 years old--they are in this department because of their subject matter. We also have a "Filmed Book collection" -- first editions of books which have been made into movies. Of course, a book may be in the collection because of its age, but it might also be here because of the importance of its text or edition, or because its printing or binding are particularly fine, or because it was once owned by someone important -- there are many variables involved.

What is your oldest printed book?

Our oldest printed book is Summa Theologicae by Thomas Aquinas, printed in Esslingen (Germany) in 1472. A description of this book, and some of the highlights of the Collection can be found at 150 Years, 150 Treasures, at our on-line exhibition page.

When are you open?

During the academic year, our usual hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturdays from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Be sure to check for notices of special openings and closings.

Where are you located?

The Department is on the second floor of Rush Rhees Library. More directions for getting to the Department can be found here.

Why aren't your collections digitized and on a website, so that I can look at them on my computer?

We are actively digitizing materials which will enhance University courses, but with over 100,000 books and 2 miles of manuscript materials, the collections are not going to be accessible digitally very soon! You can look at our digital projects and on-line exhibits pages to see what we have so far, and to make suggestions for materials you think we should make a priority. Departments like ours exist to preserve books and manuscripts in their original condition, as artifacts as well as texts. You can see a "pass" for the Underground Railroad written by Frederick Douglass on your computer screen, but what are you missing by not holding it in your hand?

Why can't I use a pen to take notes in the Department? I'm not going to mark in the books.

Despite good intentions, pens can slip, and it's hard (in some cases, impossible) to erase ink marks. Pencil is much safer. We'll supply a pencil if you don't have one. We also allow portable computers to be used, and we have wireless access in the Department.


 

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