Using the Library
Librarians at the American Antiquarian Society have been working since 1812 to acquire materials important for the study of American history. Because many of these materials are fragile and irreplaceable, we have established policies and procedures to ensure that they will be available for scholarly research for future generations.
Who May Use the Library? | Planning Your Visit | Arriving at the Library | Items Allowed in the Reading Room | Items NOT Allowed in the Reading Room | Reading Room Policies | Exiting the Library | Additional Services
The library is open, free of charge, to researchers with projects related to AAS collections. Researchers can determine if AAS has material relevant to their project by consulting the list of Collection Access, A-Z or by contacting the appropriate staff member. No appointment is necessary to use the library.
Students: Graduate and undergraduate students are welcome to use the library collections. High school students must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The specialized nature of the research library does not make it appropriate for younger users.
Before entering the reading room or using any collection materials, all researchers must register online and must also receive an orientation to AAS collections and procedures in person. The initial registration form may be filled out ahead of time from home through our online request system, My Web AAS (or MWA). Researchers who have registered online will be able to submit requests for collection materials from the catalog in advance of their first visit, but nothing will be retrieved until they have completed their orientation.
Please stop at the reception desk in the main entrance upon arriving. Visitors and researchers are required to sign in and out of the building for security purposes.
If they have not filled out the online registration form before arriving, all researchers will need to do so on their first visit to the library. A computer terminal is available in the orientation room, and library staff are happy to answer questions or assist anyone uncomfortable filling out the form on their own.
New readers then meet with a staff member to discuss their research interests and to review AAS's reading room procedures, including how to use My Web AAS, our online request system.
Please note: Two forms of identification must be presented, including one bearing a photograph (usually a driver's license or passport). These are photocopied onto the reader registration form. To protect readers' privacy, Social Security cards and credit cards are not acceptable forms of identification.
For the security of AAS collection materials, only pencils, loose papers or a notebook, and laptop computers may be brought into the reading room. A few other items are allowed, subject to the following restrictions:
- Personal books may be brought into the reading room, but must first be checked in with the receptionist.
- Cameras are allowed in the reading room. The use of a flash, tripod, or other special equipment is not permitted.
- Cell phones may be brought into the reading room if the ringer is turned off. Please answer calls in the reception area rather than the reading room so as not to disturb fellow readers. A telephone booth in the reception area may also be used for local calls.
No pens or bags of any kind (including purses, briefcases, or any other enclosures) may be taken beyond the reception area. Coat racks and lockers are provided for outerwear and personal items.
Food and drink is not allowed in the library. Readers may bring lunches to the Goddard-Daniels House, located across the street at 190 Salisbury Street, or ask at the reference desk for a map of local restaurants.
Given the age, rarity, and fragility of most of its collections, AAS maintains a closed-stack library. This means readers cannot browse the shelves themselves, with the exception of the collection of bibliographies, reference works, and genealogical aids in the reading room. All other collection materials may be requested through the online request system My Web AAS either directly from the catalog, or after consulting finding aids, or card catalogs. Staff members will retrieve the requested items and bring them to the readers at the reading room tables as quickly as possible, usually within 15 minutes.
The reading room staff makes every effort to ensure that each reader sees all of the AAS collection materials relevant to his or her project. However, given that the library has over four million items and there are only so many hands available to retrieve them, there is a practical limit on how many items can be paged for each reader each day. Readers will be alerted if their requests are exceeding the staffing capacity and alternative research strategies will be suggested.
Readers are responsible for the use and return of materials they have requested and may not lend or exchange them with other readers. All collection materials should be handled as little as possible with hands that are clean and dry. Books and pamphlets must be examined in book cradles. Certain collections must be viewed at the tables located immediately in front of the reference desk; these include manuscripts, restricted collections, graphics, and anything published before 1820. Manuscripts must be brought to the reference desk to be held any time readers leave the reserved manuscript tables, even if they are only stepping out to the reception area.
All Society research materials must be returned to the reference desk whenever readers exit the building and fifteen minutes before closing. Readers may request that materials be held for them if they plan to return within the next few days. Before leaving the building, readers must get an exit card from the reference desk. The card is given to the receptionist to signal the reader has turned in all collection materials and is cleared to leave. Readers need to sign out at the reception desk before exiting the building.
Readers are welcome to take their own photographs, for research purposes only, according to the reading room photography policies. Readers' Services staff can provide a limited number of photocopies or pdfs. Information on placing larger orders or images intended for publication is available through rights and reproductions.
Further questions regarding using the library may be directed to Kimberly Pelkey, Reading Room Manager, at 508-471-2174 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.