Access & Research

Policies for Using Special Collections

Welcome to the Woman’s Collection and University Archives. All materials held in the Woman’s Collection and University Archives are open and available to the public during our regular hours or by appointment. There are exceptions in which some collections are closed and unavailable for patron use. Patrons have access to special collections and archives with staff supervision.

During semester breaks and during the summer, our hours are subject to change. We make every attempt to post changes in hours of operation on our webpages. However, we encourage anyone wanting to visit the Woman’s Collection and University Archives to contact us to schedule an appointment especially if you are planning to work extensively with one of our unique archival collections. By doing so, we can ensure that the materials you are requesting are promptly available upon your arrival.

The Catherine Merchant Reading Room is for materials that do not circulate because of their rarity, fragility, and unusual format. Both staff and users have the obligation of preserving these materials for future use. Persons using special collections must abide by the guidelines outlined below for the protection and to insure the longevity of materials. The Reading Room and its computers are reserved for researchers using special collections and class instruction specializing in archival research and primary source materials. The Reading Room is not available for general study.

Because of the special nature of the primary resources located in the Woman’s Collection, we are dedicated to ensuring that we consistently meet the needs of our patrons. The following guidelines have been developed to make your archives experience a pleasurable one. If you have any questions, please ask us for assistance.

By signing the Guest Register you are acknowledging that you have agreed to the Woman’s Collection guidelines. We appreciate your assistance in helping to preserve our collections.

Obtaining Materials:

Because stacks are closed and materials do not circulate, only Woman’s Collection staff can retrieve materials in the Woman’s Collection and University Archives for our patrons; this is not a self-service or browsing department, except for reference works and microfilm. All materials must be used in the Reading Room, and in some instances materials must be requested in advance.

All patrons are required to complete a User Registration Form and show photo identification in order to access materials. Patrons are required to review their registration form each time they visit the Woman’s Collection. In addition, patrons will need to sign in and out on the Daily Register for each day’s use of the Reading Room.

A collection specialist will be assigned to you who will discuss your research needs in order to provide you with the most comprehensive and exhaustive research assistance. The research interview is for the benefit of the patron because not all collections, materials, or holdings are cataloged.

General Information:

The Catherine Merchant Reading Room is reserved for patrons using special collections and university archives. This also applies to the public service computer terminals in the Reading Room. Laptops and tablets are allowed in the Reading Room.

Photographing archival materials with digital cameras, camera phones, or tablet devices is prohibited. The only exception is the photography of exhibits on display in the Reading Room.

Self-service materials located in the Reading room include yearbooks, histories of the University, and historical books specific to departments and programs. These materials may be may be retrieved by patrons without staff assistance. When finished, please leave materials on a table or place on the book carts for shelving by staff.

Guidelines for Using Materials:

  • Researchers are required to register each time they request materials from the Woman’s Collection and University Archives. By signing the register, you indicate an understanding of the regulations and a willingness to abide by them.
  • Use extreme care when handling materials in order to avoid damage. Keep materials flat on a reading table or in a book cradle. Never lean on materials, folders, or boxes, fold papers anew, or handle materials in any way likely to inflict damage.
  • Researchers are asked to wash hands with soap and water before handling research materials. Facilities are located near the Reading Room. Patrons may also use the facilities in the Processing Room.
  • Book cradles are located in the Reading Room for the use of bound volumes. Book weights will be provided to hold pages open. Staff will assist you with these items.
  • Use of cataloged materials is limited to two items at a time.
  • Use of archival materials is limited to one box at a time.
  • Tracing or writing on original materials is not permitted.
  • Never erase any marks on original materials.
  • Note-taking on top of materials or folders containing materials is prohibited.
  • Post-it notes, paperclips, and binder clips of any kind should not be affixed to archival materials. Bookmarks will be provided to researchers to mark pages.
  • Patrons are permitted to bring their notebook for note-taking in the Reading Room. If you do not have a notebook, colored paper will be provided.
  • Because items held in the Woman’s Collection and University Archives are one-of-a-kind and rare, note-taking is only allowed using pencil or your laptop computer to ensure the protection of our materials. Patrons will be provided with pencils if they do not have one. Pencil sharpeners are available for patron use in the Reading Room.
  • To prevent the permanent marking of research materials, pens of any kind, including ballpoint, ink, and fountain pens, are not allowed. Other types of writing instruments not permissible include highlighters, markers, gel, and colored pencils. Correction fluid is also prohibited to prevent damage to materials.
  • Gloves are provided to researchers when handling photographs or negatives. Other materials may require the use of gloves. A staff member will alert patrons when at-risk materials require special handling. The use of gloves is for the protection of materials from the natural oils found on our skin in order to prevent damage.
  • Materials must be handled with extreme care so as not cause inadvertent damage. Turn pages gently to ensure their preservation for future generations. Do not put books or other objects such as laptops, boxes, or elbows on the surface of items being used.
  • When handling maps, manuscripts, printed materials, and photographs, researchers should only touch the edges of the paper.
  • Keep any loose and unbound material in the order in which you receive it. The organizational sequence is part of the archival organization. Patrons are asked to maintain the materials as they are found. Never change the order in which a collection has been filed. If this occurs by accident, please inform the staff.
  • If items appear out of order or missing, we ask that you not rearrange materials in an attempt to restore their order. Rather, please report any misarrangements, mutilations, or unopened leaves to a staff member immediately.
  • Laptops and other items should not obstruct materials from the view of staff at the information desk.
  • The use of some manuscripts and archives are prohibited by law. The researcher must comply with the terms of any restriction placed on manuscripts/records.
  • The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming to the laws of libel and literary property rights, which may be involved in his/her use of manuscripts and other records.
  • Removal of archival materials from the Reading room without permission constitutes theft under the law.
  • When you have completed your research, please leave materials on the table so that staff can shelve materials. If you are not finished using them and plan to return the next day, inform a staff member and we will keep them on hold for as long as you request.
  • For the security of our materials, we reserve the right to examine your notes upon departure.

Reading Room Policies:

  • Patrons must register, sign in, and when finished for the day, sign out at the information desk at the Reception Area/entrance to the Reading Room.
  • Materials do not circulate and must not be removed. They may only be used in the Reading Room at the designated tables. Materials cannot be used at computer stations.
  • Only materials needed for the purposes of conducting research may be brought into the reading room such as a notebook, note cards, pencil, and laptop computers.
  • All personal items, including books, notebooks, purses, coats, backpacks, bags including laptop cases, knapsacks, packages, briefcases, portfolios, hats, umbrellas, and other possessions not essential to your work will need to be placed in the bureau in the reception area. Large items may be placed in the Processing Room and all items must be retrieved by 5 pm. Only pencil, paper, notebook, course syllabus, assignment instructions, laptop, and other relevant materials are allowed in the Reading Room.
  • Loud talking and actions likely to disturb researchers are prohibited in the Reading Room. Please limit your conversation. Extended conferences with fellow researchers should be held outside the Reading Room.
  • Eating, drinking (including covered beverages), chewing gum, and smoking (TWU is a smoke free campus) are not permitted.
  • Personal scanning devices are not permitted in the Reading Room. Patrons needing scanning services should consult with staff who will evaluate whether materials are in a condition that will permit scanning. Staff is responsible for the scanning of all archival materials.
  • Courtesy requires cell phones or other disruptive devices be turned off or silenced so as not to disturb other researchers. Cell phones are not allowed in the Reading Room. Patrons needing to make calls may do so in the Processing Room or on the first floor vending machine area.
  • Before leaving notify staff. As a security measure, the Woman’s Collection reserves the right to review any materials brought into the Reading Room.