Reading Room (Special Collections)

Researchers in the Special Collections Reading Room

Smith College Special Collections is open to the public.

Materials from the College Archives, Mortimer Rare Book Collection, and Sophia Smith Collection are available for use upon request in the reading room. Registration is required upon arrival for all visitors and guests.

Accomodations & Services

Special Collections is committed to ensuring equal access to the campus, guests, and visitors of the reading room. Researchers needing accommodations can request them upon entering the reading room, or are welcome to contact our administrative assistant in advance of their visit.

Facilities & Equipment

Special Collections is located on the second floor of Young Library. All library buildings and collections are wheelchair accessible. Other accommodations include:

  • Entrance ramps
  • Elevators
  • Gender-neutral, accessible restrooms


Non-flash photography of materials is allowed during your research. Special Collections has two document cameras (see Document Camera Instructions for more information), two iPads, and speciality lighting available for researchers on a first come basis. Please speak to a staff member for more information.

Special Collections has a mircoform reader within the reading room. Anyone is able to use the microform reader as long as they ensure the safety of the materials and of the reader. The machine can be used to read microforms, create PDFs, copy/email PDFs, and print. Printing under 40 pages is free; Special Collections charges $0.05 per page after 40 pages and accepts cash and card for this payment.


Special Collections welcomes anyone to use our collections, regardless of background, age, affiliation, or the nature of your research. In order to preserve the unique materials we steward for future use, researchers must abide by the policies and procedures of the Reading Room. Special Collections reserves the right to ask a researcher to leave if the policies are not adhered to.

Please read our policies prior to your visit.


First time users must complete a research registration form; returning users must check in with a staff member.

Researchers are welcome to bring the following into the reading room:

  • Pencils
  • Laptops, phones, and other devices,
  • Loose-leaf paper
  • Notebooks
  • Tripods (Researchers must assent that their use of the tripod will not put the materials at risk. Other objects that are not tripods, or that may damage materials, are not accepted within the Reading Room.)

Coats, umbrellas, bags, pens and laptop cases may be stored in our locker area. Food and drink must be left outside the reading room. Please check-out with a staff member prior to exiting the reading room for the day.

Researchers can discuss their research interests with any staff member on duty. Feel free discover our collections prior to traveling to the reading room.

Requesting Materials & Access

Special Collections is readily available to provide one-to-one consultation on research projects at any stage of the research process. Feel free discover our collections prior to contact our Reference Archivist with more detailed questions.

Some materials are restricted due to issues of privacy, state and federal regulations, and issues of fragility and preservation. These restrictions are noted whenever possible.

Until we move into new Neilson in early 2021, collections are stored in multiple locations and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Special Collections ( at least a week in advance of any planned visits so that boxes may be retrieved for them in a timely manner.

Policy for Access to Oral Histories

Oral History Releases

Access to oral history interviews is governed by agreements between the person telling their story (the narrator), the person conducting the interview (the interviewer), the organization responsible for administering interviews, and Smith College Special Collections. Because some oral history interviews contain sensitive information, one or several parties may have requested that the interview will not immediately be available for research. We do our best to explain, clearly, which interviews are accessible for research and which are not. If all parties have agreed to make an oral history available, we are happy to facilitate the process of providing access. Please contact us at so that we can help connect you with these research materials.

We have been collecting oral history interviews for many years. In some cases, our information about whether all parties have consented to make an oral history available may be ambiguous. If you would like access to an interview to which we do not have agreements, we will do our best to contact the narrator and interviewer to obtain a release and thereby give you permission to see the oral history. This process may take several weeks or even months, depending on how difficult it is to contact all parties. If we cannot secure permission, access to oral histories may be restricted until all parties are deceased.

Stakeholder Rights

If you have participated in an oral history interview that is now at Smith College Special Collections and you have questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at We are eager to respect the interests of oral history participants.