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Access and Guidelines

Information on accessing and using materials in the library and special collections

The Research Library and Special Collections, including the Rare Book Collection and the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA), primarily serve the staff and resident fellows of Dumbarton Oaks. We welcome applications from outside scholars and advanced graduate students who need access to the library for their scholarly research.

For general questions, contact .

Access to the Collections

Researchers must obtain either reader status or short-term access in order to use the library and special collections. In addition, researchers must schedule an appointment in order to use materials in the Image Collections or Fieldwork Archives or Rare Book Collection.

Reader status is available for any who meet one of the following criteria:

  • Former Dumbarton Oaks Fellow
  • Scholar holding a doctorate in those subjects collected at Dumbarton Oaks (or an MA in Landscape Architecture)
  • Currently enrolled doctoral student who has satisfied all course requirements and is working on his or her dissertation
  • Spouse or partner of a current fellow who possesses appropriate academic qualifications in his or her own right

In addition, at the librarians’ discretion, short-term access may be granted to an applicant not meeting one of these criteria, including master’s degree applicants, early doctoral students, and independent scholars preparing a publication. Applicants will need to demonstrate a strong need for access by providing titles and call numbers of those books at Dumbarton Oaks that cannot be found in other D.C.-area libraries, such as the Library of Congress.

Apply for Access
  • Send the completed application form to at least one week before your desired start date.
  • Submit a letter of reference from a recognized authority in the relevant field at the time of application if you are not a former Dumbarton Oaks Fellow.
  • A limited number of reserve shelves are available. Please request an assigned shelf when applying for access.

First-time library users are required to have an appointment with security and an orientation with the reader services librarian.

  • Appointments are scheduled only at 10:00 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays (except federal holidays) after the application is approved.
  • All approved scholars are issued an electronic badge that serves as photo identification and must be worn when on Dumbarton Oaks property.
Schedule an Appointment (Special Collections)

The Rare Book Collection and the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archive (ICFA) are accessible by appointment with a valid badge during special collections hours (Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. and 1:30–4:30 p.m., excluding federal holidays)


Library Hours
Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.

Special Collections Hours (by appointment only)
Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. and 1:30–4:30 p.m.

Library Closures, 2016–2017
September 5, 2016
November 24
December 25
January 1, 2017
July 4

Rare Book Reading Room and ICFA Closures, 2016–2017

September 5, 2016
October 10
November 11
November 24–25
December 23–31
January 1–2, 2017
January 16
February 20
May 29
July 4

Using the Collections

To use the library or the special collections, you will need a valid Dumbarton Oaks badge (contact for badge renewal information). When visiting the library, please keep the following guidelines in mind. The special collections reading rooms have additional instructions to help safeguard those materials.

General Collection Guidelines
  • No research/collection materials (books, journals, microfiche, photos, etc.) may be removed from the library or taken into the locker room.
  • Use of the library requires a valid ID badge and everyone must badge in when entering the library. The badge must be worn at all times, and a fee may be charged for lost badges.
  • Briefcases, bags, purses, and laptops may be taken into the library. Lockers are available for items or bags you do not wish to be inspected by security.
  • Coats and umbrellas may be taken into the library. All wet coats and umbrellas must be left in the umbrella stands in the foyer or coat room.
  • Covered beverages are allowed. Dry, non-perishable food is allowed in offices and the 5th floor lounge. Perishable food items can be stored in the refrigerator in the Refectory.
  • No tobacco products are permitted.
  • Voices carry easily in the library. Please be aware of that when speaking. The use of cell phones, pagers, and Skype is not permitted outside of offices or the 5th floor lounge.
  • Use an OUT card for every volume removed from the shelf. Fellows and staff can store books in their offices and assigned carrels. Readers can request a shelf to store the books they will use frequently from the reader services librarian.
  • Library materials signed out to fellows, readers, and staff may be requested by another scholar.  Please be considerate to fellow scholars and respond promptly to those requests.
  •  Do not write in any library materials; this includes notes in pencil.
  • To prevent damage to library materials, paperclips and post-it notes may never be used on collection items.
  •  Interlibrary loan (ILL) books are for library use only. ILL books for staff and fellows in the Main House must be used in the Main House.
  •  Books left on tables or other public spaces in the library are cleared each day by library staff.
  •  Rare Book and ICFA access is by appointment only. Please see above, under “Scheduling an Appointment,” for more information.
  • When exiting the library, everyone must badge out and items (including bags) will be thoroughly inspected by security.
  •  Everyone must vacate the building immediately or follow staff instructions when a fire alarm sounds or in other emergencies.

For readers:

  • A meeting will be set with the reader services librarian for a brief orientation to library and the collection right after the 10am badge appointment with security, unless otherwise specified. 
  • Mail, fax, and interlibrary loan (ILL) services are not available to readers.
  • Readers may not bring guests into the library.
Special Collections Reading Room Rules
  • All archival collections can only be consulted either in the Rare Book Reading Room or in the ICFA reading room. Make sure your hands are clean before handling the collections.
  • ICFA allows access to unprocessed archival collections, provided there are no restrictions on the collection. However, access may be delayed for a reasonable period of time in order to allow staff to assess collection content and fragility and to properly prepare materials for use.
  • Only a library staff member is allowed to retrieve materials from the stacks.
  • Do not bend, fold, lean on, mark, or otherwise damage any of the archival materials or books in any way. Items should remain flat on the table or properly supported with foam at all times.
  • You may be asked to wear gloves when handling items. Always handle photographic materials by their edges—do not touch the image surface. If items are in Mylar sleeves or folders, do not remove them from their containers.
  • In ICFA, keep all items in the order in which they were received—do not rearrange items. Use an out-card to mark an item’s place when removing it from a folder or box.
  • When archival items are in need of preservation, please alert library staff immediately. Do not attempt to repair any of the items.
  • Notify library staff if you need to leave the Reading Room or when you are done with the materials. Materials should not be left unattended. Your requested item(s) may be held for your use on a subsequent day(s).
  • It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain copyright clearance to publish or otherwise reproduce or distribute archival materials. Whenever possible, the library will provide the contact information of copyright holders.
  • Bags are not allowed in the ICFA reading room. There are lockers available behind the security desk on the 4th floor if needed.
  • You may bring the following items into the Reading Rooms
    • Personal computers and external drives
    • Pencils and notebooks
    • Digital cameras
    • Small personal items (wallets, mobile phones)

NOTE: Food and drink is not allowed in either of the special collections reading rooms.

Image Reproduction and Photography

Dumbarton Oaks grants permission for reproducing images from its collections only for scholarly and educational use. See Image Rights and Reproductions for further information and to submit an online form.

Digital Camera Policy

Digital cameras may be used to photograph materials from the Rare Book Collection for study purposed only. Images may not be reproduced, transferred, published, or posted on the internet.

  • All candidates for photography must be flagged and examined by the librarian for physical condition, copyright issues, and donor restrictions before approval will be given.
  • No tripods, camera flashes, or special lighting are permitted. Audible features on the camera must be turned off.
  • No pictures may be taken of the room itself, other readers, or the staff.
  • Staff will designate the work location for patrons using cameras. Patrons may not stand on chairs nor rearrange furniture to get a better image.
  • Materials must be handled properly and with great care. Staff will assist with setting up materials properly.
  • Bound volumes must be supported in a book cradle; no pressure may be applied to the bindings.
  • Loose manuscript material must remain in its folder and kept in order at all times. Documents must be kept flat on the table. If leaves are fastened together, please consult the librarian before proceeding.
  • No more than 50 pages or 20% of any manuscript or book (whichever is smaller) may be photographed.
  • A Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection flag must be photographed with each item.
  • It is the responsibility of each reader to keep complete and accurate citations (complete call number, including item numbers and/or page numbers) for all items photographed. Requests for permission to quote, or subsequent orders for high-resolution or photographic images, will not be processed without this information.
  • The library reserves the right to deny requests or revoke permission for any reason.

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