Frequently Asked Questions

What hours are you open?

Please see our hours.

How do I find out what’s in Special Collections & University Archives?

Virtually all of our books and most of our manuscript collections are represented by bibliographic records in InfoHawk, and patrons should begin any search there. Some materials not represented in InfoHawk are cataloged in card files available only in Special Collections (e.g., French Revolution pamphlets). The actual contents of the majority of our manuscript collections — which occupy 15,000 linear feet of shelving and include millions of letters, reports, memoranda, and documents — are also described by online finding aids. These inventories sometimes describe individual items but more often describe the contents of a folder or a box. Actual items are only rarely represented by online digital surrogates, but see the list of collections and items that have been digitized in the Iowa Digital Library.

If you want to know whether The University of Iowa Libraries owns a particular book, check InfoHawk. If you have a very specific question about manuscript holdings (such as “Do you hold the papers of Dick Clark?”), consult the finding aids.  For comprehensive key word searching, use the “Smart Search” box in the banner at the top of this page.

It may also be helpful to email us or, if you’re on campus, come by to talk to a member of the staff. We’re often able to help guide you to relevant materials held in other institutions.

It is hard for me to come in during your service hours. Are Special Collections books ever allowed to circulate?

See our circulation policy. In some cases, we do loan books on a short-term basis. We will only circulate titles that could be replaced (at your expense) if lost or damaged.

There are things in Special Collections I want to consult, but I simply can’t come in during the hours you’re open. What do I do?

Talk to us. While we do have to meet many obligations with limited resources, we want very much to make the collections accessible. With advance planning, we can sometimes be here for you during the evening or on the weekend. Sometimes, too, we can leave print materials at the Service Desk for your use within the building during hours we are closed.

How do I contact you by email?

We have an email account (lib-spec@uiowa.edu) that is monitored Monday through Friday, and we acknowledge and respond to queries as quickly as we are able. You are welcome to contact staff members individually, but since not everyone is available all the time, you are likely to receive a faster answer by way of lib-spec@uiowa.edu.

Do you have imaging services? I would like to get copies of photographs, photographs of text materials, or digital scans of images or text. How can I order these?

In-house resources: We can generally provide scans, photographs, or photocopies, though some items are too fragile to copy, and in some cases we are prevented from making copies by contractual agreements with donors or by copyright considerations. We limit the number of scans or photocopies per patron to 150, but you may be able to hire a student research assistant if your needs exceed this limit (see below). We have a photocopier, scanners (flat-bed and overhead) and digital cameras. To request scans or photocopies from our collections, or to review our fees, please fill out our Access & Reproductions form. We deliver images as created by the scanner or camera, without editing or enhancement. You will be billed for services by the University Finance Office. Invoices are usually mailed within three weeks and will contain payment instructions. DO NOT PAY IN ADVANCE. Our digital camera (a Nikon CoolPix 4500) takes digital images (.jpgs only) that average 1.5MB.

For other imaging needs, the University’s Center for Media Production provides specialized images as digital files or photographic-quality prints; it invoices fees via the University Finance Office. If you need color prints or have other special requests relating to materials in our collections, please contact us. You should also review our Rights, Permissions & Fees page which includes our schedule of use fees.

Can I order copies of films (or sound recordings or other moving image media) from your collections?

Yes, in general. We ask patrons to pay for two copies of the work, one for themselves and one to be returned to the collection as a preservation copy. The cost of the second copy is typically nominal. Once your request has been approved, we take the materials to the Center for Media Production, which migrates the sound or moving image and invoices you via the University Finance Office. You must identify precisely what you want copied and specify the format you want to result (which can include DV-CAM or DVD). You should also review our Rights, Permissions & Fees page which includes the schedule of use fees charged by the Libraries.

I don’t think I can come to Iowa City, but there is research I would like to have done. Can I hire a research assistant?

Yes, students in the School of Library and Information Science are often available to conduct research projects under your direction. Contact Carol Ives, Sch 3088, Main Library, Iowa City, IA 52240-1420, phone 319-335-5707. If your project requires special language or subject expertise, contact the Program Assistant of the relevant department.

I used your collections a while ago and have now had my article (or book) accepted for publication. How do I cite the items from your collections that I am using?

Congratulations! Please cite: [Name of collection], The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa. We recommend this format because the University of Iowa was once (and for some purposes still is) referred to as the “State University of Iowa” and is thus easily confused with Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa).

I am quoting quite a lot of material (or reproducing photograph(s) or sound or moving image recordings) I obtained from you. Do I need your permission? Must I pay any use fees?

See our statement on Copyright.

I have an old book (or manuscript, painting, cartoon, antique object, miniature book, etc.) and would like to know what it is worth (its market value). Can you tell me?

While we are expert in judging scholarly value, we deeply regret that we are unable to appraise the dollar value of books, manuscripts and collectibles. In general, value depends first on the condition of the item (only an authentic item in very fine condition is likely to be valuable) and second on the number of collectors who are or might be interested in it (the more collectors, the more competitive a market is likely to be). We can recommend the following resources for estimating value of books and other objects:

Your Old Books,” published by the Rare Book & Manuscript Section of the American Library Association. Click on “Publications” on the left; then click on “Pamphlets & Brochures” in the list; then click on “Your Old Books.”  A helpful guide to options.

eBay and other online auctions
viaLibri and the following websites that offer large databases of used and rare books currently for sale
Bookfinder ; Bookfinder4U ; AddAll ; abebooks ; TomFolio ; Biblio ; Marelibri
Antiquarian Booksellers Association of American ; International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

www.americanaexchange.com offers free access to a large data base of books currently for sale and free service in estimating the value of older books. It also offers much more comprehensive services on a subscription basis.

PBA Galleries Instant Appraiser Click on “Instant Appraiser” in the top tool bar to access their “BiblioBot” software.

For specific advice on miniature books, visit the Miniature Book Society pages. Note the “dealers” page; this will give you links to booksellers who specialize in buying and selling small books. Most booksellers do not handle them, but it may be worthwhile to discuss them with the manager of a nearby antiques and collectibles mall as small books are often attractive “novelty” items. The University of North Texas is digitizing their sizeable collection of miniature books, and you may find their web site useful: http://digital.library.unt.edu/browse/department/rarebooks/mnbc/

Do you accept books, manuscripts, documents, and other items as gifts?

Please see our Gifts page.

I’m planning a research visit to use Special Collections. Do you have contacts for places to stay?

Please see our Advice for Visitors.