Old Capitol building facing east, The University of Iowa, 1890s

Old Capitol facing east, The University of Iowa, 1890s, Frederick W. Kent Collection of Photographs, RG30.0001.001

The University of Iowa Special Collections & Archives welcomes all patrons to our reading rooms. You do not need to be a member of the university to access our materials, and appointments are not needed. We do recommend patrons traveling from a distance email our department in advance to confirm our hours and material availability, as in certain situations, the Special Collections reading room may open late or close early in special circumstances. Please consult this Visitor’s Guide to learn more about our department’s services.

Special Collections & Archives

The Special Collections reading room serves patrons interested in materials from the University Archives, the International Dada Archive, the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, and materials from Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Maps. To access materials from any of these repositories, please consult the information found on this Visitor’s Guide.

While the Special Collections & Archives department does include the Iowa Women’s Archives, materials from IWA are to be accessed at the IWA reading room, which is located down the hall from the Special Collections reading room.

Materials from the Iowa Women’s Archives are to be accessed in IWA, directly down the hall from the Special Collections reading room. More information about the Iowa Women’s Archives can be found at their website: https://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa/.

If you have general questions or concerns, please email lib-women@uiowa.edu.

The Special Collections reading room hours are as follows:

-Monday: 9:00am – 4:00pm
-Tuesday: 9:00am – 6:00pm
-Wednesday: 9:00am – 4:00pm
-Thursday: 9:00am – 4:00pm
-Friday: 9:00am – 4:00pm
-Saturday, Sunday: CLOSED

*Please note that Special Collections will be closed to the public August 5th – 9th 2024 for staff training.



The University of Iowa Special Collections and Archives is committed to supporting our users with disabilities and to providing accessible services, resources, and spaces for all. Further information about Assistance for People with Disabilities in University Libraries can be found here: https://www.lib.uiowa.edu/help/disabilities/

Please contact us at lib-spec@uiowa.edu if you have any questions or suggestions for improving accessibility in Special Collections and Archives.  

Accessible Parking, entryways, restrooms and elevators can be located through this campus map.

Assistive technology devices are welcome in our Reading Room. Visitors are welcome to utilize the magnifying glasses, pencil weights, pencil grips, colored page overlays, slant boards and scanners, all of which are provided in our Reading Room. Face masks are also available in our Reading Room.  

Service Animals are welcome in the University Library and must be under handler control at all times. For more information on Service Animals, please see the UI policy on Service Animals.


Other Rare Book Rooms on Campus

The Canter Rare Book Room contains about 3,000 cataloged books and music scores. Its primary strengths are in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century music theory treatises and texts (including instruction books), keyboard and chamber music of the late eighteenth to early nineteen centuries (Johann Schobert, Hullmandel, Joseph Haydn, Muzio Clementi, etc.), and more than 200 works by Ignaz Pleyel. Important earlier authors include Zarlino (1562), Kircher (1650), John Playford (1694), Bedos de Celles (1766-1778), Descartes (1656), and Henry Lawes (1637-38). Several Rameau treatises are present in first editions.

For accessing the Canter Rare Book Room, contact lib-mus@uiowa.edu or visit http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/music/rbr/.

The nearly 6,500 volumes in the John Martin Rare Book Room are original works representing classic contributions to the history of the health sciences from the 15th through 21st Centuries. Also included are selected books, reprints, and journals dealing with the history of medicine at the University and in the State of Iowa.

Secondary sources such as histories of particular subjects, biographies, and bibliographies are housed in the Hardin Library main collection.

For accessing the John Martin Rare Book Room, contact lib-hardin-jmrbr@uiowa.edu.



Visiting the Special Collections Reading Room

Preparing For Your Visit

No. Patrons do not need to make an appointment to access the Special Collections reading room. We do recommend patrons traveling from a distance email our department in advance to confirm our hours and material availability, as in certain situations, the Special Collections reading room may open late or close early to accommodate special circumstances.

You may place material requests in advance of your visit into your patron (Aeon) account, and staff will do our best to pull these materials in advance of your visit.

To create a patron (Aeon) account, please visit the following link: https://scpatron.lib.uiowa.edu/logon.

Anyone can access the Special Collections reading room. This includes University of Iowa affiliated members, individuals from other academic institutions, and community members. We request that minors be accompanied by one adult.

Yes. Other people may join you in using special collections materials, however please note that you will be seated next to each other at the same table, as it is assumed you will be using the same materials. Please remember that the reading room is considered a quiet space and conversation should be kept at a minimum.

Please note that all patrons accessing the reading room will need a patron account.

If you would like to use materials in a group of more than three people, we recommend emailing our reference account at lib-spec@uiowa.edu, as special accommodations can be made to schedule a group session outside of the reading room space.


Making a Patron (Aeon) Account & Requesting Materials

To create a patron (Aeon) account, please visit the following link: https://scpatron.lib.uiowa.edu/logon.

For a video guide on how to make an Aeon account, please watch the following video:

Material requests are placed directly through your patron (Aeon) account. While it is not necessary for you to place materials in advance of your visit, this is recommended if you would like materials to be on hold upon your arrival. For information on how to navigate Aeon and the library databases used in the Special Collections & Archives, please visit the following guide: https://guides.lib.uiowa.edu/welcometosc

If you are new to the Special Collections & Archives, and are not sure how to request materials, please email us at lib-spec@uiowa.edu before requesting an appointment. Staff will be happy to assist you. You are also welcome to come to the reading room without having placed material requests, and staff will assist you on the spot.

Yes. You may only request up to six items at a time. You may place unlimited requests in your Aeon “User Review”.


Using the Reading Room

While using Special Collections materials, you will only be able to bring with you a laptop, phone, camera, and pencil into the reading room space. You are able to store other personal belongs, such as coats, bags, etc., in our lobby area.

Yes. While Special Collections is a secure space, please note that Special Collections staff are not responsible for lost or stolen items.

Our reading room has two patron computers with flatbed scanners that patrons may use. Please note that they are first-come, first-serve. If you are not a member of the University of Iowa, you will need to have a guest pass created for you at the Main Circulation Desk at the first floor of the Main Library.

You are welcome to bring in a personal laptop while using materials, and outlets for charging computers are available for patron use.

Yes. Our reading room has one overhead scanner and two flatbed scanners for patron use. Please note that they are first-come, first-serve.


Using Special Collections Materials

If you have placed materials requests in your patron (Aeon) account more than 24 business hours before your visit, you can anticipate your materials will be placed on hold for you. Requests placed the same day of your visit will be pulled upon your arrival.

Please note that materials within the Medieval Manuscripts (MsC0542) and Incunabula (INC) collections will not be pulled in advance and placed on hold, and therefore materials from these collections will be pulled upon your arrival.

All standard handling rules apply when handling materials found in the Special Collections & Archives. For more information, please consult the following Reading Room Policies page: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc/services/readingroom/

Yes. While you may only access up to six items at a time, we will promptly page additional items for you once you finish with your current materials.

Generally, you will not be required to wear gloves to view Special Collections materials. Gloves can sometimes cause damage to fragile items. As always, we will require that you wash your hands before handling any materials and prefer this to hand sanitizer, which can leave behind a harmful residue. Staff will direct you and provide gloves for the rare exception, such as metals or photographic materials.

Unless otherwise noted on the item’s container, you may take photos of the materials. Please do not use flash.

If you are finished with your requested materials, please leave the materials on your table, and notify desk staff. If you wish to return to continue to use the materials, please let desk staff know, who will place the items on hold for you. Materials will remain on hold until you are finished with them, or until two weeks without use has passed.


Using Materials at a Distance

Yes. Please consult the following website for more information to request scans or photocopies from the Special Collections & Archives: https://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc/reproductions/

The University of Iowa Libraries digitization staff are able to fulfill most patron requests for high quality, publication-ready scans. We ask that you email lib-spec@uiowa.edu for your scanning needs. Please note that publication-ready scanning requests will require a 6-8 week turnaround time.



Special Collections staff can introduce your class to our materials in a number of different ways, and staff are happy to talk with you about how we may help. You can email us, at lib-spec@uiowa.edu or elizabeth-riordan@uiowa.edu, or fill out this form to get the conversation started: https://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc/schedule-a-special-collections-service-2/

We offer a wide range of remote learning possibilities, whether that is Zooming in to talk with your class, providing worksheets on primary sources, or doing a live stream featuring our materials. Contact us for more information at lib-spec@uiowa.edu or elizabeth-riordan@uiowa.edu, and be sure to check out our LibGuide “Virtual Instruction Using Special Collections” https://guides.lib.uiowa.edu/scinstruction/home.

Depending on the nature of your class assignment, it is preferred by Special Collections staff to be aware of numerous students needing the same item or collection for a class project. This allows us to ensure these materials are available for all students in a timely manner. If you plan to assign Special Collections materials to your class, we request you email us at lib-spec@uiowa.edu.


Additional Information

Our staff will do our best to accommodate researchers who may have traveled to accomplish extensive research and help you get the most out of your stay. Please email lib-spec@uiowa.edu with your research need and Special Collections staff will assist you.

Special Collections staff are happy to assist you remotely in any way we can. Please email us at lib-spec@uiowa.edu to discuss your research needs, and we will do our best to accommodate you. We can also direct you to hire an independent researcher, if that will better fit your needs.