Requirements and tips for using Beinecke Library


Beinecke Library at Yale University is one of the world's premiere collections of rare books and manuscripts, holding treasures from as far back as ancient Egypt all the way to manuscripts and letters of today's most celebrated writers. Anyone can visit the viewing area during visiting hours to see the Gutenberg Bible on display.  But how do you gain access to the collection of books housed behind marble and glass walls?

Two Ways of Access

 Beinecke Library(47710)Credit: Lauren ManningWay 1: Be a member of the Yale University community.  If you have a Yale ID card, simply bring it by and the staff will be able to register you for research.

Way 2: Be anybody (yes, anybody!) who has need for accessing the research materials within.  This means visiting scholars, students, or researchers from any part of the world who have interest in accessing the library's collection.  Visitors should bring two forms of photo ID to register as a reader.

The best part- it's free!  There is no library fee to use the Beinecke collection, unlike Yale's regular library system which charges a hefty fee for a visitor's pass.

Demonstrating Need

To complete your access to the collection, your need will be evaluated by the staff of the library when you register.  For example, not everyone needs to see the first edition of Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles from 1687.  The later editions in normal libraries are usually good enough for doing research.  But if you are interested in some particular note markings in the first edition, or want to compare changes in later editions, this can qualify you as having 'need' to see the original text.

For non-Yale visitors (especially undergraduates), it is also helpful to have a letter of introduction from an academic advisor or librarian from your own institution, explaining the nature of your research project.

Using the Library

Yale maintains an online card catalog that has most of the books from Beinecke listed.  Once registered as a reader, search in Orbis at a computer station to find books at Beinecke. It is helpful to limit your search to the Beinecke Collection (under the 'More Limits' button on the search page).

To find more specialized titles, like manuscripts, papyrus, and digital images, search the links on the Beinecke Library homepage.   

Once you search for some items, call numbers will come up which you can then enter by hand on the Beinecke Library request slips, available on the research floor.

Handling Items

The staff at the library will give you a brief introduction on how to handle the items you request. You will only be given a few items at a time, and there will be special handling equipment distributed to you for use in the reading room.

The library's books and manuscripts are non-circulating which means you can't check them out and take them home with you. This is due to the rare nature of all the materials, many of which are extremely valuable, but also because they are too fragile to withstand normal use.

Enjoy your trip to Beinecke Library. Be careful not to rip the world's only copy of the book you're reading!