Using Special Collections and Rare Books

 Planning your visit to SCRB

Special collections and rare books do not circulate and must be viewed on-site in the SCRB reading room.

Once you have found the archives, manuscripts, or rare books you would like to consult, set up a research appointment to view the items in-person. For more help finding materials for your research, see our How-To Guide.

All holdings at SCRB are available for onsite use only and may only be viewed in the Reading Room. If you would like to view our holdings in-person, contact us at or 778.782.5674 to make a request. Make sure to note the call number, title, author, or reference code of materials that you’d like to consult. Our team will help you out with your research request, and pull your items.

When coming in to our space to do research, please be aware of the following:

  • All researchers must fill out a User Request Form during their first visit to SCRB. We do this to not only ensure the safety and security of the materials, but also to better understand the needs of you, the researcher! During every subsequent visit, researchers must present ID to confirm their identity.
  • Before you enter the reading room, you will be asked to store any bags or coats in one of our lockers. You may bring pencil, paper, laptop, phones, cameras, or reference books into the reading room.
  • In order to ensure the preservation of our materials, pens, food, and drinks are not allowed in the reading room.
Can I connect to wireless internet (Wi-Fi)?

Students, faculty, and staff who have a valid SFU computing ID may access the wireless network.

For guests without SFU computing IDs, please set up Eduroam while you are still at your home insititution so that you can access SFU wifi during your visit. If you are unaffiliated with an institution, you can use a designated workstation or your personal phone data to access internet in the Reading Room.

For more information on wireless internet connection at SFU Library, see our Wireless Internet FAQ.

Are washrooms available?

Yes - gender, gender-neutral, and accessible washrooms are available on the same floor as SCRB.

 Using materials at SCRB

Material housed in SCRB is rare, often unique, and frequently fragile or brittle. It is essential that everyone who handles rare book and archival material shares a responsibility for their care.

Researchers may be initially surprised at how different it is to use materials in SCRB compared the rest of SFU Library. Because we want to preserve our materials and guarantee future access, we ask that you handle all materials carefully.

Handling guidelines

  • Items or files from storage areas will be delivered to the researcher in the reading room.
  • No more than three volumes or one box of manuscripts may be consulted at one time.
  • All unbound materials (papers within folders and/or folders within boxes) must remain in the exact order in which they were received.
  • Clean bare hands are ideal for handling rare books and textual materials. Turn pages gently.
  • Do not mark, trace, fold, clip, lean on, or rest books on documents. Should you want to leave a book open to one spot, book weights are provided.
  • White cotton gloves will be supplied when handling photographs, metal objects, or any other shiny material.

 Access and privacy

Some records may be subject to access restrictions due to the content contained in them. Permission from the creator may be required in order to access materials in archival and manuscript collections. Researchers needing access to personal information must complete and submit our Research Agreement.


You can take digital photographs of research materials with prior approval of SCRB for the purposes of research and personal use. For any other use, including publication and use on the web, it is your responsibility to obtain copyright permission from the copyright holder. For questions on licensing and Copyright, refer to our colleagues in the Copyright Office.



Our team can perform limited photocopying and scanning services for files and documents. Reproduction permission is always dependent on the condition of the original. $0.25 is charged per copy after up to 20 complimentary pages. High resolution scans are available upon request.



How do I cite material from Special Collections and Rare Books?

Attribution for archival material should be provided as follows:

Item [record/image number] courtesy of the [full fonds/collection name], Special Collections and Rare Books, Simon Fraser University Library. [website URL if applicable].

For example:

Item MsC-177-1-3-0-0-2 courtesy of the David and Mary Macaree fonds, Special Collections and Rare Books, Simon Fraser University Library.


If you need help, please contact our Special Collections Assistants at 778.782.5674 or or Ask a librarian.