Special Collections FAQ

About Special Collections

1. What are “special collections”?

Special collections refer to unique materials that provide both primary and secondary sources to people conducting original research. Our collections are “special” due to their scarcity or rarity, historical value, monetary value, or research value.

Archives are collections of original records created throughout the lifespan of a person, family, organization, or business. These materials essentially provide evidence of the activities, events, functions, and/or responsibilities of the creator(s). 

Archives and special collections differ from libraries in the types of materials collected and the ways in which they are acquired, organized, described, and made publicly accessible. These differences prompt us to create specific policies and procedures to ensure that our collections can continue to be used for decades or even centuries to come.

2. What kinds of materials can I find at LSU Special Collections?

LSU Special Collections houses books and published materials, manuscripts and unpublished materials, photographs, maps, official records of LSU, Louisiana newspapers, state documents, and oral histories.

Find out more about our collections: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/CC

3. Who can access LSU Special Collections?

Everyone! You do not have to be affiliated with LSU to access our collections. We do suggest that you create an account so that you can begin requesting materials.

Create a Special Collections Request System account: https://specialcollections.lib.lsu.edu/logon

Conducting Research Using Special Collections



1. How do I locate specific research materials?

There are several ways to find special collection materials electronically: the library’s online catalog, research guides, subject guides, and the Louisiana Digital Library. In the Special Collections Reading Room, there are also physical indexes and additional search tools.

See also, “Can I request materials of interest before I arrive?”

2. Can someone help me locate materials for my research?

Special Collections staff will happily assist both in-person and remote researchers in locating materials for your research or pointing you in the right direction, but we are typically not able to conduct research for you. If you are a remote patron and your request is labor-intensive, we may refer you to a local researcher or genealogist for hire.

Submit a reference question: https://askus.lib.lsu.edu/special

3. Do I have to come to campus to view the materials that I need?

The short answer is yes. Most of our special collections are only available in their physical formats. However, we do have some digital collections online, which are made available through the Louisiana Digital Library. We do participate in interlibrary loan services for select materials (typically microfilm) and we offer a variety of duplication options.

Find out more about our digital collections: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/CC/digital View our duplication policy: https://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/services/duplication View maps and directions https://lib.lsu.edu/special/about/contact View our operating hours https://lib.lsu.edu/about/hours/sc

4. Can I request materials of interest before I arrive?

Yes, you have the option to place requests to view materials in our reading room after you have set up an online account. Create a Special Collections Request System account: https://specialcollections.lib.lsu.edu/logon

We highly suggest that you make a request in advance because some materials must be retrieved from an off-site storage facility (requiring 48 business hours of advanced notice) and in-house materials can only be retrieved by staff from our closed stacks.

Visit the library’s public catalog: https://lsu.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/lsu. TIP: In the first drop down box that defaults to “Everything,” simply select “Special Collections” and then conduct your search. Click on the “Request Item” link in the catalog record to place your request.

If you have trouble requesting materials, ask us for help: https://askus.lib.lsu.edu/special

5. Do I need to make an appointment?

An appointment is not required. Please feel free to walk in during our open hours: https://www.lib.lsu.edu/about/hours/sc.

However, keep in mind that materials may not be readily available on the day that you come to do your research because some materials must be retrieved from an off-site storage facility, requiring at least 48 business hours of advanced notice. Off-site materials are notated with a location of “Remote Storage” in the catalog record.

See also, “Can I request materials of interest before I arrive?”

6. What should I bring with me when I visit the Reading Room?

A pencil, paper for notetaking, and personal devices (e.g. laptop, tablet, cellphone, camera) are allowed in the Reading Room. Food, drinks, pens, and portable scanners are not allowed. 

All personal items such as bags (including laptop and camera cases), briefcases, purses, coats, and umbrellas must be left in one of the secure lockers that are provided free of charge in the lobby. Be aware that anything brought into the Reading Room is subject to search before you leave.

Review our Reading Room Policies: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/about/policies

7. Can I “check-out” materials?

The short answer is no. Like most archives and special collections, we are a non-circulating library. Very few exceptions are made for materials to be taken out of the building. We ask that researchers plan their research approach according to this policy.

Review our Reading Room Policies: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/about/policies

8. Can I scan, photocopy, or photograph materials?

Yes, we allow researchers to make personal research copies of many of our materials using a photocopier, overhead scanner, or personal camera. A photocopier and book scanner are provided in the Reading Room. Manuscript materials may not be self-duplicated with the book scanner or the photocopier. We also do not permit portable scanners in the Reading Room. 

If you choose to take photographs, you will be provided with a Camera Use Policy form to complete and sign during your visit: https://www.lib.lsu.edu/content/reading-room-camera-use-policy

We also offer duplication services in which a staff member can copy and send qualifying materials to you. Find out more about our LSU Special Collections duplication services: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/services/duplication

9. How do I cite materials from LSU Special Collections?

LSU Libraries Special Collections requires that materials be accompanied with a proper citation and/or credit line in the applicable format below. Our recommended citation style is also listed in each library catalog record and in collection inventories (finding aids). 

For manuscript collections:

Name of the Manuscript Collection, Mss# [manuscript number], Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, La.

“Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections” must be spelled out the first time a collection is cited. Thereafter, the abbreviation “LLMVC” may be used.

For University Archives:

Name of originating office followed by "Records", RG# [record group number], Louisiana State University Archives, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA.

“Louisiana State University Archives” must be spelled out the first time a record group is cited. Thereafter the abbreviation “LSUA” may be used.

10. Do I need to obtain permission to publish materials from your collections?

LSU Libraries Special Collections does not grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute material. You must obtain permission from the copyright holder to publish materials. As part of using our materials, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless Louisiana State University, its officers, employees and agents from and against all suits, claims, actions and expenses arising out of your use of duplications provided by Special Collections.

All copies of the LSU Libraries Special Collections materials created by patrons or provided by Special Collections fall under allowances provided by Section 107 (Fair Use) and Section 108 (Library and Archives exemptions) of the United States Copyright Act. Copies of materials are provided only for personal study or research.

Browse publications that have used our materials: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/research/publications?page=1

Other Services



1. Can I come to Hill Memorial Library to study?

Our services and spaces are primarily available to patrons using the library’s unique collection materials. If space permits, the reading room is conducive to individual quiet study, but please note that our public computer stations are reserved for visitors using Special Collections and there are restrictions on what items you can bring into the reading room.

We do encourage students to use quiet study spaces in Hill Memorial Library during finals week in the spring and fall semesters.

Review our Reading Room Policies: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/about/policies

2. Can I bring my class to visit or tour LSU Special Collections?

Yes, we can work with you to schedule class instruction or a tour. We only ask that you give as much advance notice as possible since the instruction calendar fills up fast, although we try our best to accommodate any requests.

Find out more about planning a class with Special Collections: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/services/class

3. Can I host a meeting, class, or event at Hill Memorial Library?

Yes. The Hill Lecture Hall is generally only available to University affiliated groups for meetings, classes, or events of 100 people or less. The lecture hall is equipped with a podium, microphone, projection screen, tables, and chairs. You must reserve the space in advance, preferably with at least two weeks’ notice and there may be a service charge.

Find out more about reserving the Hill Lecture Hall: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/services/lecture-hall

4. Can I donate materials?

Yes. We accept books, manuscripts, archival materials, and photographs that fall in line with our collecting priorities. You will work with one of our curators to assess the appropriateness of your materials for our collections. We are not able to accept everything offered.

We also gratefully accept monetary donations which help fund collection accessibility and preservation, as well as support our educational public programming and exhibitions.

Find out more about making a donation: https://lib.lsu.edu/special/about/donor

5. Does LSU Special Collections appraise materials for monetary value?

State law prevents us from providing appraisal services, however, our curators may be able to direct you toward appraisal resources for your specific materials.

American Society of Appraisers: http://www.appraisers.org/find-an-appraiser

Contact us for help: https://askus.lib.lsu.edu/special.