Reading Room Manual
The Rockefeller Archive Center provides public access to its extensive archival holdings through its two Reading Rooms. This manual serves as a guide for all staff who work in the Reading Rooms or with onsite researchers. It covers topics such as researcher orientation, Reading Room procedures, the handling of archival materials, and duplication requests.
Reading Room Policies
The Reading Room policies and procedures help to ensure the protection of the archival materials being used in the Reading Room as well as to provide equal access to open records. The interviewing archivist and desk monitor should reinforce what can be brought in the Reading Room, what should remain in the lockers or lounge, and how records should be handled.
Outside Items in the Reading Room
The following are allowed in the Reading Room: pencils, paper/notes, laptop computers, tablets, cameras, and cell phones. The volume should be silent on all electronic devices. Reading room monitors check loose papers and notebooks at the end of the day.
The following are not allowed in the Reading Room: food, beverages, tobacco items (smoking is prohibited in the building), chewing gum, pens, handheld scanners, briefcases, computer cases, bags, purses, excessive papers or notebooks, and coats and other outerwear. If a researcher takes off a hat, scarf, sweater, or jacket while working in the Reading Room, it should immediately be placed in a locker. Suitcases can be stored in the coat closet on the first floor.
Standardized practices for researchers handling archival materials are described below:
- Researchers are limited to one folder at a time. They should keep the folder flat on the table with the contents always within the folder, and should turn the pages as if they were turning the pages of a book. They should use an Out card to mark the folder’s place in the box.
- For nontraditional containers (such as accordion folders or boxes of index cards), the monitor should engage with the researcher about proper placement of the Out card.
- Researchers may not rearrange the order of materials in folders nor the order of folders in boxes.
- They should turn the pages within a folder or bound volume gently.
- They should not lean on, write on, fold, bend, fasten, or unfasten archival materials.
- They should use weights and/or cradles with bound volumes.
- They may insert a piece of acid-free paper under thin paper as needed when taking photos.
- They should not walk around the room with archival materials. The desk monitor should go to them to answer a question about the records.
- They may not remove materials from the Reading Room.
- They should always leave the call slips in place so that the barcode can be easily scanned.
Researchers are permitted to photograph archival materials with a camera or device. Use of small tripods or camera stands is permissible as long as the archival material is handled with care and according to the Archive Center rules. To adhere to U.S. copyright law, photographs may be taken only for personal scholarly use.
The Reading Room is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For a list of holidays and early closings, see the RAC website.
The Archive Center provides a free shuttle from and to the Tarrytown train station that meets the following trains:
- Departs Grand Central at 8:46 a.m. and arrives in Tarrytown at 9:23 a.m. The van arrives at RAC at approximately 9:40 a.m.
- Departs Tarrytown at 5:34pm and arrives at Grand Central at 6:17 p.m. The van leaves RAC at 5:15 p.m.
For a researcher arriving for the first time, there are several steps to the orientation and registration process. Appendix A contains a list of the individual steps involved in orientation. It is the responsibility of the archivist conducting the research interview to meet the researcher upon arrival and follow the steps on the Research Orientation Checklist (see Appendix A) to ensure a consistent orientation is provided for everyone doing research at the Archive Center. For a returning researcher who has not been to the RAC in more than a year, the interviewing archivist provides a refresher on Reading Room policies and procedures.
Reading Room Procedures
Reading Room Layout and Supplies
The main Reading Room can accommodate seven researchers; the second Reading Room can accommodate four researchers. Researcher desks are numbered one through eleven on the seating charts. Each Reading Room has a desk monitor.
Researchers may use the microfilm machines unattended. Several ViewScan microfilm machines are located in or adjacent to the Reading Rooms.
Desk monitors should familiarize themselves with the various office supplies at the reference desk, most of which should not be provided to a researcher unless the supplies are being used away from the archival material. Researcher materials such as citation slips, weights, pencils, and Out cards are on the reference desks, while extra supplies, blue/green/yellow duplication slips, gloves, and various paper products are in the alcove between the two rooms. The bottom drawer of each reference desk contains blank seating charts and orientation checklists, various permission forms, signed copies of the orientation checklists, and completed seating charts from the current year.
If you notice that any of the forms are running low, either request assistance to refill them or refill them once your shift has finished. Most forms are available at S:\Inter-Office\Archival\Forms\Reference forms. For the colored duplication slips, contact the Facilities Coordinator.
Opening the Reading Room
The first desk shift begins at 8:45 a.m. In addition to standard Reading Room responsibilities, the first shift should do the following:
Turn on the Reading Room computer.
Bring the carts to the Reading Room by 9:00. Ensure that the correct carts are being brought up by comparing the Outlook Reading Room calendar with the cart notes.
In Aeon, scan all items on the carts to the status “On Hold in Reading Room.”
Place the carts by the tables. Carts should go closest to the wall, and for the two desks in the middle of the Main Room, carts should be placed on the side closest to the Reading Room entrance.
See the “Aeon Guides for the RAC folder (S:\Inter-Office\Reference\Aeon Guides for the RAC) for details on seating arrangement (S:\Inter-Office\Reference\Reading Room Information\Seating Arrangements). If possible, seat returning researchers at the desk they sat at previously. Do not write the researchers’ names on the seating chart until they physically arrive in the Reading Room.
Checking Researchers Into the Reading Room
When a researcher arrives in the Reading Room for the first time each day, the monitor should:
- Greet the researcher and indicate the assigned table.
- Hand an Out card to the researcher.
- Write the researcher’s name on the seating chart.
- In Aeon, sign the researcher into the correct Reading Room and seat number.
- In Aeon, move the researcher’s materials from the “On Hold in Reading Room” to the “Checked Out to Researcher” queue.
Monitoring the Reading Room
The Reading Room monitor is in charge of the room. It is the monitor’s duty and responsibility to ensure the safety and security of archival materials in the Reading Rooms, as well as to assist the researchers in accessing the materials necessary for their research. Other projects, such as processing, answering research requests, or other computer and desk work, should be kept to a minimum and should not distract from monitoring the room.
If a researcher fails to comply with the desk monitor’s instructions or otherwise causes a disturbance, inform the Head of Reference or the Director of Archives of the situation. If both the Head of Reference and the Director of Archives cannot be reached, contact an Assistant Director.
Tables in the Reading Room are small, and the archival material should always be flat on the table. If a researcher’s computer or other possessions impede the proper handling of the archival material, suggest a new arrangement. Encourage researchers to keep the boxes on their carts.
Walk around the room a few times during your shift to observe each desk.
Watch for the following and gently but firmly remind researchers to avoid these activities:
- Placing boxes on floor
- Folders/materials hanging off the edge of the desk
- Personal papers or objects on top of or beneath archival materials
- Leaning or writing on top of folders/documents
- Holding materials up in air
- Curling pages, not turning them over completely
- Licking fingers to turn pages
- Removing plastic or metal fasteners
If specific preservation issues arise during your shift, consult the Guide to Collection Concerns (M:\Collections Management\Collection Management Guides\Preservation). These issues will then be addressed after the researcher has completed using the records and the records have been removed from the Reading Room.
During a desk shift, researchers may ask you a variety of questions. Some will be reference questions and others may be how-to questions that are answered elsewhere in this manual. For reference questions for which you do not know how to find the answer, ask a member of a reference team using the organizational chart as a guide (S:\Inter-Office\Reference\Reading Room Information).
Signing a Researcher Out of the Reading Room
When researchers are ready to leave for the day, confirm whether they are returning and when, and ask which materials they have finished using. They should also give you their Out cards. Complete the cart note with the relevant information of what can be returned and what is on hold.
If a researcher is finished with research, offer to call the contact archivist. If the researcher leaves prior to the last shift of the day, make a note of the departure on the seating chart.
Scan the items to the appropriate Aeon queue. Finished materials belong in the “Reshelve Item” queue, while materials still in use go in the “Item on Hold in Vault” queue. The exception to this is if the box contains duplication requests. See the “Duplication” section of this handbook for details on initiating a duplication request. Sign the researcher out of the Reading Room in Aeon.
Closing the Reading Room
Approximately 10 to 15 minutes prior, remind researchers of the Reading Room’s closing.
Follow the procedures outlined in the “Signing a Researcher Out of the Reading Room” section, ensuring that no items remain in the “Item Checked Out to Researcher” and “Item on Hold in Reading Room” queues. If requests were submitted late in the day to the “New Reading Room Request” queue, they can be routed into “Be Paged,” or into the “Awaiting Request Processing” queue to be handled by other staff members.
Check researchers’ notebooks and loose papers for archival material.
After the researchers depart, ensure that the carts are returned to Room 103.
Briefly scan the Reading Room. Neaten up workspaces, check for any items that may have been left behind, and return any borrowed supplies. Shut down the monitor’s laptop, and turn off the lights in both Reading Rooms.
Using Your Discretion
If a fastener limits access to a document or image, you may carefully remove it if you are comfortable doing so in the Reading Room. Otherwise, ask for assistance.
Feel free to close the door to the Reading Room when there is noise on the second floor. Please reopen it as appropriate.
If the sun is coming through the windows directly onto any of the tables, please close the shade to protect the archival materials and reduce glare. Feel free to open the shades when it is cloudy.
If you need to leave the room temporarily during your desk shift, send an email to the Reference Team to have someone cover the Reading Room for a few minutes.
Retrievals and Returns
Retrievals happen four times a day: at 10:00, 11:30, 1:30, and 3:00. These are the times by which onsite researchers must submit requests in RACcess for that retrieval period.
Researchers are highly encouraged to submit their reading room requests 2 business days in advance.
Processing Reading Room Requests
After a researcher submits requests in RACcess, the transactions appear in the “New Reading Room Request” queue in the Aeon client. Pay attention to this queue during your shift. You must enter location information for each transaction and route it to the “Be Paged” queue in a timely fashion.
You also need to check the restriction field for all new requests. While new requests submitted by a researcher who is not signed into the Reading Room in Aeon are automatically routed to the “Needs Restriction Review” queue, this does NOT happen when someone is signed into the Reading Room. You will need to manually move requests with restrictions to “Needs Restriction Review.”
Location information is contained in ArchivesSpace and can be found using the Find It tool or ArchivesSpace. In order to ensure that materials are pulled efficiently, please complete the steps within 15 minutes after the deadline for that retrieval time.
Select digitized materials can be accessed via the Virtual Vault. If such an item is requested, direct the researcher to http://virtualvault.rockarch.org either verbally or by email. Refer to Aeon Guides for the RAC (/S:/Inter-Office/Reference/Aeon Guides for the RAC) for a template of instructions that can be used in an email to researchers.
As needed, touch base with the retrievals staff using their email addresses so they are aware of the retrievals and any delays with location information. (See S:\Inter-Office\Reference\Reading Room Information for the staff retrieval schedule and the second cart schedule.) If the person retrieving second carts is out of the office, email the Reference Team for assistance.
Researchers are allowed a maximum of 10 document storage boxes or 4 record storage boxes at once. Therefore, for new retrievals, ask the researchers if they are finished with any boxes and be prepared to route them to the “Awaiting Reshelving” queue so they can be removed when the new boxes are delivered. The staff member bringing the new boxes will also take away the completed boxes.
When more than 10 boxes are requested, have the researcher prioritize the requests. Then indicate when material should be paged (i.e., during the current retrieval time or the next) by changing the time in the “Scheduled Date” in Aeon before routing the request to the “Be Paged” queue.
Requesting Items on Hold for Researchers
At times, an additional cart of materials has been pulled for a researcher and is on hold in Room 103. You can verify this by reviewing the “On Hold in Vault” queue. Remind the researcher of the set retrieval times for the second carts (10:45, 12:15, 2:15, 4:00).
Sometimes materials requested are stored off site, which is indicated in ArchivesSpace and can be found using the Find It tool or ArchivesSpace. Offsite materials require 2 business days advanced notice. Therefore, you should follow up with the researcher about the length of their research visit and the significance of the material to the research. If the researcher would still like to see the material, put the request in the appropriate “In Offsite Retrieval” queue and send an email to the Reference Team about the upcoming retrieval, which the Reference Team will handle.
Requesting Special Formats
If a request has multiple reels of microfilm, it must be cloned into multiple requests, one for each reel. This applies even if the microfilm reels are consecutive reels. Refer to for the instructions on cloning microfilm requests.
Realia requires advanced notice of 48 hours. The Head of Reference and the Head of Collections Management need to approve these requests. Follow up with Collections Management Team to determine if the item can easily be pulled.
Oversized Ephemera, Maps, Architectural Drawings, and Posters
Retrieving oversized material is based on two factors: available space in the Reading Room and available staff to assist with pulling procedures. Two tables are needed for viewing most oversized materials. If two are not available, call for the second room to be opened. If both Reading Rooms are full, contact the Head of Reference. Vault 107 may be used for reviewing oversized materials if a Reading Room is not available or if items are so large or fragile that transport is difficult or puts the items at risk. Researcher review of oversized items in Vault 107 should be arranged in advance, and any researcher must be accompanied and supervised by a staff member. Collections Management can be a resource for pulling the material if a second person is required.
- Refer to Aeon Guides for the RAC (/S:/Inter-Office/Reference/Aeon Guides for the RAC) to find instructions for audiovisual requests.
- The RAC does not provide access to original magnetic media. A digital surrogate must be created for all video and audio objects. Digitally available audiovisual material is indicated in the Access Restriction Note: “Access copy available.” If a digital surrogate does not exist, the researcher should speak with the Audiovisual Archivist or a member of Collections Management to discuss further options.
- The Audiovisual Archivist or a member of Collections Management will assess any requested film prints and decide whether they are in playable condition. Advanced notice of at least 48 business hours must be given to allow for proper staging and assessment. The RAC does not provide access to films that are physically deteriorating, nor can the RAC allow access to film negatives, fine grain masters, production elements, or work prints.
Checking Materials out to Researchers
Retrievals take from 15-45 minutes. When materials arrive in the Reading Room, check the items out to the researchers and move them onto their carts. If the researcher is not yet ready for the materials, place the items in the “On Hold in Reading Room” queue and leave the cart at the front of the room.
Mark the completed cart with a filled-out cart note and route the boxes into the “Reshelve Items” queue. The retrievals staff members will take the cart to Room 103 after they bring up any second carts.
The RAC provides duplication services for paper photocopies, PDF files, and high-resolution scans of both documents and photographs for a fee. We also duplicate moving images and audio formats. The current fee schedule for duplication services is available on the RAC website. All PDF and photocopy orders are completed on or under 60 business days from the day orders are submitted. High-resolution scans are completed on or under 30 business days from the day orders are submitted.
Initializing Document & Still Image Duplication Requests
If researchers are interested in having material duplicated, they should complete the citation information on the appropriate flag, put the flag around the item(s), and let you know when they are done with the box. Place a flag of the same color outside the box to indicate that there is a duplication order. You will initialize the request in Aeon by following the steps in the Aeon Guides for the RAC folder (/S:/Inter-Office/Reference/Aeon Guides for the RAC).
Using Equipment and Special Formats
The Archive Center has several digital microfilm readers, allowing users to capture and save documents as digital files (PDFs, JPGs, etc.). Researchers wishing to view microfilm should be given a brief tutorial on proper operation of the microfilm machines and software, as well as proper handling of the microfilm. Researchers typically will use a USB device, email, or a cloud storage service to save their copies, although the machines are connected to a printer. Instructions on use of the machines are found in S:\Inter-Office\Reference\Reading Room Information\Instructions for using the ST Viewscan.
If a reel of microfilm breaks, do not put it back in its box and mark it for resehelving. Follow the steps for reporting the break that are found in S:\Inter-Office\Archival\Special Formats\Microfilm repair.
Photographs should be handled with the nitrile gloves (or cotton gloves for latex-intolerant researchers) available in the Reading Room. However, photographs housed in mylar sleeves can be handled without gloves. Do not allow researchers to remove photographs from mylar sleeves without the permission of the Head of Reference. Do not allow researchers to move around the room with photographs, even if the sleeves cause glare as they take images.
Researchers must use a book cradle with larger bound volumes to hold open the outside edge of the page. The cradle can be adjusted to avoid pressure on the spine of the volume. Weights are available from the desk monitor. Do not allow researchers to crease the pages or press down on the spine of the volumes.
There are three options for viewing audiovisual materials:
- Researchers can access digitized access copies in the Virtual Vault.
- Researchers can view digital access DVD copies for material not available in the Virtual Vault. The free-standing DVD player (located in the closet to the right of the researchers’ bathroom) can be borrowed. The desk monitor can provide headphones.
- Some analog film formats, such as 16mm and 35mm film, can be played in the Preservation Lab. If a researcher is interested in viewing a film, advanced notice of at least 48 business hours must be given to allow for proper staging and assessment. If the researcher gives advance notice, follow the Instructions for audiovisual queues in the Aeon Guides for the RAC folder (/S:/Inter-Office/Reference/Aeon Guides for the RAC).
Oversized Ephemera, Maps, Architectural Drawings, and Posters
Unlike folders containing standard legal- and letter-sized materials, the researcher will slide oversized pages from one side of the folder to the next rather than flip them as if pages in a book. The desk monitor will help move all materials, as necessary.
Researchers interested in accessing digital media must use an access surrogate. The finding aid indicates if a surrogate exists. If you have questions about the availability of an access copy, contact the Head of Processing. [Turnaround time and policy for published digital media is TBD.]
Appendix A: Researcher Orientation Steps
- Welcome the researcher in the foyer. At least 2 business days prior to the first day, the researcher should have informed the contact archivist of anticipated arrival time and method, which is then recorded in the Reading Room calendar.
- Show the researcher the public spaces on the first floor, including the restrooms, closet, lounge, and terrace. Allow time to put away any food since no food or beverage is allowed upstairs.
- Use either Junior’s Office or the Blue Room to conduct the interview.
- Check photo ID.
- Review what can and cannot be brought into the Reading Room.
- Describe the Reading Room table layout, giving suggestions on placement of the folder to prevent mishandling of materials.
- Using a sample box, demonstrate the use of an Out card and the proper way to handle documents. Also emphasize that call slips should always stay as they are, with the barcode accessible for scanning.
- Review the researcher’s Aeon record and then clear the researcher (Aeon Process: Clear User). Review DIMES and requesting additional materials, using the researcher’s own RACcess account as an example.
- Remind the researcher of the special access agreements that are included in the online creation of a RACcess account, such as Population Council or Rockefeller University’s The Medical Letter.
- Indicate the retrieval submission deadlines. All requests must be submitted by these times: 10:00, 11:30, 1:30, and 3:00. All requests submitted after 3:00 will be pulled for the following morning. Explain how to identify whether or not there is a second cart of material, and how to request that it be retrieved.
- Review the camera policy and citation slips; as needed, go over photoduplication procedures and the blue/green/yellow slips.
- Determine if the researcher has requested oversized materials or any other special formats. Tell the researcher when to expect the material, and review handling and requesting procedures.
- Provide Virtual Vault instructions. http://virtualvault.rockarch.org/
- Show the researcher the lockers, coat closet, and restroom, allowing time to unpack.
- Check in with the desk monitor and get an Out card for the researcher.
- If necessary, provide a review of the cart and the table, pointing out power strips.
- Have the researcher sign the completed Orientation Checklist and hand it to the desk monitor.
- If the researcher will be using microfilm, point out the microfilm machines and provide instructions on the ViewScan software. This step can wait until the researcher is ready to use the microfilm.
- Touch base with the researcher periodically throughout the day. Remind the researcher that you can be paged or reached by email.