Visit the John Wilson Special Collections

The John Wilson Special Collections holds rare books and important research collections. The collection is open to the public. All visitors must follow the rules indicated below. 

The John Wilson Room is open for drop-in visits:

Thursday: 2–5 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 1 pm
Sunday: 1 – 4 pm

These hours may be affected by temporary closures or staff availability. If you’d like to confirm the room is open before your visit, please call the library at 503.988.5123. 

To view materials in this collection

  1. Visit the Welcome Desk in the 2nd floor lobby of Central Library and request to visit the John Wilson Room. 
  2. Fill out a registration form (paper copies available at the library desk) and show a photo ID. Staff will write the ID state and number on the form. 
    1. If a minor lacks a photo ID, the librarian may grant access under certain circumstances.
  3. You will be added to the visitor list. If there are already four visitors in the room, you may have a wait. If you prefer, you can also sign up for a specific open time slot. 
  4. The staff member will escort you to the John Wilson Room. 


If you’d like to inquire about a group tour or a special visit outside of regular drop-in hours, please contact Special Collections Librarian Rachael Short at or 503.988.6287. 

Please note that some very rare items require an appointment. Please contact the library if you are looking to view a specific item. 

Rules of the John Wilson Special Collections

  1. Only four visitors are allowed in the Special Collections room at a time during drop-in hours. Visitors may be placed on a waiting list.
  2. The John Wilson Special Collections is only for the use of materials that are kept in the room. It is not a general reading room.
  3. Only loose paper, pencils and mobile devices are permitted on the tables.
  4. Readers have access to one item at a time.
  5. No food or drink is allowed in the John Wilson Special Collections.
  6. Materials may not leave the John Wilson Special Collections.
  7. Readers must handle materials with great care and follow the guidance of the librarian:
    • hands must be clean
    • no ink may be used in the room
    • readers must not place harmful markers in books, lay them face down, or use them as writing or resting surfaces
    • readers must not hold books open with items such as notebooks or other books. Flexible book weights ('snakes') are available at the reference desk
    • tightly bound volumes must be opened with great care and gentleness 
  8. Anyone convicted of theft of library materials cannot enter the John Wilson Special Collections. Anyone seeking an exception may apply in writing to the library director.

General library rules are in effect in the John Wilson Special Collections

Donors to The Library Foundation have generously helped Multnomah County Library expand these special collections and increase the exposure of these rare materials to the public. For more information about supporting these collections, contact Laura Fay at The Library Foundation.

Supported by gifts to The Library Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation and reach through private support.