John Wilson Special Collections rules and procedures

The John Wilson Special Collections houses the rare book and other special collections of Multnomah County Library and is open to any responsible person whose research justifies the use of unusual, fragile and irreplaceable materials. Every request is judged on its own merit.

This document must be read before registering to use the John Wilson Special Collections. Your signature on the registration form indicates that you understand and agree to these conditions.

Use of the materials is subject to the following rules, which are designed to protect library collections while providing the best possible service to readers:

  1. Readers are required to complete an annual registration form before using materials from the collection. A photo identification is required for registration, such as a driver's license, university identification card, etc. A minor without photo identification may, at the discretion of the librarian, be allowed access to the John Wilson Special Collections if all the other required information on the annual application is obtained.
  2. The fragile condition and irreplaceable nature of many books and manuscripts in the John Wilson Special Collections makes it necessary for the library to restrict access, in rare instances, to scholars who will be sharing their research with the general public through subsequent publication. Certain materials, determined on a case-by-case basis by the librarian, may require readers to wear white cotton gloves. To protect materials, readers are required to keep all personal property, such as bags and backpacks, off the tables. Only loose paper, pencil(s) and laptop computers are permitted on the tables (paper can be supplied if necessary).
  3. A call slip must be filled out for each item to be consulted. In general, a reader will be given only one item at a time.
  4. Readers are asked to handle materials with great care and observe the following conditions:
    • pencils only are permitted for note taking;
    • readers must not place harmful markers in books, or lay books face down, or use them as writing or resting surfaces;
    • readers must not hold books open with items such as notebooks, binders or other books. Flexible book weights ("snakes") and bookstands are available at the reference desk;
    • no marks may be made in materials, and annotations found in materials should not be removed;
    • unnecessary handling of materials should be avoided;
    • tightly bound volumes must be opened with great care and gentleness;
    • readers must use book cradles as requested by the librarian.
  5. Readers are required to comply with the Behavior Rules Governing the Use of Multnomah County Library, except where these rules are more specific.
  6. Any person convicted of theft of library materials of any kind, regardless of where the theft took place, is prohibited from entering the John Wilson Special Collections and from using its materials. Any person seeking an exception to this prohibition may apply in writing to the library director, stating the reasons why an exception should be made. An exception with special conditions for supervised use may be granted at the sole discretion of the director.

The following rules apply:

  1. Readers have access to one item at a time.
  2. A driver's license or other photo ID is required. It will be held while using the item, and scanned into a secured database.
  3. Neither food nor drink is allowed in the John Wilson Special Collections.
  4. Materials may not leave the John Wilson Special Collections.
  5. Materials from the John Wilson Special Collections may not be photocopied; some photographic or videographic reproduction may be allowed, without flash, at the discretion of the librarian.
  6. As the capacity of the room is limited, users may be placed on a waiting list.
  7. The John Wilson Special Collections is reserved only for the use of materials that are housed in this room. It is not to be used as a reading room for other materials.
  8. A library staff person is always on duty to observe readers using materials and to ensure that these rules are followed.


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.