Using the Special Collections Reading Rooms

There are three Special Collections reading rooms available for use at The University of Manchester Library.

In person and digital appointments

Anyone over the age of 18 can book appointments to access material in the Special Collections Reading Rooms. Please note that collections may be held at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library, the Main Library or the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE (Race Archives and Community Engagement) Centre.

We also offer hour long digital appointments where you can view some of our Special Collections via a Zoom call.

To book an in person or online appointment, please use our booking request form. If you have any trouble with this form, please email the reading room team at: Please be aware that access restrictions may apply.

 If you are unsure of which material you would like to consult or if you have an enquiry about a particular topic or subject area, please contact the curatorial team through "Specialist Enquiries".

Limited spaces are available, and you must book a place in advance before coming to the reading room (see below). We ask for three day's notice to view most items, except for those requiring curatorial approval or delivery from off-site which may take longer. A member of staff will check the status of the material and confirm the date and location of your appointment.


Accessing the Reading Rooms

We provide a 'closed-access' reader service. This means that you have to order up material and we bring it to you in the Reading Rooms. It is not possible to browse the shelves.

Please submit your requests via our booking form at least 3 working days in advance of your visit. If you are unsure of which material you would like to consult or if you have an enquiry about a particular topic or subject area, please contact the curatorial team through "Specialist Enquiries".

Requests for access to modern (post-1914) archives must be made well in advance of your visit, so that an archivist can check the material and decide whether it can be made available subject to the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.

  • Please note that checking of uncatalogued collections by curators may take up to 30 working days
  • The maximum number of uncatalogued material which can be ordered for consultation for 1 day in the reading room is capped at 15 files or 30 items.

How to register

  • On your first visit you will need to complete the membership section of the booking request form
  • On your first visit please bring with you proof of address and photographic ID. If you are a member of the University your University ID Card is sufficient proof of identity.

Reading Room regulations

There are some simple rules which must be observed in the Special Collections Reading Rooms, in the interests of conservation and security:

  • Bags, umbrellas and outer coats are not allowed in the Reading Rooms; clear plastic bags are available to put your personal belongings in.
  • Do not remove Special Collections items from the Reading Rooms.
  • Special items should never be left unattended.
  • Return all items to the Issue Desk.
  • Use pencils when making notes; pens are not allowed because of the risk of marking Special Collections items.
  • Do not rest writing paper on Special Collections items.
  • Do not mark Special Collections items.
  • If pages in a book are uncut or stuck together, please ask for assistance.
  • Keep files or bundles of papers and other loose items exactly in the order in which they are issued to you.
  • Report any damage to Special Collections items.
  • Mobile phones must be on silent mode.
  • Eating or drinking (including bottled water) are not permitted in the Reading Rooms.
  • Keep valuables with you at all times.
  • Please note that if you are wearing nail varnish, you will be asked to use gloves whilst handling the material

Contact us

For any enquiries relating to our Special Collections, please contact us.

Privacy Notice

We will collect and store your personal data in line with the Special Collections Privacy Notice: