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Reading Room Access and Research Services for AIC Staff: Library Services

Information on Using the Libraries and Archives for Art Institute of Chicago Staff

Welcome to the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries

New policies and procedures are in place for access to the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries' collections. This page contains links to our digital resources and information on physical access to the collections. Visit the tabs above for information on the new reading room hours; to review our circulation policy; to learn about stacks access; for instructions on how to request library materials; for instructions on how to request research appointments; to view our FAQs; and to learn more about access and services in the Archives.

Please contact Library staff if you have any questions. Our contact information is at the bottom of this page.

What's New?

How to access the reading room

The reading room doors adjacent to the Grand Staircase are kept unlocked all day on Tuesday and Wednesday, while the museum is closed to the public, and kept unlocked from 1:30-5:00 p.m. during public hours on Monday, Thursday and Friday. To access the reading room at any other time, please use the proxed Research Center museum staff entrance in the Photography & Media gallery 10 on the ground floor between the Thorne Rooms and the paperweights gallery. Take the spiral staircase or the library elevator to the first floor. 

The elevator and stairs can also be reached from the ground level of Ferguson by following the hallway south past the Michigan Avenue building freight elevator until you can turn right. Walk past the Book Conservation lab and Stack B, and follow the signs to the elevator or the staircase.

Please do not climb the staircase with stacks of library materials; the elevator is a better option to access the reading room when you are carrying books.


How to retrieve circulating materials

Circulating library materials may be collected from and returned to the reading room. Search the online catalog and request the items you need to consult. Circulating materials will be delivered to the shelf near the spiral staircase in the reading room. You will be notified when the items are available for pickup. Materials will be available for pick up for 15 days from the day you were notified they are available.

When picking up books, please remove the call slips from the top of the book and add them to the tray next to the hold shelf when you collect your items.

When returning books, leave library materials on the returns counter in the reading room. 


How to request non-circulating materials

Some types of materials, including special collections, accessioned collections, auction catalogs, serials, artist files, and archives must be consulted in the reading room. Non-circulating materials may be requested through the online catalog for use in the reading room during staff access hours. These materials will be stored in the Staff Reserve area, in the east alcove of the library, between the reception and reference desks, where you can consult them without an appointment. If you require scans of these materials, please consult with library staff to make sure the items are in stable condition and approved for use on the reading room scanners.


Accessing the onsite, general collection stacks

Starting on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, permanent staff at the Art Institute of Chicago who have completed a library orientation may make appointments to browse the onsite, general collection stacks (Stack B, Stack K, Stack 3, and Stack 4). Half-hour appointments are available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. with the last appointment starting at 4:15 p.m. Additional information on stacks access is available here.


How long it takes to access materials

Items listed as onsite and available in our online catalog should be available for you to retrieve on the same business day. Materials that are stored offsite or are located in the backlog will take longer to process; these items should be available for you to retrieve within a week of placing a request.

We retrieve materials twice a day on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays and once a day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Items you have checked out may be returned to the return counter at the circulation desk and will be checked in within one working day. Requests for assistance with and scheduling for bulk returns should be directed to


Browsing collections 

The open-shelf reference collection displayed in the Franke Reading Room is available for browsing. These collections are described in the online catalog, and you can locate materials on the shelf and consult them during staff hours, M-F from 9-5. Please return materials to the return counter next to the elevator.


Access to scanning equipment

Staff may scan general collection library materials on the scanning equipment available in the reading room once the material has been reviewed by library staff to ensure that it is stable. A digital scanner is available for use in the reading room, as is a digital microform reader. Additional information on scanning is available here.


Library orientations

Library orientations are held on the first Wednesday of the month, from 11:00 until noon. To register for an orientation, please complete this form.


Public hours

Public research appointments to consult library and archival materials are available on Monday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons from 1:30 until 5:00. Information on access to the reading room for public researchers is available here.

What Remains the Same?

Backlog requests

You may still request materials from the backlog. Library staff will process the materials and then deliver them to the hold shelf for you to retrieve. Turnaround time remains one to three weeks.


Interlibrary loan requests

The Library will continue to request physical materials for interlibrary loan. Please be aware that interlibrary loans are dependent on our partner libraries being open and staffed to resume lending materials from their physical collection. Although we have resumed requesting, loans are taking longer to receive, and requests may go unfilled if libraries are closed or are operating on a reduced schedule. Loans that can circulate outside the library will be available for you to pickup on the hold shelf. You will receive an email notification if a loan may only be consulted in the library, and may place a request for a research appointment to review the item during reading room hours. Please keep in mind that interlibrary loan materials have shorter circulation periods than Ryerson materials.


Access to online resources

We continue to sustain our subscription resources. Brief descriptions of our databases are available in the A-Z list. Library staff will continue to  send you the results of searches in reference-desk only databases, or you can make a research appointment to come in and do your own searching in these resources during reading room hours.



As museum staff continues hybrid work schedules, we have disabled recalls for library materials. This means that if an item that you need is checked out, Library staff will locate a copy for you via interlibrary loan rather than recalling the copy that we own. 


The library staff is here to help!

Please reach out and let us know how we can help you with your research.

Ryerson & Burnham Libraries and Archives Search

Search the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries and Art and Architecture Archives

Input a keyword into the box and click Search to begin searching the online library catalog, including content from the Art and Architecture Finding Aids, Digital Collections, and Oral History databases.

Unfortunately, Institutional Archives resources (including the Imaging Archives) are not yet searchable here; please visit this page for more information.

Research Center Resources

Research Center Resources

Online catalogs and databases maintained by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries and Art Institute of Chicago Archives:

Make requests for materials that are not owned by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries:

Find library information:

Digital Resources from the Art Institute of Chicago

Digital Resources from the Art Institute of Chicago

  • Ryerson & Burnham Art and Architecture Archives: Digital Collections
  • Finding Aids: Finding aids are inventories or indices that describe the contents and context of an archival collection and are the primary method of accessing information about any given group of records.
  • Images and Media: Catalog of electronic surrogates of selected original archival materials from the Ryerson & Burnham Archives collections. Materials may include photographs, slides, architectural drawings and prints, correspondence, and printed papers.
  • Oral Histories: Browse over 250 artists and architect oral histories.

A list of online guides and bibliographies developed by Ryerson & Burnham librarians to assist research on a variety of art historical and architectural topics, including provenance research, building history, appraisal and preservation resources, Chicago neighborhood research, and the history of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Digital collection catalogs available freely online. Catalogs offer detailed art historical context, provenance history, and scientific analysis of artworks in the Art Institute of Chicago's collections.

Contact Us

Ryerson & Burnham Libraries for reference assistance, library orientation information, questions on interlibrary loan, and questions on library access and services. The following staff can also assist with these types of questions:

Aaron Rutt (x3-3936)

Jenn Smith (x7-7103) for questions on circulation, offsite materials, bulk returns, and scanning requests. The following staff can also assist with these types of questions: 

Abby Adams (x3-3667)


The Art Institute of Chicago Archives

For information on our collections, the history of the Art Institute and the School of the Art Institute, donation proposals, corrections, comments, and general questions, please contact Archives staff at