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Reading Room Access and Research Services for AIC Staff Summer 2021: FAQs

Learn about collection access and research services available to AIC staff July 12-September 3.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to frequently-asked questions below. If you have questions not answered here, please contact Library staff:

Aaron Rutt (x3-3936)

Autumn Mather (x3-3665)

Kevin Whiteneir (x3-3391)

Seth Vanek (x3-3667)

Access Questions

I received a notice that my items are available in the reading room. How can I arrange to collect them?

You can visit the reading room at any point during reading room hours to retrieve your materials. The main library doors (south of the grand staircase on the first floor of the Allerton building) will remain closed while the reading room remains closed to the public. You can enter the reading room by the spiral staircase or the elevator. 

From outside the main library doors, the easiest way to access the elevator and stairs is to go down the grand staircase to gallery 10 on the ground floor. Use your prox card to open the door on the south side of the stairs, and the library elevator will be on your right side. To take the spiral staircase instead, continue straight past the elevator and take the first right.

The elevator and stairs can also be reached from the ground level of Ferguson by following the hallway past the volunteer office and the freight elevator until you can turn right. Go 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.


The item that I need is not requestable. What are my access options?

If you know that you need a specific portion of the item, please place a scan request through the online catalog. If you are not certain about what content you need, place a request for a research appointment.


I often find useful materials browsing in the stacks. Now that the stacks are closed, is there a digital way I can replicate that?

It is not the same, but a similar way of exploring the collection is to use the browse feature in the online catalog. You can put in the call number of an item that you have found useful and browse what is sitting next to it on the shelves, or can browse by author, subject, or title.

Safety Questions

How are library materials being handled to keep staff safe?

Ryerson & Burnham Libraries staff are still wearing masks at all times when handling collection materials, and our new circulation system allows us to scan the call slip to complete the circulation process, minimizing the amount of handling for each item we check out. We are adhering to the museum policies for building entry and are maintaining good hand hygiene. We appreciate you following those same policies when you are in the reading room. 


When I pick up my library materials, should I clean or disinfect them?

No, please do not use any sort of cleaner on library materials. Library staff are masked when we are handling materials, and we are observing all museum health guidelines, including maintaining social distance, frequent hand washing, sanitizing and disinfecting workspaces and equipment, and self-monitoring for virus symptoms all of which should mitigate the possibility of spreading the virus through surface transmission. Once you receive notification that materials are available you will have 15 days to come and pick them up, which allows you to decide to allow the items to quarantine for a while if that is more comfortable for you. Many antibacterial cleaners include bleach or alcohol, which can cause damage to library materials. Please remember that you are responsible for any damage that occurs to collection items while they are in your care.

Timeline Questions

What will be the average wait time between requesting an item and being notified that it is available?

If an item is marked as available in an onsite location in the library catalog, you should receive notification that it is ready for you to retrieve from the reading room within 48 hours of placing the request. If you request an item that is marked as available in an onsite location prior to 11:00 you should be notified that it is ready for you to retrieve it from the reading room by 1:00 that day.


I need an item that is stored at Offsite-NU. What is the average wait time between requesting it and being notified that the item is available?

Our colleagues at OGLC are onsite two days a week. We will place requests with their staff on Wednesdays, for retrieval on Thursdays, and the books will be shipped to us on Tuesdays. Depending on when your request is placed, it may take up to three weeks before you are notified that the item is available for you to retrieve.


There is a book in the backlog that I would like to consult. What is the average wait time for processing the book and delivering it to the reading room?

Rush requests are not possible, but we are still accepting requests for cataloging backlog materials. Most backlog materials will be available for pickup within three weeks from the time the request was placed. If the item requires an enclosure or other attention from our colleagues in Book Conservation we will let you know; these requests will take longer to complete.


I placed a request for scans of an item in the collection. How long will that take?

Scanning requests for items that the online catalog lists as available in an onsite location will be available within a week of the request being received. If we need to retrieve an item from the offsite location or process an item in the backlog for scanning, the scans will be delivered to you within four weeks. The best way to ensure that scans reach you in a timely way is to be as specific as possible in identifying the content that you need to have scanned; requests with completed title, author, and volume and page numbers can be completed more efficiently than requests for "all content on lot number 8."


I ordered an interlibrary loan item. When can I expect to receive it?

Our ability to borrow materials depends on other libraries' ability to be open and staffed sufficiently to lend their physical collections. We will do our best to fulfill requests, but loan requests may take up to four to six weeks to fill or may be unfilled due to varying staffing levels at our partner libraries. 

Contact Us

Ryerson & Burnham Libraries 

(312) 443-3666