Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library and University Archives Reading Room: Reasoning behind the rules

Guidelines to familiarize and prepare users for a successful reading room visit.

Why so many rules?


It may seem overwhelming when reviewing all of the rules of the reading room. We want each visitor to enjoy their experience and understand what to expect. The rules and procedures are important to preserve the collection and lower the risks of damage, deterioration, and theft. Thank you for respecting the library's cultural assets, and the library staff who are committed to protecting the archives and special collection treasures.


  • Checking personal items: Lockers are provided to secure visitors' items. This helps prevent loss.
  • Registering: To keep a record of who is requesting and handling which materials.
  • No writing instruments except for graphite pencils and laptop computers: Ink, pigment, or permanent marks will contribute to deterioration and destruction of materials. Repairing rare materials is costly and can potentially damage items further.
  • No pads of paper, notebooks, or sticky notes: Sometimes library materials can get caught up in bound pads of paper and accidentally walk out the door. The adhesive in sticky notes can leave residue and damage fragile archival and special collections items.
  • No food, drink, chewing gum, or tobacco products are allowed inside the reading room:  Food debris invites stains and pests which are devastating to any collection.
  • Low lighting: Light, whether it is natural or artificial, is damaging to rare books and papers. You may notice that the reading room has no windows; this design is purposeful to eliminate the risks of the damaging UV rays.  Artificial light must be controlled with special bulbs or filters to decrease the intensity and minimize the cumulative effects of light exposure.
  • Photography: Photography is permitted.  Flash photography is not permitted due to the cumulative damaging effects of intense light.
  • Cool temperatures:  Special collections are sensitive to heat and high humidity.  Parchment and other organic materials are susceptible to swelling and accelerated decay when temperatures and relative humidity are unstable.  Cooler temperatures and low relative humidity help slow down deterioration and help preserve the items for future generations.
  • Hand washing:  Clean, dry hands are best when handling materials. Washing before entering the reading room removes dirt, oils, and salt. 
  • Gloves are necessary and provided when handling photographs or when materials pose a hazard to the user. Typically, gloves are not used for handling books and papers because gloves contribute to decreased tactile sensation and dexterity, and can result in turning multiple pages at a time or applying too much pressure resulting in tearing. Additionally, gloves can potentially transfer microorganisms, lint, and dust to sensitive materials.
  • Quiet environment: The reading room is a place to discover, research, and appreciate the rare books and materials in the Nixon Library. To provide a productive space for all users, we encourage low voices, no music, and silent cell phones.
  • Examination of materials by staff: Please alert the staff if you find any damage to items, so we may take action to protect and repair artifacts in the collection.


For a complete list of the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library and the University Archives Reading Room policies, visit