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Reading Room Policies

Patrons are required to show a current valid photo ID upon arrival at the University (Main) Library Welcome Desk. All library users must follow the University Return to Campus Policy, including showing your Symptom Tracker badge before entering the building, wearing a mask at all times, and maintaining social distancing. By making an appointment, you agree to follow campus and library policies.

For Winter 2021, appointments are required to view our collections; please email or read more to plan your visit.

Use of materials

Patrons must request access to materials through the McCormick Library Request System; a user account is required.

Requests to page materials for same-day use should be received by 3:45 pm. Some materials are held off-site and require 48-hours’ advanced notice for access.

All materials should be returned to the service desk no later than 4:30 pm.

McCormick Library staff will pull a maximum of 15 boxes per patron request. Patrons will be assigned a seat at a research table and must pick up and return their materials to the service desk. Patrons are allowed one box, one folder, or three rare books at their table at a time, depending on the collection. Patrons can retrieve Ready Reference items from the Reading Room book shelves but must return them to service desk when finished.

To help preserve materials, patrons must:


Materials can be placed on hold for up to 10 business days (2 weeks).

Personal items

Pencils, silenced electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, cameras, etc.), books, notebooks, and loose paper are permitted at the reference tables for note taking.

Other personal items (such as pens, computer cases, bags, food, drinks) can be stored in available lockers.

Patron privacy disclosures

The Reading Room is under video surveillance.

Some patron data (including but not limited to the information provided by patrons in research requests, registration forms, and surveillance recordings of the reading room) may be retained and accessed at the discretion of the McCormick Library staff for administrative and security purposes. Northwestern University Libraries does not sell or otherwise distribute personally identifiable patron data except where required by law.


At no charge, the McCormick staff can scan up to 50 pages or spend up to 30 minutes' scan time (whichever comes first) of paper-based materials per research request. Anything beyond that amount is addressed on a case-by-case basis. Turnaround time will vary based on available resources. Patrons can contact the McCormick Library staff if they are interested in reproductions of audio-visual or born-digital materials.

Staff reserves the right to limit the number of scans based on physical condition of material or available staff resources. Submit your request using our online request form or email


Permission to consult materials does not convey the right to reproduce or publish. Materials digitized, photographed, scanned, or otherwise reproduced are for use by patrons for research, teaching, and private study. Unauthorized distribution or commercial use of reproductions is not permitted. Responsibility for copyright clearance is assumed by the patron.

The patron assumes sole responsibility for and agrees to defend and indemnify Northwestern University and its Board of Trustees, officers, employers, and agents for all claims, demands, costs, or expenses (including attorneys’ fees) resulting from any infringement of the literary rights, copyrights, or other rights pertaining to this materials.

See Northwestern University Libraries’ full Rights, Permissions and Reproductions Policies

Non-Dislosure Policy

When accessing the McCormick Library collections, patrons may encounter Social Security numbers or information protected the by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Patrons will not record, reproduce, or disclose any Social Security numbers or protected FERPA or HIPAA information that may be included in the materials requested.

Building Use Policy

Patrons are expected to observe all policies for conduct in the libraries' buildings.

Note: failure to comply with any of the above policies and procedures may result in the loss of research privileges for the McCormick Library.