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Penn State University Libraries



Special Collections Library
104 Paterno Library
University Park, PA 16802

Telephone: (814) 865-7931
Fax: (814) 863-5318

ASK! Special Collections

Request Instruction Session

Staff Directory

Staff Resources





We welcome inquiries about materials in the Special Collections Library from both on-site and remote users. Use our ASK! page or email us at



Special Collections maintains a strong interest in teaching and working with instructors to help their students use Special Collections materials more effectively. Instructional sessions can introduce primary source research, teach how to search for Special Collections materials at Penn State and elsewhere, and can focus on materials documenting specific areas of interest.

Guidelines on planning instructional sessions:

  • Instructors should schedule appointments with Special Collections faculty (or staff as designated by the Head of Special Collections) well in advance of class instruction sessions, at least two weeks prior in most cases.
  • Upon conferring with Special Collections faculty or designated staff, instructors must provide a course syllabus or outline, and a description of the class projects and assignments intended for use in the Special Collections Library.
  • Special Collections classroom space is limited and frequently booked, and subject to availability. Instructors are urged to request and schedule classroom reservation space at the time of their appointment.
  • Class assignments and projects to be undertaken in the Special Collections Library are subject to confirmation as appropriate by Special Collections faculty or designated staff.

Request Instructional Session

In addition, Special Collections faculty teach the three-credit course History/Library Studies 490, Archival Management, on an annual basis. Independent study classes and internships for credit may also be available.



Exhibitions of Special Collections Library materials are regularly offered for the public in its Exhibit Hall, the Henisch Photo-History Exhibit Room, Fred Waring's America, and on occasion in other locations.

Outreach programs are offered by the Special Collections Library periodically through the year, including gallery talks, symposia, slide presentations, and other special events designed to inform the public of our collections and services or to educate the public about University history and other topics documented by our collections.

New exhibits and upcoming outreach programs are announced on our blog.

Tours of Special Collections are occasionally provided for groups as part of instructional programs. Guided tours of Special Collections for the public cannot be provided at this time, due to staffing constraints.

Request Outreach Service (Services Request Form)


Records Management

Penn State University, like all organizations, creates and maintains records as evidence of its activities. There are thousands of different types of records in a university, including academic records such as transcripts, financial records such as budgets, and administrative records such as the minutes of the Board of Trustees.

The information in records, and the legal evidence of activity they provide, must be managed for the University to operate efficiently and in compliance with laws and regulations. Records management is the systematic control of those records, throughout their life cycle. At Penn State, this program is operated by the University Archives.

The Records Management Web pages provide more detailed information about the policies and services of the program.

Robin Dyke is our Records Management Specialist.


Other Requests for Assistance

The Special Collections Library is frequently asked for various types of assistance. While our staff has expertise in a variety of areas, some of the most common questions concern proper care of rare and unique materials and the kinds of historical materials that organizations or individuals should save, or that may be of interest to the Special Collections Library.

Questions relating to rare books, such as what makes a book rare, or how much is my old book worth, or what are proper techniques for handling rare books are answered on our Frequently Asked Questions About Rare Books Web page.

Additional questions about preservation, such as how to deal with wet or musty books, proper storage, display, or repair of various types of materials, are answered on our Frequently Asked Questions about Preservation and Conservation Web page. Another source of preservation information and advice at Penn State is the University Libraries' Digitization and Preservation Department Web pages.

What historical records should be saved for the future, is another question frequently asked of archivists and librarians in Special Collections. While answers to this question will vary considerably depending on circumstances, a list of general categories of materials, which could have potential research value as archives, is provided within the Records Management Web pages.

Collecting emphases of the various Special Collections units can be found on their individual Web pages.