Accessing the Collections

Reader registration, requesting materials, and booking appointments 

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the Thomas Fisher Library uses the University of Toronto Special Collections Access system to help readers register, submit requests to access materials in the collections, and book appointments in our reading room. 

➔ Ready to register and to order your materials? Visit the Special Collections Access system site. 

Need help using the new system? Please see our guide on using Special Collections Access

Need help searching for materials or have questions about the collections? Please visit Reference and Research Assistance for more information.

Retrieval times

We encourage you to submit requests in advance of your planned appointment. However, same-day requests and appointments are possible for materials located onsite subject to our retrieval times - except for materials with an offsite location, which require up to three business days for delivery.

Retrieval times for same-day requests for materials onsite:

  • 9:30am → available in the reading room at 10:30 am
  • 11:30am → available in the reading room at 12:30 pm
  • 2:30pm → available in the reading room at 3:30 pm
  • 4:00 pm → will be available the next working day.

Materials stored in the Downsview offsite location require up to 3 business days to retrieve. You will be notified if your appointment requires additional retrieval time.

Readers may have up to 10 active requests at a time. If more items are required, please contact us.

What to bring

  • Notebooks, pencils, laptop computers or tablets, handheld cameras, and cellphones and external drives or USB keys are permitted in the reading room.

  • If you are a first-time user (including if you registered with a blue reader card prior to the use of the Special Collections Access system), please bring one of the following pieces of identification:
    • If you are affiliated with the University of Toronto, please bring your TCard.
    • If you are not affiliated with the University, please bring a government-issued piece of identification, preferably printed with your address.

When you arrive

When you arrive at the library, you will be requested to place outerwear, bags, binders, folders, laptop cases, pencils, other personal items, and any food or beverages in the lockers provided at the second-floor entrance. Clear plastic bags are available to carry permitted personal items into the reading room. Notebooks and laptops will be inspected as readers exit the library. 

Once your personal items have been stored, take the elevator to the reference desk on the first floor of the library. You will be greeted by one of our staff members who will confirm your appointment and sign you in. If you recently registered using the Special Collections Access System as a first-time user, you will be required to present a piece of photo identification for review. 

First-time readers will be issued a reader card. Please bring this card for presentation to the reference desk and reading room for each visit. These cards expire after two years, after which you will be required to re-register and have identification validated again. 

Once you are checked in, a staff member in the reading room will assign you to a desk and check out the materials you have requested to you.

Reading Room guidelines

Before your arrival, please familiarize yourself with our reading room guidelines. Please note that the reading room is reserved for registered readers only.

For all collections materials, please:

  • Handle materials with clean, dry hands.
  • Always use book supports and weights.
  • Notes should only be taken in pencil.
  • Never mark pages or write on paper laid on top of an item.
  • Pages should be turned and maps or folded items opened slowly and carefully. Staff are here to assist you with any handling questions.
  • Avoid touching the surface of text, illustration, or illumination on any page.
  • Only acid-free flyers should be used as bookmarks; please ask staff for appropriate bookmarks.
  • Material must be visible to staff supervising the Reading Room at all times.
  • Material may be held for up to one week after your visit. Please consult with staff to place items on hold.

For archival materials:

  • Please take only one box at a time to your desk and remove only one folder at a time
  • When using archival material, please maintain the exact order of folders in a box. Use acid-free bookmarks to mark your place. If you suspect an error in the arrangement of the material, please inform staff. Do not rearrange the material yourself.


  • Please speak to staff if you wish to take photographs or scans of any material.
  • Readers are permitted to take photographs with small handheld cameras or cell phones or use the self-serve scanner located in the reference area.
  • Readers are responsible for determining the copyright status of materials and obtaining permission from copyright holder(s) if they wish to use images for purposes other than for research and private study. Readers must read and sign a copyright agreement form for permission to photograph or scan any copyrighted materials.