Special Collections

Welcome to the University's accredited archive service and home to our unique Special Collections

About our collections

Our Special Collections Reading Room is located within the Headington Library. Our mission is to curate unique collections for teaching and research and anyone may use our collections. 

The Special Collections Reading Room is open to external visitors as well as Brookes staff and students. See below for opening hours. 

We offer a remote enquiry service for anyone not able to visit in person, please contact us at specialcollections@brookes.ac.uk

Opening hours

The majority of the special collections are kept in the Special Collections Reading Room which has the following opening hours: 

Semester hours

Monday to Thursday 13.00 - 17.00

Friday 13:00 - 16:30

Walk-in access is available to staff, students and holders of a Special Collections Reading Room pass.

Monday to Friday 09.00 - 13.00

Access by prior appointment only. Email specialcollections@brookes.ac.uk to arrange your visit. Please state which collection(s) you are interested in using and an indication of when you would like to visit.

View semester dates.

Vacation hours

Monday to Friday 09.00 - 17.00

Access by prior appointment only. Please email specialcollections@brookes.ac.uk to arrange your visit and state which collection(s) you are particularly interested in using and an indication of when you would like to visit.

A few of the collections are in the main Library building. The Library is open to Oxford Brookes staff and students with a Library card, and external users with ID. Please see the Library’s information for external users webpage for further information and opening times.


Email specialcollections@brookes.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)1865 484139 if you have a question about any of the Special Collections or to arrange a visit outside of the semester walk in opening times.

Registering as a user

The Special Collections and Archive are open to anyone wishing to carry out research. Current staff and students must present a valid University ID card on each visit. External researchers must complete a Reading Room Registration Form (available in Word or PDF format) and provide ID on their first visit. We ask that members of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling also show proof of their IBD membership. A Reading Room pass will then be issued, which must be presented on all future visits.

Please note that visitors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult (i.e. parent/guardian/teacher), and a registration form must be completed by the accompanying adult.

An additional form must be completed by all researchers wishing to use the Booker Prize Archive. Use the Booker Prize Archive form Google doc, the Booker Prize Archive form Word document or the Booker Prize Archive form PDF.

All forms are also available in hardcopy in the Reading Room.

Visitors are bound by the Library Regulations and specific regulations relating to the use of Special Collections (see below) at Oxford Brookes University Library.

Reading Room facilities and use

The Reading Room has a study area that seats up to twelve users at any one time. Access is provided to the Library Catalogue and the Archive Catalogue. For Brookes users there is also a networked PC. Users are welcome to bring in their own laptop and WiFi is available. If you are making handwritten notes please use a pencil.

Bags and coats cannot be taken into the study area - lockers and coat racks are provided for your convenience.

Reading Room Regulations and conditions of use

Use of Special Collections and Archives are governed by University Regulations and Library Regulations with the following additions:

  1. Access to the Special Collections Reading Room is allowed to all bona fide researchers. The University reserves the right to refuse admission without redress.
  2. All readers must sign the visitor’s register on arrival and departure on each visit and show a valid staff or student card, or valid Special Collections Reading Room Pass. External researchers can apply for a Special Collections Reading Room Pass by completing a registration form and providing a valid form of identification.
  3. No food or drink, including bottled water, is allowed in the Reading Room. Mobile phones must be switched off or in silent mode.
  4. All bags must be left in the lockers provided. If you wish to consult books or other materials which are not from the Special Collections in the Reading Room, you must first show them to the member of staff on duty.
  5. Books, journals, documents and other materials may not be removed from the Reading Room.
  6. Writing in, marking, or harming in any way, any manuscript, book, journal or other item belonging to the collections is forbidden. Items should not be leaned upon, refolded, traced or marked in any way. Fragile material should be read with the book rests provided.
  7. Readers are welcome to use their own laptop and use will be at their own risk.
  8. All copying is undertaken by Library staff subject to copyright law and good preservation practice. Requests for copying should be made using the form(s) provided.
  9. Researchers are permitted to take photographs of material held in Special Collections for private study or research that is not for a commercial purpose subject to copyright law. Photographs should be taken without a flash
  10. Requests for Archive Room material must be made on the Archive Room Request Form supplied.

Download the regulations in Word.

Download the regulations PDF.

Identifying and requesting material

Information about each of our collections is available on the collections webpages (see below). Staff are available to help you locate material and to advise on how best to handle items. You may browse the collections shelved in the Reading Room and there is no limit on how many items you may use at one time.

Please handle items with care when removing them from the shelves. Markers are supplied and should be placed where items have been removed. Once you have finished with an item, please leave it on the re-shelving trolley provided.

To request material to be fetched from the Archive Room, you will need to complete a request form for each item. You may consult four separate items or one archive box from the Archive Room at any one time.

Special Collections material can only be accessed in our Reading Room and is not available for borrowing.

Copying service

Special Collections’ users may take photographs (without flash) of items from the collections with their own devices for free.

Special Collections provides a staffed scanning service under the following conditions:

The copy is being made for non-commercial or private study. Copying requests for commercial or publication purposes should be emailed to the Archivist.

The item is suitable for scanning (i.e. size, fragility, binding).

The extent of the copying is within legal limits.

A Special Collections scanning form is completed.

Special Collections scanning form Word version.

Special Collections scanning form PDF format.

Scans will be provided in unedited PDF format to the email address provided on the Special Collections scanning form. Price lists are available for internal and external users.


Access policy PDF or Word document

Acquisitions policy PDF or Word document

Collections management policy PDF or Word document

Digital preservation policy PDF or Word document

Preservation policy PDF or Word document

Volunteering and work experience policy PDF or Word document

Loans policy PDF or Word document

Selected images from our collections are included on the Special Collections webpages and on RADAR. Sometimes it is not possible to trace the copyright owner(s) of these images. If you are the rights holder for any of the content we have included on these sites, please contact us regarding permissions by emailing specialcollections@brookes.ac.uk.

Feedback on our service

Thank you so very much for your assistance this week with the Paul Oliver materials. […] I'm very appreciative of you both and the access to the collections.

Nora Ramsey, MA researcher, Newcastle University

Looking through our boxes brought some delightful discoveries and a lot of new information to me; I have got some good ideas what to read and explore next.

Lotte Ulrike Bain, Community Researcher

Thank you for arranging for me to view your fascinating collection on the history of occupational therapy. I hadn’t realised the extent of the archives and certainly plan to revisit this excellent resource.

Patricia Vella-Burrows, Visiting Principal Research Fellow at Canterbury Christ Church University