Borrowing and Access Privileges
- Electronic Access
- Onsite Access
Borrowing and Requesting Materials
- Get a Library Account (SI staff)
- Loan Periods
- Renewing or Returning Materials
- Fines and Lost Books
The Smithsonian Libraries and Archives provides access to physical and electrionic library collections. Search Library Collections lists and explains the different ways to search and browse these collections. This page explains the types of borrowing and access privileges avialable to the Smithsonian comminuty (individuals with a current Smithsonian identification badge, refered to as "SI staff" throughout this site) and visiting researchers and the general public. Contact Us if you have any questions.
The Libraries and Archives maintains subscription access for the Smithsonian community to a wide variety of electronic resources (e-resources), including databases, journals, and e-books. These can be accessed by anyone on a Smithsonian network or in our reading rooms (see Onsite Access below). SI staff working remotely can access e-resources by following the directions on Off-Site Access to Electronic Resources or connecting to the Smithsonian network via telework.si.edu or the VPN. Search Library Collections is a good place to start. These are a few highlights for accessing our collections electronically:
- OneSearch: Searches across the library catalog, e-journals, e-books, and many research databases from a single search box. Anyone can use this tool to search our collections; however, access to many e-resources will be restricted to Smithsonian community use only.
- E-journals, E-books, and Databases: Access to the complete list of subscription-based electronic databases, journals, and e-books.
- Digital Library and Online Exhibitions: Open access to digitized rare books (pre-1924), journals, trade literuature and manuscripts from the Libraries and Archives' library collections.
Due to COVID-19, all SLA Library Locations are currently closed to staff and visitors.
The Libraries and Archives welcomes SI staff and other visitors at all its branches to access both physical materials and electronic resources. Our staff and collections are spread across 21 library branch locations in museums and research centers in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, New York, and Panama. Note: Library collections must be used on Smithsonian property and some collections must be used in their designated reading rooms.
Most of the branches are located in restricted areas requiring an appointment and registration with a form of identification, so please contact the branch staff to arrange a visit. For more information on each library branch and its access policies see the links below:
- Visiting researchers and the general public: See Visiting the Library Branches and Library Locations for more information. If you cannot visit a Libraries and Archives' location in person, you may place interlibrary loan requests for many of our library materials through your local public library or an academic library with which you are affiliated. Borrowing libraries, please see the Interlibrary Loan Services page for more information.
- Smithsonian community: Branches and Reading Rooms (SI staff) includes information specifically for the Smithsonian community about accessing the Libraries and Archives' locations. For more information, see Borrowing and Requesting Materials below, and Alerts and Access Updates (SI staff).
Borrowing and Requesting Materials
- Borrow: Individuals with a valid Smithsonian identification badge and email address can open a borrower account with the Libraries and Archives. See Get a Library Account (SI staff) for registration and more information.
- Interlibrary Loan: Anyone with a borrower account may open an ILLiad account and request materials from most Smithsonian library branch locations as well as from our partner libraries worldwide. See the ILLiad User Guide for registration and more information.
- Requesting: To obtain materials, visit your designated branch library or request books, book chapters, or articles from a Libraries and Archives' branch or partner libraries by submitting an ILLiad request. Many physical items can be delivered directly to your Smithsonian office via interoffice mail. Scans/PDFs are delivered electronically to your ILLiad account.
- Care and handling: Borrowed items must be used on Smithsonian property. Some materials must be used in designated reading rooms. Libraries and Archives’ collections materials should be treated like any Smithsonian collection items and are covered by Smithsonian Directive 600.
Each library branch and partner library has its own policies regarding what materials may be checked out and for how long. Generally, you can borrow as many items as you need for the following loan periods:
|Material||Permanent Smithsonian Community Members||Non-permanent Smithsonian Community Members|
|Books||Six months||One month|
|Microforms and Audiovisual Materials||One month||One month|
|Bound Journals||One week||One week|
|Interlibrary Loan||Varies by lending library||Varies by lending library|
Renewing or Returning Materials
You are expected to renew or return books as soon as possible after receiving notification. You will receive notices by email.
Returning All Library Materials
- Return all physical library materials on or before the due date to any Libraries and Archives' branch location or at the Smithsonian Institution Archives reference desk in Capital Gallery.
- Smithsonian library books can also be returned through interoffice mail to any Libraries and Archives' library branch.
- Books with a colored paper band around the front cover indicate it is an Interlibrary Loan book. Interlibrary Loan books may not be sent via Smithsonian interoffice mail. These materials which have been borrowed from other institutions must be returned by hand directly to a Libraries and Archives' location.
Renewing Libraries and Archives' Books
Renew Libraries and Archives' books by contacting a library branch or Contact Us, or you can easily renew items yourself online. From the library catalog:
- Click the tab labeled “My Account” and log in using your library card number.
- Click “Items Out” from the Account Overview or “Checked Out” from the top menu bar.
- Check the box next to the item(s) and click the “Renew” button. You should notice the due dates changing on the right-hand side.
Renewing Interlibrary Loan Books
- Renew Interlibrary Loan books from other library systems by submitting a request via ILLiad or by contacting the Resource Sharing and Delivery department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lending libraries lend materials for a wide range of periods, from 30 days to 4 months. Loan periods, renewals, and restrictions for use are determined by the lending library.
- Requests to renew material must be made at least 4 days prior to the due date. There is no limit to the number of times you may renew books, but in some circumstances, a renewal may not be possible.
- If you receive a notice that an item you have is being recalled, the notice will indicate the new due date for that item.
- All books are subject to recall after they have been checked out for 14 days.
- If an item is checked out and you need it sooner than its current due date, submit an interlibrary loan request via the ILLiad Request Form.
- Smithsonian Libraries and Archives does not charge overdue fines. You are encouraged to renew before it is due.
- If a book is lost or damaged beyond repair, a processing fee of $50.00 will be charged. Additionally, you have the option of replacing the book with one acceptable to the branch librarian or, if replacement is not possible, a charge of $150.00 will be levied.