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Using Special Collections and University Archives: Identify, locate and request materials

Discover and engage with unique and historic research materials

Access materials

Special Collections materials are located in remote facilities, and patrons must request materials two full business days before planned date of use. In some cases, paging may take up to a week. All materials can be paged online.  

Paging materials must take place via the Libraries’ online catalog, SearchWorks, which may also provide links to finding aids (detailed collection guides) hosted by the Online Archive of California (OAC), and offer links to related online content.

Limiting SearchWorks results to Library -> Special Collections is the most effective way to narrow a search for materials in Special Collections.

For archival and manuscript collections, start your search with SearchWorks, then use the Online Archive of California (OAC) to search across or within finding aids, to determine the specific boxes from a collection that you wish to examine. The Online Archive of California provides helpful information about searching finding aids. 

This video example demonstrates how to use SearchWorks to identify, locate and request materials in a manuscript collection. Please note that each collection or item is unique and a variety of strategies can be used to search for materials. Contact Special Collections via email with questions about using SearchWorks.

Identify collection materials

The search conducted in the above video is illustrated here:

To find artists' correspondence in Ruth Asawa's papers in Stanford's online catalog SearchWorks:

1. Enter "Ruth Asawa" in the All Fields window of the advanced search screen, limit results by resource type 'Archive/Manuscript' and click the Search button.


2. Choose number 1, "Ruth Asawa papers" from the search result below.



3. To view more detailed information about the collection, link to the Finding Aid in the Online Archive of California in the SearchWorks record.


Locate collection materials using the Online Archive of California (OAC)

4. View the Collection Overview and Table of Contents in the Online Archive of California (OAC).



5. Use the Search feature or scroll through the Table of Contents to find correspondence with artists. Click on Series 5, Correspondence with Artists and Colleagues on the right. Note in the box on the left that Series 5, Box 13, folder 1 contains correspondence with artists Mark Adams and Josef and Anni Albers.


Request collection materials using SearchWorks

6. To request physical access to correspondence with Mark Adams and Josef and Anni Albers in Box 13, folder 1, return to the SearchWorks collection record for Ruth Asawa's papers, and click Request on site access in the lower left.

7. Read procedures for viewing Special Collections materials and click continue.

8. Choose Box 13 from the list presented after Continue. Up to five boxes per visit to Special Collections can be requested.


9. Scroll down to see the estimated date of delivery and submit the request with a SUNet ID. When items have been approved you will receive an email and link to an appointment.