Katharine Cornell-Guthrie McClintic Special Collections Reading Room, Library for the Performing Arts

The Library for the Performing Arts has one of the world’s most significant collections of research materials about music, dance, theatre, and recorded sound. A large part of these collections falls under the umbrella of “special collections,” which means that these materials are rare, unique, very old, and/or fragile and are available for researchers only onsite at the library. These materials can be rare books and manuscripts, photographs, music scores, film, video and audio recordings, scrapbooks, clippings and program files, set models, artwork, and ephemera, as well as archival collections that include published and unpublished materials documenting the life of an individual, the work of a group or company, or a particular subject. Because these materials are irreplaceable, they require careful handling, security, and storage so the Library can protect and preserve them for generations of researchers.

How To Access Special Collections

In order to request materials from the Library for the Performing Arts' special collections, all researchers are asked to create a Special Collections account. Refer to the Special Collections Quick Guide to set up your account and learn more, or visit the Special Collections account FAQ.

Some collections are stored offsite and may require up to 72-hours’ notice for retrieval. For more information about offsite requests and delivery schedules, please visit https://www.nypl.org/help/request-research-materials.

About your visit

Researchers requesting paper-based special collections materials from the Library’s Theatre, Dance, and Music & Recorded Sound Divisions will access items in the Katharine Cornell-Guthrie McClintic Special Collections Reading Room, located on the 3rd floor of the Library for the Performing Arts, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023.  On arrival on the 3rd floor, all researchers will be asked to check their coats and large bags with security. In order to help preserve our materials, no food, drinks, or camera tripods are permitted in our 3rd floor reading and screening rooms. 

At this time, researchers must first schedule a virtual consultation in order to determine what collections might be most helpful for their research. Following the virtual consultation, an onsite research appointment will be scheduled.  To arrange a virtual consultation, please visit https://libcal.nypl.org/appointments/lpa.

For information about accessing audio and moving image special collection materials, contact the appropriate Research Division: Music (music@nypl.org), Recorded Sound (recordedsound@nypl.org), Dance (dance@nypl.org), or the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (toft@nypl.org).


Special Collections Reading Room Policies & Guidelines

We welcome all researchers to the Special Collections Reading Room. Because of the rare and unique nature of the materials held in our collections, we ask that all researchers help us secure and preserve our materials for the future by following these guidelines and policies: 

General policies:

  • Upon arrival, books, notebooks, files, and all bags and purses should be stored in a secure locker in the Reading Room.
  • You may have only loose note-taking paper provided by the Library, pencils, personal laptop computer, and camera/cell phone with your seat. Pens are not permitted as they may leave permanent marks on materials. Paper and pencils are available at the Reading Room desk. Handbags and other personal items must be stored in a Reading Room locker. All coats, briefcases, book bags, and other personal property will be checked at the coatroom on the 3rd floor.
  • The 3rd floor is a quiet zone. Please set your cell phone to silent or vibrate.
  • Food, drink, chewing gum, and candy are not permitted on the 3rd floor of the Library. Accidental food and drink spills will cause permanent damage to collection items.
  • For information about obtaining reproductions of materials or permission to publish, please see the NYPL Photography & Photocopy Policy guidelines.
  • Researchers are asked to follow the guidance and instruction of the staff at all times.

Handling Guidelines:

  • Each Special Collections item must be checked out to a library card and may only be consulted in the Reading Room. You may ask for items to be held on reserve for you for a limited amount of time.
  • Researchers may consult one item at a time.
  • Please keep all materials flat on the table and handle them with great care and attention. 
  • Turn pages gently and lay your pencil down when handling materials. Be mindful of tears, brittle paper, detached pages, and broken bindings. Cradles will be provided for bound items to help support fragile bindings and detached pages. 
  • When taking notes, please be sure your notepaper is on the table, not on top of materials. 
  • Wear gloves provided by the staff when handling photographs and negatives. Please ask for assistance when needed.
  • Many materials are in clear plastic sleeves due to their inherently fragile nature. Please keep these materials inside their sleeves. Ask for staff assistance if you require the removal of any paper clips or staples.
  • When you remove a folder from a box, please use the marker provided to hold its location. Remove only one folder at a time. Please maintain the order of materials within a folder and be sure they are returned neatly to each folder before returning it to the box. Materials in every box are in a specific and meaningful order. Keeping the items in their original order will ensure that future researchers are able to find what they need.
  • If you discover materials in need of preservation or that appear to be out of order, please alert the Reading Room staff immediately.
  • Some oversized and rolled materials may require staff assistance to view. Reading Room staff will seek to accommodate requests to view these materials with an appropriate staff member; however, if one is not immediately available, an appointment for a later time or date may be required.
  • Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications.
  • If you plan to be away from the Reading Room for more than 30 minutes at a time, please clear your personal items from your table and return Special Collections materials to the desk staff.
  • For most materials, digital photography is permitted within NYPL’s Photography & Photocopy Policy guidelines. Copies are available from Reading Room staff.