Both libraries and archives preserve materials and make them available for research use. However, there are some important differences between them:
- Libraries hold copies of published books and periodicals. Most archival materials are rare, unique, or original. They often come directly from the original creators, created in the process of their work or personal lives. Because most archival materials were not created to be published or widely circulated, there may be no other copies anywhere else in the world.
- Usually in a library, you are able to browse the shelves and check out material to take home with you. Archival materials - due to their age and rarity - are often kept in closed, climate-controlled storage and do not circulate. Archival collections are made accessible only in supervised "Reading Rooms," to ensure long-term preservation.
See the "Visiting Archives" tab above to learn more about what to expect when using a Reading Room.