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Special Collections Library FAQ

A Special Collections library houses and cares for materials that include archives, manuscripts, historic photographs, newspapers and rare books. Our purpose is to collect, preserve, promote, and foster access to primary source materials in our main areas of strength which are in part: Civil War, World War II, Kentucky authors, Mammoth Cave, Western Kentucky University, genealogy, folklore, Kentucky Shakers, and politics.

Although the library is a part of Western Kentucky University, the research library is open to anyone with a research interest - students, faculty, staff or the general public.

You will need to make an appointment for using the library on Mondays and Fridays. You may make an appointment by calling 270-745-5083 or by emailing spcol@wku.edu or use our Appointment Request Form.

Please check our homepage for our most up-to-date hours. Special Collections also follows the academic university calendar and is closed for major holidays. Please call (270) 745-5083 with any questions about our schedule.

Limited staff and security considerations are the main factors in limiting our hours. Bibliographic instruction and evening/weekend class sessions may be scheduled by contacting spcol@wku.edu.

No materials in Special Collections are not available to circulate, which means they cannot be checked out; instead, they must be used in the in the Reading Room under staff supervision. Digitized copies may be available.

Yes, the Special Collections Library provides one of the state's richest sources of information on Kentucky family history. The sources include family Bible records, family files with extensive notes and compilations by genealogists, a variety of vital resource materials on microfilm, family history and printed genealogies, church records, family and personal papers, marriage and death records, city directories, and other family research related materials.

Please note: We are happy to assist genealogists in their quest for specific information regarding ancestors. However, because of staffing issues, we cannot do in-depth genealogical or historical research. If this is needed, patrons must conduct their own research on-site or hire a professional researcher. We are happy to provide a list of local researchers.

There are three search portals for materials in Special Collections: for books, journals, etc., please use the one search box; for WKU Archives, Manuscript materials, photographs and illustrative material, please use our digital portals KenCat and TopScholar.

At this time we do not request an ID, but you will be asked to fill out an information sheet upon your first visit.

Yes, unless their fragility prohibits, many items in the Kentucky Library Research Collections may be photocopied.  Photocopies cost ten cents.  To arrange for publication quality reproductions, see our Services and Fees.  

We have a classroom that is available where an instructor may use departmental collections. Classes of up to 50 students can be accommodated. For availability e-mail spcol@wku.edu

We cannot offer any appraisal services but we recommend Peter Van Wingen brochure, Your Old Books  for basic questions about rare books and book values. Additionally, good sources for determining the value of a book are the websites, viaLibri and Addall. We also suggest you find a qualified appraiser at American Society of Appraisers.

Based on the citation style researchers are requested to use, the citation will vary. However, all Special Collections item citations must include the name of the collection, box and folder number, and any other useful unique forms of identification. A general format looks like this: Letter to Ellen Helm, November 12, 1914. Margie May Helm Papers, Series I, Box 3, Folder 1, Western Kentucky University, Special Collections.

We maintain collections of rare books and unique archival materials that make possible in-depth research on selected topics. Originally called the "Kentucky Library" with a mission to collect "all things Kentucky," the collection quickly grew to encompass the world. We house rare books, photographs, sheet music, rare periodicals, and specialized research collections in diverse languages or formats dating from the 15th century to today. Please see our collection development policy as this explains in more detail our collecting emphasis and priorities.

Yes, free Wi-Fi is available in our reading room.

You may only bring a laptop, tablet, phone, digital camera, paper and pencil. Your additional belongings can be placed in our keyed storage lockers.

We always welcome queries from individuals and organizations interested in adding to our collections. Contact us via phone or email if have something you would like to donate.

We are located in the Kentucky Building on the Western Kentucky University’s campus. The gps address is 1444 Kentucky Street, Bowling Green, KY. Visitor parking is available across the street near a CVS drugstore, in the Kentucky Museum lot and in the nearby Alumni Square Garage at 292 Alumni Avenue.

All areas of the Special Collections Library are wheel chair-accessible. Handicapped parking is located in front of the building. If you have other disabilities or special needs, please contact the facilities manager for assistance and information.


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 Last Modified 4/19/22