Frequently Asked Questions

Special Collections is open to the public. To make an appointment, please call 301-504-5876 or e-mail Special Collections.

The Special Collections Reading Room is located on the 3rd floor of NAL. Please see visiting the Library for directions to NAL, parking availability and other information to help you plan your visit.

Special Collections is open by appointment only, Monday to Friday, except Federal holidays, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

You may contact Special Collections in any of the following ways:

Telephone: 301-504-5876
Fax: 301-504-7593
E-mail: Special Collections

Special Collections
National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351

Yes, you may contact us by phone, e-mail, fax or mail to arrange for materials to be pulled in anticipation of your scheduled visit.

Our collections are housed in a secured area that is closed to visitors. Staff will bring books and manuscript collections to the Special Collections Reading Room for researchers to review.

Special Collections materials do not circulate. Requests for photocopies and other types of reproductions will be filled in compliance with copyright restrictions and depend on the physical condition of the item.

Special Collections staff must evaluate and handle all materials requested for duplication. Duplication services are subject to staff availability.

In 2004, Special Collections transferred the "U.S. Forest Service Historical Photograph Collection" to the:

Still Picture Reference
Special Media Archives Services Division,
National Archives at College Park,
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, Maryland 20740-6001

Fax: 301-837-3621,

Special Collections accepts donations that meet the criteria of its collecting policy. Donors are required to fill out the Collection Survey Form provided below. For questions, contact Special Collections staff at 301-504-5876. Please see the policy below:

  1. Collection Development Policy (PDF|63KB)
  2. Collection Development Policy for USDA Employees (PDF|52KB)
  3. Collection Survey Form (PDF|49KB)

Individuals or organizations in the field of agriculture donate their personal papers or archives to Special Collections. These collections are surveyed, arranged, and ultimately described in finding aids. Rare books, photographs, and other unique items are also donated by individuals or institutions to Special Collections . Please e-mail the head of Special Collections for more information.

The National Archive and Records Administration collects the administrative records of the USDA, including records relating to civilian personnel, fiscal accounting, procurement, communications, printing, other common functions, and certain audiovisual records. On the other hand, Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library collects materials relating to agriculture in general and non-record material of the USDA. Materials such as the personal papers of USDA scientists and rare horticulture and botanical books fall within the collection policy of Special Collections.

NAL Special Collections typically does not own the copyrights to materials in its collections, so we cannot grant permission for researchers to publish these materials. It is the researcher’s responsibility to attempt to determine a work’s current copyright status, locate the copyright holder (if any), and obtain any necessary permissions prior to publishing.

Special Collections staff is prohibited from making monetary appraisals, but you may contact the following organizations to obtain contact information for qualified appraisers:

Society of American Archivists
600 S. Federal
Suite 504
Chicago, IL 60605

American Society of Appraisers
555 Herndon Parkway
Suite 125
Herndon, VA 20170

Appraisers Association of America
60 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10165

The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America
50 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020

  • Student Internships
    Special Collections provides students in the field of library science or agricultural related sciences the opportunity to handle and organize primary source materials, including manuscripts, rare books, photographs, posters, and artifacts. Credit may be earned for archives classes offered at local universities. Time requirements vary according to project specifications, but usually consist of 50 or 140 hours per semester. Projects may be customized to educational interests. A supervisory librarian provides instruction and completes paperwork required by the course instructor. To apply, please e-mail Special Collections or call 301-504-5876.

    Current list of internship opportunities. (PDF|24KB)

  • Volunteer Work
    Special Collections staff encourages those who enjoy historical materials to help preserve the wide range of agricultural collections housed in the library. There are a variety of treasures to explore and handle such as nursery and seed trade catalogs, nineteenth century photographs and lantern slides, documentation of scientific experiments and travels, rare books with hand-painted images, printing blocks, and much more! Volunteer work is customized according to an individual's skills and interests. Tasks may include organizing donated materials, re-housing items into archival folders and boxes, labeling items, database entry, preservation photocopying, scanning images, filing, and writing short descriptions of collections. The volunteer must agree to a regular work schedule. Please contact staff on current availability of volunteer work.

    To find out more about Special Collections, see the homepage.

    To ask questions and volunteer, please e-mail Special Collections or call 301-504-5876.