Special Collections Frequently Asked Questions


Q. If I travel to the State Library to do research, where can I stay?

A. The City of Tumwater's web site lists several hotels under Tourism & Visitors.

Q. Do you have to make an appointment to use the Special Collections?

A. While no appointment is necessary, you may wish to arrange for materials in advance of your visit, as many items take time to retrieve from their secure location.  To do so please contact Sean Lanksbury, Pacific Northwest & Special Collections Librarian, at [email protected] or 360-704-5279.

If he is not available, you can also contact the Public Services Staff via email, phone chat, and mail. 

Q. How can I search the collections?

A. All of the items in the Rare and Manuscript collections are in the online catalog.
This link will take you to the list in the catalog of our Territorial Collection items.
The catalog also gives you the option of searching only the Maps Collection.  Not all maps are in the catalog yet, but the collection is currently being added.

Q. Do I have to have a library card to use the Special Collections?

A. You do not need a library card to use the Special Collections at the State Library.

Q. I can't get to the State Library.  Can someone do my research for me?

A. Although reference librarians are happy to try to answer questions to the best of their ability, the staff of the library cannot perform research for patrons due to limited staffing. We are always happy to help you determine if a visit to the collection will meet your research needs.

Q. Do you have genealogy materials in Special Collections?

A. There is a separate Genealogy Collection at the State Library.  However, there will also be biographical and historical information in Special Collections items that could assist in genealogical research.

Q. Can I make a donation of money to the State Library?

A. The State Library The Washington State Library will happily accept donations made online via credit card or through the mail. Donations can be made in honor or memory of another person.  Include the name of the person with your donation and if you'd like someone else to be notified about the gift, please include their address as well.  To help support and preserve Washington's oldest cultural institution donate, please visit our donation page.

Q. Can I donate materials to the State Library's collection?

A. Yes, as long as the donated materials are within the scope of the collection.  For more details, please review the State Library's materials donation guide.

 Q. Does the State Library want to buy my old books from me?

A. The State Library purchases materials through antiquarian dealerships. Generally speaking it is far easier to accept a tax-deductible donation. 

Q. Can State Library staff tell me what my old books are worth?

A. By Washington State law, libraries, librarians, and curators are not allowed to appraise materials. However, antiquarian booksellers do it for a living. The easiest way to find an antiquarian bookseller is to visit the website of their main professional organization, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA). Regionally, you can find booksellers who deal in used and rare books through the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association. You can also look in your local Yellow Pages under "booksellers." If you would like to try to search for yourself to determine a likely value, you can use sites like bookfinder.com to get a ballpark price for your item if it is currently on the market.

 Q. Where can I find someone to repair my old books?

A. The State Library cannot recommend a specific book conservator, but the American Institute for Conservation and the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation has a Professional Conservator Search online.  Select "Books and Paper" as a specialty from the drop down menu provided. You could also visit the Books Arts Guild of Seattle online to see if they have any resources to recommend or search your local yellow pages, or any of the online yellow pages, under "bookbinders."