How Your Reference Requests are Fulfilled at Hagley Library

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Have you ever wondered what happens when you request an item from the Hagley Library? Whether it is for a reference question sent through AskHagley or a personal visit to the Soda House reading room, the very act of gathering requested materials can be anything from simply pulling a box from the Soda House stacks to grabbing a bunch of books from the Library to donning a coat and venturing into our cold storage room for temperature-sensitive materials in the Hall of Records. This month let’s take a brief look at how Hagley Library items are retrieved for viewing and research. 

First, Hagley Library Reference staff members receive a request notice from researchers, either in the form of an emailed list sent to or, for published materials (books, pamphlets, trade catalogs), via notification from EOS, our online public access catalog (OPAC).

The next thing to discern is which collection the requested item resides in. For archival materials, the Soda House is the primary residence (see above). For both published and audiovisual materials, most items are stored in the Library building (see right). Hagley also has an offsite storage facility, the Hall of Records, which holds all types of collection material.  

If the requested materials are in the Soda House, a staff member will then refer to the shelf list to seek the correct row and bay of shelving and find the item there. Placing findings on a cart, the items are either stored for future use or directly brought out to the researcher in the reading room.

Now, if the item resides in the Library building, a Reference staff member will print out a paper call slip and journey into the stacks (for published materials) or make note of the box number and location from the shelf list in the AVD storage room (for photographic/audiovisual items). Once the items are found, they are brought to the Soda House for research.  

If the requested item is at the Hall of Records (see right), we first acquire the building’s keys and then drive the short distance to the Hall. The building has numerous storage rooms, including a cold storage room where materials requiring cool temperatures for long-term preservation, such as photographic negatives and films, are kept. Once the items are found, they are brought to the Soda House. 

At the proper time, after researchers have completed their hard work, the process goes into reverse, and all items that are pulled are returned to their home in the Soda House, Library, or Hall of Records. 

Doug McQuirter is the Reference Archivist at Hagley Museum and Library.