The Congregational Library & Archives' historic reading room, located at 14 Beacon Street in Boston, is open to anyone interested in learning more about the Congregational story. 

The policies listed below are in place for the safety and security of our staff, patrons, and collections. Please review them carefully before your visit and email with any questions.


  • When is the Congregational Library & Archives reading room open?

    The Congregational Library & Archives is open by appointment with a morning block from 9 to 12 am and an afternoon block from 1 to 4 pm. The library closes from 12 to 1 pm for staff lunch. Additional information can be found below in the “Visiting the Reading Room” section below.

  • If I am coming in to do research, do I need to request materials in advance?

    While not required, requesting material in advance allows us the time to gather material for you so that it is available upon arrival. We also encourage you to look through our catalog in advance of your trip.

  • Can I bring my own camera to take pictures of materials?

    Cameras, cell phones, and tablets can be used for taking pictures of material, but all flash settings must be turned off. More information can be found in the “Visiting the Reading Room” section below.

  • Can I bring any food or drink into the reading room?

    Food and drink are not allowed in the reading room under any circumstances. We do have lockers available, and drinks can be left and used at the lockers.

  • How do I request permission to publish the image of an item from your collections?

    Information related to permissions of publishing can be found in the “Publishing” section below.

  • What are the fees for ordering photos or scans of an item from your collections?

    Fee schedules for ordering of reproductions can be found below in the “Reproductions and Citations” section below.

  • While in the library, how often can I request material for viewing?

    All requests for material must be submitted by 11 am during the morning block and 3 pm during the afternoon block. Large requests may need to be broken down into parts depending on their size and at the discretion of the staff.

  • Are the library stacks browseable?

    For safety and security, our library stacks are closed and can only be accessed by library staff. Material that is in the reading room bookshelves can be accessed by patrons at any time.


  • Appointments/Scheduling

    The library is open for limited in-person visits by appointment only. The CLA is mask welcoming, but masks are not required. We will continue to provide masks and hand sanitizer for those who want them. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 positivity rates and will reconsider our policies as needed.

    Capacity and visit length will be determined by staff and limited to 9 am to 12 pm, and/or 1 to 4 pm, Monday through Friday. The library will be closed from 12 to 1 pm.

    If you wish to make an appointment, please look at our public calendar (you will need to sign into a Microsoft account) for available dates and times and send a request to

    If you do not have access to a Microsoft account, email with your preferences for appointments and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. We recommend that you allow at least one week advance notice for your appointment and search our catalog for items you want to look at during your visit. 

    Please note that appointments are only for yourself. Any additional visitors will need to be cleared with the library.

    If you are sick, please reschedule your appointment.

    If you have an outstanding health issue that may impact your chances of visiting, we encourage you to reach out to, and we would be happy to work on providing appropriate accommodations.

  • Borrowing Books

    The Congregational Library & Archives loans items from its circulating collection to members, either by mail or in person, and is a participant in the ATLA Reciprocal Borrowing Program. A borrower from an ATLA Reciprocal Borrowing institution must be in good standing and show proof of current enrollment at a participating library. Lending is restricted to contemporary (less than 35 years old) books. Email questions and borrowing requests to

    Lending Period: 4 weeks

    Renewals: 4 weeks, limited to 1 renewal per item. Please request renewals by phone or to

    Book Limits: 4 books per person at any time 

    Overdue fee is 25 cents per day. Books not returned within a reasonable time of notification must be replaced at the borrower's expense.

  • Reproductions and Citations

    Please allow a minimum of 2-3 days for requests to be processed. A staff member will follow up and give you a timetable for deliverables.



    In Person: $.75 per page

    By Mail: $.75 per page, plus postage

    Book Limits: 4 books per person at any time 

    Patrons visiting in person are welcome to bring digital cameras/phones and take as many photos as they like.



    Large or fragile materials require us to take digital photographs. Please note that requests that require more than an hour of staff time or for fragile materials may be declined at the staff’s discretion.

    Basic Resolution Scanning: $1 per image

    High Resolution Scanning:

    We reserve the right to refuse any scanning requests that would damage the original item.

    The CLA has a book cradle scanner that can be used for scanning books/volumes in high-resolution TIFF or JPEG.

    The files we can produce are not preservation level quality (ex. FADGI compliant).

    The files we produce have been accepted for publication usage in the past, but we cannot guarantee they will meet the standards of every publisher or printer.

    $30 per image



    Notice Concerning Copyright Restrictions

    The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.

    Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

    This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

    If material is protected by copyright, it cannot be reproduced for any purpose other than research, unless granted specific permission by the copyright holder.


    Payments may be made by mail using check or money order, or online through PayPal. Make checks payable to the Congregational Library & Archives.

  • Publishing


    Send requests to publish via this form to

    Credit line: Courtesy of the Congregational Library & Archives, Boston, Massachusetts.

    For photographs, if the photographer is identified, the credit line should read: Photograph by Jane Doe. Courtesy of the Congregational Library, Boston, Massachusetts.

    This credit line must be included for each photograph reproduced. Example citation for a specific item: “Reflections on fourteen decades, in the North Falmouth Congregational Church records, 17.11.1 N81.5 NORFCC. The Congregational Library & Archives, Boston, MA.”



    Permission is granted for one-time, non-exclusive, world-wide rights in the medium and language specified. This agreement applies to the project specified in this agreement, and this project only.

    Permission is granted only for one edition of a publication (defined as any number of reprintings whereby the text remains essentially unchanged), or to a single video, digital, television, or film production for the life of the production with unlimited rebroadcasts.

    Permission to publish is contingent upon the acknowledgement of this request from Congregational Library & Archives.

    Requester agrees to pay for fees for publication and reproduction of images. See Congregational Library & Archives fee schedule, which is subject to change.

    Please be sure the material you are requesting is under the Congregational Library & Archives’ purview. The Congregational Library & Archives cannot grant permission to cite or quote from published works including, but not limited to, books, broadsides, pamphlets, and journals. When a work has been published, the intellectual copyright lies with the author until the copyright expires. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine the status of collection items and to secure any permissions necessary for their reproduction and publication.



    Non-Profit Publication Use: $25

    Commercial Use, Domestic Publication: $100

    Commercial Use, International Publication: $150


    Payments may be made by mail using check or money order, or online through PayPal. Make checks payable to the Congregational Library & Archives.

  • Visiting the Reading Room

    The following reading room policies are in place to protect the holdings and provide the best environment for our visitors. Violating any of the below policies can result in removal from the reading room. Additional or severe violations may result in being banned from the premises.

    The reading room is open to visitors five days a week, Monday-Friday, from 9 am to 12 pm and 1 to 4 pm.



    All visitors should check in with the staff member working at the reference desk in the reading room when they arrive.


    All visitors are welcome to bring in a laptop or tablet for use in the reading room. Several outlets are available under our reading room table.

    The reading room has one desktop computer available for visitor usage. Please note that this computer cannot be used to print anything, but you are welcome to bring a USB drive for transferring documents.

    Camera/Cell Phones:

    Visitors are welcome to take photos of our collections with a camera or cell phone, as long as the flash and sound effects are off.

    Cell phones should be muted or set to vibrate. If you need to take a call, we ask that you step out of the reading room and into the hallway.

    Research Materials:

    Pencils and loose-leaf paper are welcome in the reading room. The CLA can also provide paper and pencils if needed.

    Pens and markers of any kind are not allowed.

    Notebooks and binders of any kind are not allowed.

    Food and Drink:

    All food must remain in your bags or backpacks and cannot be eaten in the foyer or reading room.

    Drinks can be stored inside the locker, but you must drink them at the lockers and they cannot enter the reading room.

    The library is unable to store any outside food or drinks in a fridge or freezer.

    Personal Scanning Devices: No scanners of any kind are allowed in the reading room. All images must be taken by cameras, tablets, or cell phones.

    Personal Identification: For patrons using our rare books or any archival material, a photo ID is required.

    Lockers and Personal Belongings:

    Lockers are available for visitors who arrive with bags, backpacks, and laptop sleeves. Any items other than laptops, paper, pencils, cameras and/or cell phones must be placed in lockers upon arrival and can be removed when you take a break or leave. The lockers are locked, and keys are only in possession of the staff.

    Outside books are not allowed in the reading room and must remain in a bag or stored in the locker. If a visitor wants to use a personal book for comparison, they must ask permission from the staff member first.

    Noise Levels: Our reading room is an active area and we cannot guarantee a silent studying environment. Staff may converse with one another and other visitors at any time. The reading room also looks out into the Granary Burying Ground, which is an active hub that generates a lot of noise depending on the season and time of day. We suggest bringing headphones or other noise-canceling devices as needed.



    Requesting Material:

    If visitors request material ahead of time, the staff can make those materials available upon their arrival.

    Material can be requested throughout your visit, but staff have the discretion to reject requests depending on size and current reading room activity.

    Some of our archival material is in offsite storage and that is noted in our catalog with “Offsite – Please Email.” These materials take a minimum of 2 days to be recalled, in some cases as much as 5-7 days.

    Visitors must request new material no later than 11 am in the morning block and 3 pm in the afternoon block.

    Viewing Material:

    Each visitor is allowed to take one volume, one folder, or one book to their space at a time, swapping them out when they want to view something else.

    If a visitor wants to have an additional item for comparison, they must first ask the staff on duty for permission.

    Physical Usage of Materials:

    Some materials might be considerably more fragile than others. Staff will provide the necessary tools, such as book cradles, in such instances. Failure to fully comply with the procedures laid out by the staff may result in the removal of reading room privileges.

    The CLA has facsimile copies of certain material. If the originals are in particularly bad condition, the staff can choose to only allow the facsimile for use.

    Visitors are required to use CLA-supplied cloth gloves when using photographic material.

    Microfilm Reader Usage:

    The library has a computer which is for the dedicated use of the microfilm reader. If multiple visitors require the use of the microfilm reader, the staff member will come up with a schedule to allow for shared access.

    A “how-to” guide is with the microfilm machine to help with its use. Images can be saved to the desktop and then transferred via email or a USB drive.

    The microfilm computer wipes data each night, so all needed information must be removed before a visitor leaves for the day.

    Privacy Concerns with Specific Material:

    We strive to remove sensitive material such as Social Security numbers, bank accounts, medical records, or other potentially invasive information. Visitors are not allowed to reproduce these records and should immediately inform staff members if they encounter any.

    If you are unsure if something counts as a privacy concern, a staff member would be happy to take a look for you.

    Some of our material will have access restrictions and these will be noted in the catalog. If not noted in the catalog, a staff member will let you know about any restrictions on requested material.

    Reproduction Services: The CLA does not have an accessible photocopier/scanner. Staff can provide scanning or photocopies, but they require at least a day to be completed. Scans can be sent via email or Dropbox, and photocopies can be sent in the mail depending on the circumstances. Pricing and additional details can be found on the “Reproductions and Citations” section above.



    Lunch Break: The library currently closes fully from 12 to 1 pm for staff lunches. During that period, all visitors must leave the reading room. Visitors are welcome to leave their set-up as is or use one of the provided lockers. The reading room will be inaccessible to all non-staff during the hour.

    End of Day Procedures: All materials must be returned to the staff 10 minutes before the 4 pm closing of the reading room.