FIRST: Talk to a Carleton Reference Librarian before traveling to an archive -- there may be easier ways to get access to the material you're interested in!
SECOND: Talk to a local librarian, curator, or archivist at the library or archive WEEKS OR MONTHS BEFORE you want to visit. You will want to ask questions like:
- Are the collections I'm interested in currently accessible ("open")?
- Protip: Sometimes collections will not be open if they were recently acquired by the Archive. Some collections or portions of collections are closed either for a specific length of years or indefinitely because of sensitive content, personal information, or the fragile state of an item.
- Do I need to request items ahead of time? (sometimes you need to give them 24-48+ hours to bring the material to the reading room, if it's stored off campus)
- Are there complete finding aids for these collections?
- What forms of identification will I need to bring?
- What are your hours? Will you be open while I'm visiting?
- Do I need to bring any letters of introduction? (yes, this is a thing!)
- Do you allow laptops / iPads / paper notebooks / pens / pencils in the reading room?
- Do you allow photography in the reading room? Do I need to pay for this?
- Do you digitize materials for patrons on demand? How much does this cost?
- Protip: Sometimes you can ask them to digitize small amounts of material (i.e. 1 or 2 pages), but you will probably need to pay for this service. Ask your major department if they have any funds for services like this.
- Have any parts of the collections I'm interested in already been digitized? Are these scans available online?
- Is there a limit to the number of boxes/items I can request in a day?