Library Special Collections

The Flaxman Library Special Collections at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago house an array of archives, rare films, artists’ publications, and other unique materials that support SAIC’s curriculum and allow for in-depth research with original source materials. All Special Collections are non-circulating, as they require special stewardship, but are made as widely available as possible for teaching and learning. We welcome class visits (by appointment) as well as individual researchers from the School and the general public. Representations of many of our Special Collections can be found in SAIC Digital Collections.

Remote video URL

Faculty Access

You can book a class visit to the Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection/Flaxman Library Special Collections at any point in the semester, either by sending an email to, via phone during business hours, 312.899.7486, or in person.

Email reservations require the following information: 

  • Name, department, and course title.
  • The exact date and time you would like to come in or a range of possible dates. Visits can range from a minimum of 45 minutes to the entire class period.
  • The accession number(s) of the item(s) requested (we do not need title or author information.) Ideally, all items need to be requested two working days in advance. All titles that are labeled "Restricted Access" cannot be pulled by the student assistants. To view those please send an email directly to, a minimum of one working day in advance. These works can then be viewed and handled by you and your students just like all other collection material.

To make your selection of material, please start by browsing our Digital Collections.

For the safety and necessary supervision of the collection we will minimize the amount of any additional titles that can be pulled while the class is in session.

If you are unsure about selecting the most pertinent material for yourself and your students we are happy to assist you. In that case please email your syllabus to and we can make recommendations or prepare a selection for you.

Fall and Spring Semester Hours start Tuesday, September 5
Monday–Thursday: 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Friday: 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. (only for scheduled class visits)
Sunday: Closed

Propose an Event or Exhibition

We welcome exhibition and event proposals from SAIC students, faculty, staff, and outside curators, especially if they engage with material from Flaxman Library Special Collections or the subject of artists' publishing, multiples, ephemera, etc. Please also consider using the reading room for critique sessions, performances, class discussions, or for any other course activities that may benefit from such a stimulating setting.

To propose an exhibition or event, please email the following information to Proposals are reviewed on a rolling basis.

  • Curatorial Statement: A short exhibition description/narrative of the proposed exhibition or event (one paragraph to one page in length)
  • Exhibition Inventory: A potential list of what you will display in the exhibition cases or the Reading Room. If you would like to use any materials from Flaxman Special Collections (Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection, Randolph Street Gallery Archives, etc.) or Flaxman Library Main Collection, we just need the accession numbers of the items.
  • Time Frame: The proposed length of the exhibition and date range preference if you have one. Typically our exhibitions last an average of 3 weeks, but we are open to longer or shorter ones if there is space available in the schedule.
  • Installation Needs: You will install and uninstall the exhibition with the help of our staff during Reading Room open hours. Please let us know if you foresee a need for any special equipment or assistance. For events, this includes any AV equipment and set-up. Some audio-visual equipment (e.g. PA system, digital projector, laptop, video camera) can be provided.

Watch a selection of past events


For resources on Artists’ Books and self-publishing, please see our research guide, Artists’ Books Resources.