Become a Reader

Registrar
201 E. Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
registrar@folger.edu
(202) 675-0306

The Folger Shakespeare Library welcomes researchers (or, as we call them, readers) from across the United States and around the world. To apply for reading privileges, please determine whether you qualify as a regular or a special-permission reader and submit your application materials as instructed. All applicants must show a current institutional or government-issued photo I.D. on arrival.

Regular readers

Regular reader cards are for academics, librarians, curators, and Folger docents.

These people are eligible for a regular reader card:

  • Full-time faculty from colleges and universities who are working in a field supported by Folger collections.
  • PhDs and PhD candidates who have successfully completed qualifying exams working in a field of study supported by Folger collections.
  • Librarians and curators from research institutions.
  • Folger docents (if they do not fall under any of the categories above) who have completed 600 hours or six years of consecutive service.

To apply: Submit one letter of reference from a professional colleague that verifies your qualifications. All letters must be from an institutional email address or on preprinted letterhead signed by the referee. Emailed references may be sent to registrar@folger.edu. If applying by mail, please address correspondence to the contact information provided at the top of this page.

Once you've received your reader's card, it is good for one year from date of issue. You may renew your card annually by contacting the registrar.

Special-permission readers

Special-permission reader cards are for students, educators, theater professionals, and other individuals who have a need to access the Folger collections.

The length of special-permission reading privileges is determined on a case-by-case basis. Special-permission readers can apply to have their privileges renewed by submitting a new application (including letters of reference) to the registrar.

These people are eligible for a special-permission reader card:

  • Graduate students at any stage before completing qualifying exams who have a research project that requires access to Folger collections.
  • Undergraduates at the junior or senior level who are working on a project for which the Folger provides unique resources.
  • Other scholars or individuals, such as artists, actors, booksellers, professional theater staff, teachers, and writers for whom Folger collections are critical for study, preparation, or production.

To apply: Submit a letter or email outlining your research project, the specific resources you need to consult at the Folger, and the research you've done to date to registrar@folger.edu. You must also supply two letters of reference that verify your academic qualifications and the relevance of the Folger collection to your research. If you are an undergraduate or a graduate student, one letter must be from your advisor. All letters must be from an institutional email address or on preprinted letterhead signed by the referee. If applying by mail, please address correspondence to the contact information provided at the top of this page.

Academic program participants

Participants in seminars, symposia, and workshops sponsored by the Folger Institute as well as participants in the Teaching Shakespeare Institute will automatically be registered as readers and do not need to provide a separate application. These reader cards can be renewed once without resubmitting an application.

If you are participating in a conference held at the Folger and would like to use the reading room, you will need to apply as either a regular or special permission reader depending on your academic qualifications.