Reference Services at the Folger

What We Offer

The reference librarians at the Folger are here to help researchers of all kinds, with search strategies, one-on-one reference assistance, and class instruction. With the temporary closure of the Reading Room in January 2020, for the major building renovation project, we have taken our services into the digital realm, but we are here for you now more than ever.

Our Ask A Librarian form is the best way to contact a reference librarian. There is also a March 2020 blog post that brings together many of our resources.

We are also now able to offer Virtual Reference Appointments. Whether you have questions about finding Shakespeare, early modern history, or theater history materials, have specific questions about what is held in the collection at the Folger Shakespeare Library, or just want to discuss your research project with someone who can point you to resources, we are here for you.

Use the Ask A Librarian form to submit your question and preferred time (EDT) and we will get back to you to schedule your appointment along with a Zoom link. The Zoom platform allows us to share our screens with you and talk one on one to help you, wherever you are!

Ask A Librarian

Fill out the Ask A Librarian form

How the Folger Reference staff can help you

No collection? No problem! The reference librarians are still able to answer many of your questions while the collection is off-site during our building renovation project.

Provenance of the Folger collection: While we won't have access to the items directly, we still have access to all of our records about the collection. In most cases, we should be able to give you an answer about provenance!

Scholarship relating to our collection: Even though our modern books are off-site too, we still have our catalog! Searching our catalog is a great way to find out what books are out there on your topic. We'd be happy to help you with your search and to find other libraries that might have the same books. We're also happy to help you access journal articles.

Non-copy-specific questions about early English books: Many early English books (STCs and Wings) are accessible through digital surrogates. We're happy to help track down digital versions of the books you're after, and we'll do our best to answer your questions.

Questions about Shakespeare and the early modern world: There are many helpful, freely accessible websites out there—one of them might have the answer to your question. Ask away, and we'll see what we can find for you!

Plan a future research visit: We're happy to help you identify materials that you might want to see when we reopen in 2022. We know grant funding and sabbatical planning sometimes needs to be done years in advance, so let us help you plan your future endeavors.

Virtual Reference Appointments: Want to discuss your research project with someone who can point you to resources? Sign up for a virtual reference appointment with a reference librarian! Submit your question and preferred time (EDT) via the Ask A Librarian form and we will get back to you to schedule your appointment along with a Zoom link. The Zoom platform allows us to share our screens with you and talk one on one to help you, wherever you are!


Will researchers have any on-site access to the collection?

No. For the safety of the collection, it is being moved off-site for the duration of the renovation project. Access to our building is restricted as well, for safety reasons.

Will researchers have any access to the collection anywhere?

Possibly. We are exploring possibilities to provide limited access to select collection items. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

Will researchers and/or Folger staff have access to modern books/journals?

While our modern collection is being moved off-site, there are a number of resources that researchers and Folger staff can use. Let us know what you're looking for and we'll see what we can do to help.

How can researchers find other copies of items to use at other libraries?

For modern scholarship: WorldCat is the best way to find what libraries near you have the books you need.

For early English books: ESTC is your best resource.

For early modern continental books: USTC (contributing libraries are primarily European).

For Shakespeare editions (excluding folios): Shakespeare Census

Can researchers still order digital images?

Information about Imaging Services during our renovation can be found on our Imaging and Permissions page.

Will researchers have access to subscription databases through the Folger?

Registered researchers will have access to select databases through their online request account. Don’t have one? Create an account and we’ll walk you through the rest.

Will Folger staff still conduct classes?

Yes! While we can’t host on-site classes or rare material displays, we're happy to do in-class presentations (for those in the DC area) or virtual classes (for those elsewhere). Contact us and we'll work out a plan!