Applying for a reader card

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The Folger Shakespeare Library welcomes researchers (known here as "readers") from across the United States and around the world. To apply for reading privileges, please select the category that best reflects your needs and submit your application materials to All applicants must show a current government-issued photo I.D. on arrival. If applying by mail, please address correspondence to:

The Librarian
c/o The Registrar
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol St. SE
Washington, DC 20003

Regular readers

Regular readers are typically academic faculty, doctoral candidates, librarians, curators, or Folger docents. Reader's cards for regular readers are good for one year from date of issue. Cards may be renewed annually.


  • 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

Academic program participants

Participants in academic programs sponsored by the Folger may apply for reading privileges. Privileges are granted for one year from the date of issue. Privileges may be renewed by reapplication, with the approval of the program director.


Participants in:

  • Folger Institute Seminars
  • the Folger Undergraduate Seminar and/or
  • the NEH Teaching Shakespeare Institute
To apply: Letters submitted for admission into a Folger-sponsored program will be accepted for reading privileges. After one year, those who are full-time faculty, PhDs, and PhD candidates are automatically renewable. Others must provide a letter or email to the Registrar updating their research project. A letter from an advisor or department chair may also be requested.

Special permission readers

  • Undergraduate students
  • graduate students not yet at the doctoral level
  • educators
  • theater professionals and
  • other individuals may also access the Folger collections.

The length of special-permission reading privileges is determined on a case-by-case basis. Privileges are renewable by reapplication.


  • Graduate students (post-BA, but not yet at the dissertation stage) 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 research undertaken to date to 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.

Card renewal

If you already are a Folger Reader, but your card has expired or is lost, please come visit our Registrar, When you enter the Folger Shakespeare Library, tell the guard that you are here to see the Registrar. All that is required is five minutes of your time and some form of identification. We will update your information and re-orientate you to the Folger.