Virtual Reference

Virtual Reference

In Special Collections

Special Collections defines 'virtual reference' as any request for information not made in person or readily answered over the phone.  For tracking purposes, it is our policy that all virtual reference requests must be submitted in writing.  

Use one of the following options to submit a written request

  • Preferred: email Special Collections at wash.dcpl@dc.gov.
  • Use the ‘contact us’ form located at the bottom of this webpage.  Submit your query as a ‘general request.’
  • Send a written letter to DC Public Library, Attn: Washingtoniana - Room 307, 901 G Street NW, Washington DC 20001. If you request a response via U.S. mail, submit a self-addressed stamped envelope along with your request.  If your request requires photocopies, also submit a check for $1 made out to ‘DC Treasurer’ to cover nominal charges for photocopying.
  • If you are unable to use any of the methods above, call us during operating hours at 202-727-1213 (Washingtoniana), 202-727-1211 (Black Studies), or 202-727-0233 (Peabody Room).  We will submit the question on your behalf.

When submitting a request

  • Please provide as much detailed information about your query as possible (names, dates, locations, alternate spellings, etc.)
  • Include your email address and telephone number, in case we need to ask follow-up questions about your request.
  • Email is our preferred method of response.  Where possible, relevant documentation less than 3 pages in length will be scanned and attached.
Expect to hear from us in 5-7 business days (may be longer for U.S. mail).  Special Collections provides high-quality reference service to customers, connecting them to appropriate information resources - both for queries within our collections and through referrals.  It is outside our scope to perform an extensive investigation into any single topic on your behalf, however we can advise you on sources to hire a local researcher. Finally, if your request is specific to photo or archival research, additional considerations may apply.