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Exhibits Guidelines


Exhibits are a valuable part of the University Libraries' public services outreach and user education program. Exhibits inform, educate, and promote the Libraries' information resources and services, and, at times, entertain. Exhibits provide an excellent opportunity for the Libraries to engage in collaborative projects, especially with faculty members and others in the university community.

The Libraries hosts a variety of exhibits including, for example, displays of current imprint book jackets, selected examples from the collections, and traveling exhibits of artifacts, documents, and books. Individual units use a variety of exhibit “equipment” ranging from bulletin boards to glazed, lighted cabinets, both free standing and built-in.

This policy defines the philosophy and goals fpror exhibits and public art displays throughout the Libraries, identifies responsibility for these programs, and defines acceptance guidelines and general policies. Smaller exhibits which are regarded by Libraries staff as "displays" are covered by this policy with the exception of extent of publicity. Libraries staff involved in organizing, curating, and/or mounting exhibits or displays are deemed to be acting within the course of official duties and under the authority of the University of Washington Libraries.

The display of public art is an important part of providing welcoming and pleasant facilities and also enriches the Libraries' service and outreach programs. The Libraries' permanent art collection and Art on Loan exhibits are not covered by this policy, but rather, by the Libraries' Public Art Policy.

The Senior Associate Dean of University Libraries, in consultation with others, will be responsible for updating and revising this policy.


  • Promote the diverse holdings and scholarly value of specific library collections
  • Promote the role of the library, its collections, resources, services, and staff as central to the research and teaching programs of the university
  • Nourish intellectual, aesthetic, and creative growth
  • Educate the university community on particular topics
  • Enhance the strategic mission and development goals of the library
  • Encourage individuals to contribute to the expansion of knowledge
  • Support university events, programs, symposia, activities, and accomplishments
  • Promote university and community relations
  • Recognize library supporters, friends, and donors

Criteria for Selection

Exhibits in the Libraries will be selected with reference to the Exhibits Policy and Goals Statements. Exhibit spaces are made available, in accordance with these Guidelines, to University and University-related departments, groups, and organizations, to student organizations registered with the UW Student Activities Office, and to exhibitors sponsored by the Libraries.

The following criteria apply as exhibit proposals are considered, although not all exhibits will meet all criteria. The Libraries reserves the right to approve or disapprove all exhibit requests, to have final approval for the layout of the exhibit, and to make all decisions regarding length of exhibit duration, placement of the exhibit within a library, and content of publicity.

  • Educational content ranging from advanced scholarly contributions to general informational value
  • Relevance to library collections
  • Broadness of appeal of the main theme
  • Appropriateness of subject, technique, and style for intended location and audience
  • Appropriateness to special events, anniversaries, holidays, etc.
  • Relation to other events or exhibits in the community
  • Representation of an influential movement, genre, trend, or national culture
  • When the topic is controversial, an objective presentation is required
  • Does not promote the partisan political, religious, or social doctrines of any single person or group
  • Reflects vitality, originality, artistic expression, and experimentation
  • Does not promote the financial profit of any individual, organization, or commercial enterprise
  • Ease and cost of installation
  • Satisfies public safety considerations, e.g. free standing displays, hands-on exhibits, etc.
  • Exhibitor agrees to sign an exhibit proposal with the Libraries

Exhibit Proposal Process and Forms

Process for proposing an exhibit in the University of Washington Libraries

  1. Exhibitor reads University Libraries Exhibits Guidelines
  2. Exhibitor reviews Room Use Policy and looks for an open exhibit timeframe via the schedule and calendars. See Exhibit Locations, Room Use Policies, Schedules, and Calendars.
  3. Exhibitor completes Exhibit Proposal Form.
  4. Libraries contact for the exhibit location approves or rejects proposal in a timely manner, based on the Exhibit Criteria for Selection and/or schedule. Exhibitor is contacted with result.
  5. If approved, Libraries contact forwards copies of Exhibit Proposal Form to the Dean of University Libraries, Publications Coordinator, and Development Officer/Events and Marketing.
  6. Exhibit is added to the calendar for the exhibit location and to the general Libraries calendar.
  7. At exhibit installation, the Exhibit Release Form [pdf] is signed by Libraries exhibitor, sponsor and contact.
  8. Exhibit Proposal and Exhibit Release forms are retained in the approving department's files.

Exhibit Locations, Room Use Policies, Schedules, and Calendars

The Libraries has a number of exhibit locations in the Suzzallo and Allen Libraries, the Odegaard Undergraduate Library, and the other campus and branch libraries. Exhibit space is also available at the University of Washington Tacoma Library and the University of Washington Bothell/Cascadia College Library. Some exhibit spaces are managed by a unit for the designated use of that unit.

Listed below are exhibit spaces that may be scheduled according to the use policy for each facility. The Dean of University Libraries has delegated to staff members listed as "Libraries Representative" in the "Room Use Policies" the authority to approve exhibits on behalf of the Dean of University Libraries.

Libraries events and exhibits information is located on the Libraries Web site's Events and Exhibits page. See the publicity section of this document for information about this and other ways to promote your exhibit.

To view the Use Policy/Description of Facility and the schedule for a particular exhibit location please select from the following list.

Space not specifically designated for exhibits, such as corridors or study areas, may be considered for a temporary, special exhibit. To inquire about this type of space, contact the Senior Associate Dean of University Libraries in the Suzzallo and Allen Libraries, the Director of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library for space in that library, and the library director or head in other libraries. The Dean of University Libraries has delegated to these staff members the authority to approve exhibits in these locations on behalf of the Dean of University Libraries.


Exhibitors are solely responsible for funding all costs associated with the exhibit, including but not limited to shipping, installation, dismantling, and insurance. Exhibitors are responsible for publicity beyond that provided by the Libraries. See the publicity section of this document for more information.

Security and Insurance

Exhibits are often located in high traffic areas whose visibility reduces the likelihood of damage or theft of materials; however, the Libraries takes no responsibility for the security or welfare of exhibits at any time, including during transport, installation, or dismantling. Before an exhibit is installed, exhibitors and the Libraries representative must sign a release, indemnifying the UW from any responsibility for loss or damage. The original signed Exhibit Release Form [pdf] will be retained in the unit. A copy of the Form will be sent to the Office of the Dean of University Libraries.

Insurance coverage, if needed, is the responsibility of the Exhibitor. Insurance to cover the value of the exhibit is available for on-campus exhibitors from UW's Office of Risk Management. Exhibitors from off-campus are encouraged to insure their exhibit through their own agent.


Exhibits and displays must be placed so as to accommodate physical safety considerations. There cannot be loose cords or cabling; free-standing units must be secure; and ease of egress from the exhibit for emergency purposes must be assured. The exhibits must be set up so as to accommodate disability access.

Best Practices

Exhibits must be well prepared, organized, and aesthetically pleasing. In order to most effectively promote a Libraries exhibits program, units are encouraged to have a schedule of exhibitions planned for six to twelve months in the future.

Exhibit Duration: Exhibits should have specific start and end dates, although the end date may be extended if the schedule allows. As a general rule, exhibits should be on display for two to three months, but shorter exhibit times are permissible. Since exhibit conditions place a strain on library materials being displayed, exhibits running longer than three months are not encouraged, and should be undertaken only under exceptional circumstances.

NOTE:  Duration for exhibits in the Allen Library North Lobby is limited to 6 weeks.

Exhibit Materials Handling: Exhibitors must handle books and artifacts gently and with conservation concerns in mind. In general, books should be displayed on bookstands, cradles or supports. Exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided. Panels with halogen light and cases with interior lighting can also be damaging to exhibited materials. Exhibitors should consider using facsimiles for fragile materials such as newspapers and photographs.

Special Collections and Preservation staff are experienced in the proper handling and display of unique and fragile materials, and can provide guidance to library exhibitors. Special arrangements should be made in advance for consultation and questions by contacting the Manager of Special Collections Operations or the Preservation Administrator.

See these sources for more information:

Generally, when circulating Libraries materials are used in a display, the materials must be checked out using an exhibition check-out card available from Circulation. This will cause a special message to appear in the UW Libraries Catalog that the item in "Unavailable" for the duration of the exhibit. Exhibitors may place a card in the display noting that the materials will be available for check-out after the exhibit ends.

Exhibit Text/Labels: Text should be word processed and printed on a high quality printer if not professionally designed and/or typeset.

  • Typeface should be a legible font such as Times New Roman, Century, or Arial
  • Text should have contrast, such as black on white.
  • Introductory panels should be 150-170 words or less
  • Captions for individual items should be 20-30 words
  • Font size should be at least 28 point for introductory text panels. For secondary text panels, 18 point is acceptable if the reader can be within 20 inches. For text that only contains a few lines of copy, 14 point is acceptable.

Exhibit Support Materials:

  • Bibliographies, brochures and other promotional material and/or instructional materials to accompany an exhibit are strongly recommended but not mandatory.
  • Exhibitors are strongly encouraged to create an accompanying Website to be linked to from the Libraries' website's Events & Exhibits page.
  • Exhibitors are responsible for preparing the content of the publications associated with their exhibit. Examples include: a bibliographical list of items displayed; a double sided brochure; an exhibit catalog.

Traveling Exhibits will be complemented, if possible, by exhibits of materials from the Libraries collections.

Sound, video, or computer displays accompanying exhibits will be installed and removed by the exhibitor in consultation with library staff.


  • For information to be placed on the Events & Exhibits webpage, send copies of the approved proposal to the Libraries Communications Officer.
  • Flyers, posters, handbills should contain consistent messages and should present the Libraries official logo. The Libraries Communications Officer is available for consultation in the creation of flyers, posters, and handbills.
  • The placement of posters in the Suzzallo and Allen Libraries should be coordinated with Facilities.
  • The Libraries Communications Officer is also available for advice on media contacts.

Receptions & Exhibits Related Activities

Rooms in the Libraries may be, on occasion, available for receptions and other activities (workshops, talks, demonstrations) linked to exhibits. These should be discussed with the specific Libraries exhibit contact who will consult the room use policy and check the schedule to see whether a reception or other activity can be held.

Some rooms carry a room-use charge and the exhibitor will be responsible for meeting these costs unless other arrangements have been made prior to the reception or event. If alcohol will be served, consult the Serving and Sale of Alcoholic Beverages at University Facilities website.

Dispute Resolution

The University Libraries supports academic freedom and the free expression of opinion. The Libraries will not exercise any censorship of materials such as books, images, labels, catalogs, or promotional literature that do not violate the guidelines as expressed in the University Libraries Exhibits Guidelines or local, state, or federal laws.

The University Libraries subscribes to the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights as it applies to exhibit spaces and bulletin boards, specifically:

The library should not censor or remove an exhibit because some members of the community may disagree with its content. Those who object to the content of any exhibit held at the library should be able to submit their complaint and/or their own exhibit proposal to be judged according to the policies established by the library.

Challenges of a display, exhibit, or printed materials posted or displayed in a UW library may be sent in writing to the Associate Dean of University Libraries for Research and Instructional Services for areas in the Suzzallo and Allen Libraries, the Director of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library for space in that library, and the library director or head in other libraries. The Libraries will respond to written statements as follows:

  • The individual will be notified that the Libraries has received his/her written statement of concern.
  • A copy of the statement is to be forwarded through the supervisory chain.
  • A review process will be conducted in a timely matter by Libraries Administration in response to an individual's statement of concern.
  • While a concern is being considered, there will be no change in the status of the display, exhibit, or printed materials.
  • Upon completion of the review process, the appropriate administrator will notify the individual of the Libraries' decision.
  • The individual may appeal the decision to the Senior Associate Dean of University Libraries.

Last reviewed and updated: April 2014