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Thomas J. Watson Library

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    In Circulation

    In Circulation features in-depth articles and the latest news about the Museum Libraries' wide range of research activities and comprehensive collection of books, periodicals, electronic resources, and ephemera related to the history of art.

Filed under: About Watson Library

Access and Hours


The Thomas J. Watson Library’s primary mission is to support the research needs of the Museum’s staff; in addition, the library serves an international community of scholars.
Reading privileges in Watson Library are extended to Museum staff and visiting researchers wishing to do art historical or related research who are college-level and older.
Registration with photo ID is required.

The Watson Library is a closed stack (non-browsing) and non-circulating collection devoted primarily to art history. Requested books are retrieved for visitors and must be used in the library.
Researchers may use the Watson Library without paying Museum admission; to do so they must request a pass at the Reception Desk at the main entrance at Fifth Avenue and 82nd St.
Researchers who would prefer to use a browsing collection are welcome in the Nolen Library in the Uris Center for Education, on the Ground Floor of the Museum.
The Watson Library is located on the first floor of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Coat and bag policy:

Library users must check all outside coats and outerwear.  Light jackets, cardigan sweaters, hoodies, and sport coats are allowed.  We recognize that the reading room may be chilly at times, and that library users may opt to wear a light jacket or sweater to stay warm.  However, we also ask that light jackets or sweaters, not be left on tables or draped on chairs.  Library visitors who choose not to wear their light jacket or sweater will be asked to check it in a locker.

Library users must check all bags larger than 8 ½ x 11 inches and 2 ½ inches thick. In addition all laptop and tablet sleeves must be checked at the museum coat check or in Watson Library lockers.  As a courtesy to library users, clear plastic bags are available for essential items to be brought into the library.

*Note: the above policies are at the discretion of library staff.  Should questions arise please direct inquiries to: Tony White, Florence and Herbert Irving Associate Chief Librarian,


Public Hours:

Weekdays: Monday–Friday 10 am–5:15 pm; book retrieval until 3:30 pm.  Request books from home and you will be notified by email when your books are available (except for Special Collections books, which will be retrieved when you come to Watson Library).
Saturdays: 10 am-5 pm; book retrieval until 2:45 pm; reference services 1-5 pm. We do not retrieve books from Departmental Libraries on Saturdays.

Closed on national and staff holidays, including Election Day and the day after Thanksgiving; the library closes at 3 p.m. on the Fridays before holiday weekends (book retrieval ends at 1:30 p.m.). View Holiday Closings.
Appointments are not necessary.

Staff Hours:

Weekdays: 9 am–5:30 pm (Stacks close at 5:15 pm)
Saturdays: 10 am–5 pm; book retrieval until 2:45 pm; reference services 1-5 pm.

Closed on all staff holidays; the library closes at 3 pm on the Fridays before holiday weekends.

Telephone: Reference Desk: 212-650-2225, Circulation Desk: 212-650-2175
Fax: 212-570-3847;
Email: Reference:, Circulation:

Book Retrieval Schedule:

Location of Materials Time of Request Time available for pick-up
Watson Library Before 10:30 am 11:30 am
Before 12:00 pm 1 pm
Before 2 pm 3 pm
Before 3:30 pm 4:30 pm
Watson Library Special Collections (Photo ID Required) Anytime Retrieved upon Request at Circulation Desk (Monday–Friday, 10 am–5 pm, and Saturday, 10 am–1 pm)
Departmental Libraries Anytime Within 2 business days of request
Offsite Anytime Within 2 business days of requests placed by 2:30 pm


Watson Library’s electronic workstations are reserved for scholarly research purposes only and are not for recreational or personal use.