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Thomas, thanks for your question.
It will be a bit different for every presidential library but not too much. At the William J. Clinton Presidential Library everything we have open and available for research is listed in our finding aids in our Clinton Digital Library. The website is kept up-to-date with finding aids for collections as they become open.
In addition, a few of our open collections have been digitized and placed online for researchers. Those digitized collections can be viewed in our Clinton Digital Library.
If the information you are looking for is not among the documents we have already processed, you will need to file a Freedom of Information act request to facilitate a search for the documents. Check out this discussion (Do I need to fill out a FOIA request to view records? ) on how to file a FOIA request or see the link on our website (Freedom of Information Act Requests).
If at all possible, please let us know which dates you plan to visit the Clinton Library and provide a box list of records you wish to see. In your box list please provide the collection name and number, both of which can be found in our finding aids (Clinton Digital Library Finding Aids) Please be advised that you may request up to eighteen boxes of records at a time.
The research room is open year-round, Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 4:30 and is closed on all Federal holidays. The room will close daily for one hour for lunch, noon-1pm. No new material will be pulled for researchers after 3:45.
Researchers should report to the Admissions desk in the lobby of the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. An archivist will be sent to escort the researcher to the Research Room on the second floor.
Before research can be begin, all researchers must meet with an archivist in the orientation room adjacent to the research room. Researchers will be asked to produce photo identification (driver’s license, passport, student identification card) and complete a brief application form. The archivist will explain research room regulations and services. Once the orientation is complete, a research card valid for one year will be issued. Lockers are available in the lounge for the storage of coats, briefcases, backpacks, and other personal items.
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The details for visiting the Lyndon B. Johnson Library's research room are very similar.
The important differences to note:
The LBJ Library website contains our list of holdings, subject guides, and many finding aids. The Miller Center at the University of Virginia hosts all of LBJ's telephone recordings and transcripts of many of our oral history interviews. For the most up-to-date guides and finding aids, please email us or call 512-721-0212. We also like to know when researchers are coming, so please let us know if you plan to visit, and if you know which boxes you'd like to see.
Our digitized collections website is currently in progress, and will be announced (loudly!) here when launched. It will contain the resources above as well as all of the digitized material from our holdings.
The LBJ Library is a Pre-PRA (Presidential Records Act) library, and it contains donated historical materials, which are not subject to FOIA. However, we do maintain small collections of Federal records which are subject to FOIA, so you should contact us for more information on access to these records. Like the other Presidential Libraries, we also work continuously with the National Declassification Center in order to review and release declassified national security material in our holdings.
Our research room is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it's closed on Federal holidays. The latest request time is 4:15 p.m. You may request up to fifteen boxes at one time. Otherwise, our orientation process is similar to that described above.