Prepping for Archival Visits: The L. Tom Perry Special Collections at BYU

By July 28, 2015

As a follow-up to last week’s post on preparing to visit the LDS Church History Library, I’ve written this starter guide for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University.[1] In this post, I’ll touch on transportation, lodging, the best food in the area, policies to be familiar with, and finding collections to peruse.

This is only meant to be a brief introduction. Please add your comments, suggestions, and experiences below!

Provo, UT

The Harold B. Lee Library is located at 701 East University Parkway, in Provo. The two exits closest to the library on 1-15 are the University Parkway and Provo Center Street off-ramps, which are north and south of the school, respectively. There are several hotels throughout Provo, as well as Air BnB options, or if you’re feeling adventurous, camping options. There are sidewalks and streetlights throughout most of Provo and is generally safe to walk through during daylight. Visitor’s parking is available east of the library (next to the BYU Law School) and north of the library (in front of the BYU Museum of Art). Here is a map of the BYU campus to help you visualize. One could also use public transportation to get close to BYU campus, but not onto campus itself.

Provo is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Don’t forget to pack for the weather!

The HBLL from the Abraham O. Smoot Building (ASB). The library is the blue-green glass building directly in front of Brigham.

The HBLL from the Abraham O. Smoot Building (ASB). The library is the blue-green glass building directly in front of Brigham.

There is a veritable bevy of great food choices close to BYU. For those who want to stay on campus, the CougarEat cafeteria is located in the Ernest L. Wilkinson Center just east of the library. There you will find a Subway, Taco Bell, Chick Fil-A, and other franchise staples of college campuses. There is also a café at the Museum of Art located northeast of the library. My personal favorite place to eat in Provo is SLAB Pizza (get the Austin or Thai Chicken!). You can order ahead by phone, e-mail, or text, as well as in person. El Gallo Giro, J Dawgs, Thai Ruby, Costa Vida, and other inexpensive eateries are also close by. If you’re willing to spend a little more and wander a little further, there is an El Salvadoran restaurant, a Peruvian restaurant (with very good lomo saltado), the Black Sheep Café, and Station 22 on Center Street (which leads to an I-15 onramp). I would also recommend stopping by the Provo Bakery on 190 E. and 100 North (20 minute walk/3 minute drive from south of campus).[2]

There is no Starbucks in Provo, Utah, according to Google. You can obtain coffee at The Coffee Pod (30 minute walk from south campus), or 7-11 at 500 North and University Ave (15 minute walk from south of campus).

There is a great community of American religious historians, Mormon historians, and other interested parties in or near Provo. If you’re in town, be sure to drop a line here on the blog, our Facebook page, or visit the Mormon History Cafeteria Page and ask if anyone would like to go to lunch. There are often events such as lectures, book signings, and art exhibitions at Writ & Vision on Center Street. You can learn about upcoming events on their Facebook page.

Location and Hours

1130 Harold B. Lee Library (Atrium, first floor, at the foot of the main staircase)

Reference Desk Phone: (801) 422-3175


  • Monday: Thursday: 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. *closed Tuesdays 10:45AM-12 noon
  • Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Sunday: Closed.

Closed Saturdays between semesters. Open some holidays. Please call about specific dates.

Please Note:

  • Vault items:only available M-F, 8AM-5PM
  • Cold Vault items (photographs):require 24 hour warm-up time
  • Interviews:required for first-time users of most items and are not available after 5 p.m. on weekdays (except Wednesdays) or on Saturdays

Prior to Your Trip

The special collections catalog is available here, along with links to their digital collections, specialized collections, policies, and services. Like the LDS Church History library, BYU Special Collections continues to pour money and man hours into digitizing items in their collection. Our own Tod has written about the digital sources here. Make sure that you need to come to the archive to see the item you’re looking for and that it is not online for viewing anywhere at any time.

Some of the most-used collections at BYU are the Newel K. Whitney Papers, L. John Nuttall Papers, James E. Talmage Papers, Scott G. Kenney Collection, J. Reuben Clark Papers, and Cecil B. DeMille Papers.

Policies to be Familiar With

BYU has a well-known Honor Code. I called Special Collections and asked if a person could be turned away for not following dress standards, such as being clean-shaven or having one’s shoulders covered. I was informed that the policy is only enforced upon BYU students–but they advised following the Honor Code’s clothing standards such as having one’s shoulders covered and shorts coming down to the knee.

The Perry Special Collections staff is comprised mostly of students with a few full-time archivists and staff members. They are fantastic resources and extremely helpful. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask them! For a research project, I needed to look through several hundred diaries in one summer. They cheerfully worked with me, helped me organize my requests, and made my research easy and enjoyable. They are a credit to the university and each student deserves a raise.

There are free lockers for storage outside of the reading room area.

There is free guest wi-fi available in the HBLL. BYU has filters on the internet that are reasonable–but you should know they exist.

Forms for Photocopy requests and information on digitization services can be found here.

**BONUS FACT**: Faculty and enrolled students at state-funded colleges and universities and Westminster College are eligible for free library privileges. Check out this page for more info.

Longer Visits

For those spending more than a few weeks in Provo, housing is much less expensive during spring and summer semesters.

If you’re interested in a longer stay, you should be sure to apply for a grant to research at BYU through the Charles H. Redd Center.


[1] You should also consult their own help page, found here.

[2] South of campus refers to the streets, beginning at 800 North, that are south of BYU’s campus. There are staircases and bike ramps that lead up to the Heber J. Grant and Joseph Smith Buildings; you’ll know you’ve reached campus when you see the buildings and you’ll know you’re off once you hit 800 North.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. There’s a Starbucks outside the Orem mall which isn’t very far from BYU although you’ll need to drive.

    Comment by Clark — July 28, 2015 @ 9:31 am

  2. There is a Starbucks inside the Provo Conference Center Marriott.

    Comment by EmJen — July 28, 2015 @ 10:35 am

  3. Thanks Clark and EmJen! I suppose getting Starbucks is easy enough if you come from the Orem exit or the Provo exit.

    Comment by J Stuart — July 28, 2015 @ 11:13 am

  4. Thanks for this, very helpful. If you’re there early enough, Hrushka’s Kolaches (probably sp) is good for breakfast dough balls of meaty deliciousness.

    Comment by Jeff T — July 28, 2015 @ 3:51 pm

  5. 1) Somehow, fudge from the bookstore or chocolate ice cream (admittedly not as good as Aggie ice cream in Logan) from the Wilkinson Center has been a decent substitute for coffee during my days at BYU. It’s probably not a wise long-term plan, though.

    2) Provo Bakery. Orange rolls. Honey-wheats. Foretastes of heaven.

    3) SLAB pizza. The slabs are too small.

    4) From an outsider’s perspective, visiting HBLL Special Collections and interacting with the student workers demonstrates that BYU students are, on average, far more competent than the national average.

    Comment by John Turner — July 28, 2015 @ 8:42 pm

  6. Diet Coke is a far better caffeine distribution system. Available everywhere off campus or in any department fridge on campus.

    Comment by Clark — July 28, 2015 @ 10:49 pm

  7. John: I really couldn’t agree more. Their staff is top-notch.

    Comment by J Stuart — July 29, 2015 @ 11:12 am

  8. Also, Provo has a food scene that far surpasses its population size. And next time you should try the near-diabetes inducing “Graham Canyon” at the Creamery on 9th East.

    Comment by J Stuart — July 29, 2015 @ 11:16 am

  9. Some policies in Special Collections have changed. Formal interviews are no longer required and vault items are available until 9pm on Wednesdays, 5pm on the other weekdays. 🙂

    Comment by BW — July 30, 2015 @ 3:26 pm

  10. There are a ton of excellent restaurants in the area. I’d heartily recommend Communal or Pizzeria 7-12 for instance. If you’re willing to pay a bit more it’s just a short drive to Sundance too for the Tree Room.

    Comment by Clark — July 30, 2015 @ 6:58 pm


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