The Special Collections Department of the James P. Adams Library was created in 1974. It was established in its present location on the fourth floor of the library in 1978. In 1982, the Martha Bacon-Ronald Ballinger Reading Room was dedicated, in honor of Professors Ronald Ballinger (history) and Martha Bacon Ballinger (English).
Most of the books in Special Collections are listed in the library catalog. There are also papers, manuscripts, and collections of source materials on a variety of topics, including education, ethnic groups in Rhode Island, and socio-political publications. Lists, registers, and other finding aids are available for locating materials in these collections. Use of the materials in Special Collections is limited to the Martha Bacon-Ronald Ballinger Reading Room.
Special Collections includes the College Archives, a rich repository of the history, records, and memorabilia of Rhode Island College. Publications by faculty members are kept in Special Collections, as are copies of theses submitted for honors status or graduate degrees from the college.