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University Libraries

University Library

The Brown University Library supports the educational and research mission of the University by serving as the local repository for and principal gateway to current information and the scholarly record. The library contains more than 3.8 million volumes and 6 million items, including printed and electronic books, periodicals and e-journals, maps, microforms, videos, sound recordings, sheet music, manuscripts, electronic media, government documents, and resources in other formats. Currently the Brown University Library is one of the largest and most notable academic libraries in New England and holds several world-renowned special collections. The University library system includes five libraries on campus and the Library Collections Annex, a high-density storage facility located about four miles from campus. The John Carter Brown Library is an independent research library also located on the Brown campus.

The library web site is the principal gateway to the collections and services available for library users at Brown.  Josiah,, the Brown University Library online catalog, provides access to information about holdings in all the libraries at Brown. Expenditures for acquisitions in 2008-9 totaled over $8.5 million. The library has receives over 65,000 journal titles and has licenses for more than 300 research databases. The library complements its local collection by providing Brown users with access to over 50 million additional volumes via direct borrowing agreements with consortial partners (a supplement to traditional interlibrary loan services). A growing portion of the library’s resources today are digital, providing users with more immediately accessible information in a format that suits their research preferences.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library

The Rockefeller Library, otherwise known as “the Rock,” houses the collections in the social sciences and humanities. On the first floor near the entrance, users will find the circulation desk where they can check out books for borrowing, seek reference assistance, or inquire about library services and policies. The entire building allows for wireless connections to the Brown network and the Internet. Computer clusters are available on Levels 1 and 2; a separate graduate student cluster is available on Level 2. The Rock provides a variety of spaces to suit different work styles, including open, comfortable seating as well as group study rooms in the Laura & David Finn Reading Room on Level 1, an “absolute quiet” study room on Level A, and individual study carrels located throughout the building. The Alfred and Laura Hecker Center for Library Technology, a state-of-the-art classroom for library instruction, is located on Level 1. Josiah, the library’s online catalog, and other search tools and online resources can be searched from workstations located throughout all the libraries as well as from any device with access to the Internet. Books and bound periodicals are shelved together in open stacks arranged by Library of Congress call numbers. The library’s main collection of newspapers is housed in the Periodicals Reading Room on the first floor. East Asian material, located on level 3, includes the Gardner Collection which consists of mostly historical Chinese material from the Ch’ing Dynasty (1644–1912). A small café in the lobby of the Rock provides a convenient place for a study break or to meet informally with friends or colleagues.

Sciences Library

The Sciences Library, a 14-story high-rise building, contains the library’s resources in the physical, biological, and medical sciences. Library Richard A. Friedman Study Center, a modern, comfortable, and technologically equipped 24-hour study environment for Brown students in the heart of campus. The Friedman Study Center is open 24/5 and features individual and group study areas, computer clusters, and common areas designed to meet students’ needs for academic and gathering spaces. A café is located in the lobby of the Sciences Library. Additional computer clusters and study spaces are available on the Mezzanine level. Books and bound periodicals are shelved together by Library of Congress call numbers on the upper floors of the Sciences Library. There is an extensive map collection including U.S. Geological Survey depository maps on Level 8. The Science Center is located on Level 3 and offers work, study, and lecture spaces as well as tutoring and advising resources for math and science students. The Media Services department (part of Computing and Information Services) is located on Level 14, and provides assistance to the Brown community in the use of instructional technology equipment for classrooms and events.

John Hay Library

The John Hay Library is the location for most of the University’s rare books, manuscripts, special collections and archives. Among the notable materials in “the Hay” are the renowned Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays, the Sheet Music Collection, the McLellan Lincoln Collection, the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, the Lownes History of Science Collection, the papers and works of H. P. Lovecraft, the Smith Collection of books on Magic, and the Annmary Brown Collection of incunabula. Other notable collections include the Hall-Hoag Collection of Extremist and Dissenting Literature, the Katzoff Collection of Gay and Lesbian Literature, the Poulin and Ciaraldi Collections of Comic Books and Illustrated Novels, the Miller Collection of Wit Collection of Modern American Poetry, and the Leab Collection on George Orwell. A detailed listing of special collections in the John Hay Library is available at Exhibitions of materials from the collections are mounted year-round. The University archives, dating from 1763, contain copies of the official records and publications of the University and the papers of many of its departments, officers, and affiliated groups. All materials are paged at the reader services desk for use in the reading room, which is also available for general study. Materials in the library do not circulate outside the building. The Walter L.S. Bopp Seminar Room, a state-of-the-art instruction and meeting space, is located on the third floor of the John Hay Library.

Virginia Baldwin Orwig Music Library

The Orwig Music Library houses the general collections of music materials, including books, periodicals, scores, and sound recordings. The study space is particularly convenient for students living in the East campus area. A listening facility for sound recordings, audio cassettes, and compact discs is also available; the recordings do not circulate. Digital audio files may be placed on reserve using OCRA (Online Course Reserves Access), a system that streams required listening assignments to students registered in Brown University classes; see for more information.

Art Slide Library

Located on the fourth floor of the List Art Center for the convenience of its most frequent users, the Art Slide Library acquires digital images, slides, photographs, printed reproductions, microfiche, reference books, and electronic resources to support the general needs of the Brown University community for visual materials pertaining to art and art-related subjects, including architecture and archaeology. The resources include a growing collection of digital images as well as approximately 300,000 slides, 39,000 photographs, and 10,000 microfiche. In collaboration with the Center for Digital Scholarship, the ASL provides scanning services for faculty who need digital images of visual culture for teaching. A local image database is available via Luna Insight software. Anyone affiliated with the University is welcome to use items from the collections for teaching on campus, student presentations, research, or related educational activities. The staff of the Art Slide Library is available to answer humanities reference questions and to provide training in the use of the digital image collections.

John Carter Brown Library

The John Carter Brown Library is a separately administered and independently funded library, operating under its own policies and procedures. In the field of Americana, it is one of the outstanding libraries of the world. Among the some 50,000 volumes printed before 1825 are numerous books and pamphlets describing the growth of the European colonies in the New World and the impact of the discovery and exploration of the New World upon Europe. The library also has an extensive collection of maps dating from 1477 to the mid-19th century. While the resources of the John Carter Brown Library are available to anyone who needs to use them, the library is designed to serve those engaged in advanced scholarly research. Use of the reading room is restricted to those making use of the collections. The John Carter Brown is a closed stack library, and all materials must be paged by the staff. The library regularly mounts exhibitions open to the general public.

Library Services

Access to Library Buildings

The primary goal of the libraries at Brown University is to support the instructional and research needs of the Brown academic community. Currently, the libraries are open and provide services over 110 hours per week during the academic year with additional hours available during reading and exam periods. In addition, the Friedman Study Center in the Sciences Library is open overnight (5 nights per week) for studying. A Brown University identification card or other proof of Brown affiliation is necessary to gain access to the Rockefeller and Sciences libraries. Following is a brief listing and description of some of the library services. More complete information and assistance are available at or from staff at any of the service points throughout the libraries.

Locating and Using Library Materials

Josiah, the Brown University Library online catalog, and the library’s other search tools and online resources, can be searched from workstations located throughout all library buildings or from any device with access to the Internet. The book stacks in Rockefeller, Sciences, and Orwig libraries are open and allow users direct access to the collections for browsing purposes. Materials shelved off-campus at the Library Collections Annex can be requested for delivery to campus (usually within 24 hours). Details about loan periods are available on the library’s web page. Materials at the John Hay Library must be retrieved by staff from the closed stacks and used within the library; please inquire at the Hay Reader Services Desk for more information.

Library staff provide a variety of general and specialized services to assist students, faculty, and staff members of the Brown community. Library staff promote academic success by advising students and faculty on how to use a wide range of information resources available though the library. Subject specialists are available to consult on research topics, instruct in the use of library resources and tools, evaluate sources of information, and help users navigate the research process.

An increasing portion of the library’s collections is available digitally through licensed or networked resources. The library currently has licenses to over 300 research databases and approximately 52,000 full-text online journals. Detailed lists of electronic titles are available through Josiah and on the library web site. Instructions for accessing licensed content from off-campus are available at

Access to Other Libraries

Beyond the immediate collections available on campus, Brown students and faculty have direct access to more than 50 million volumes through special borrowing agreements with partner libraries. Titles from these libraries — including Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Yale, and the academic libraries in Rhode Island — can be searched and requested using easyBorrow, the library’s web service for expedited borrowing and delivery of books to the Brown campus. In addition, Brown has reciprocal agreements for on-site access to a number of libraries in the region and throughout the nation. More information about these and other options for obtaining materials from other libraries is available from the library’s web site or from staff at any of the service points throughout the libraries.

Center for Digital Scholarship

The Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) coordinates the library’s efforts in building its digital collections. CDS focuses on producing digital materials for use in scholarship and teaching efforts at Brown; digitizing “signature collections” from Brown’s world renowned special collections; developing databases, programs, and applications to enhance access to and use of these materials; and providing consultative services for library and academic units undertaking digital projects. A growing collection of digitized materials, faculty projects, databases, search tools, and finding guides is available at the library’s web site:

Services for Users with Disabilities

The library works closely with the University’s Disability Support Services to accommodate Brown students, staff, and faculty with special needs. The main entrances to the Rockefeller and Sciences libraries are wheelchair accessible. The John Hay Library is also accessible via the entrance at the rear of the building, where a phone is available to gain admittance by calling the staff at the Reader Services Desk. The service desks in the Rockefeller, Sciences, and Hay libraries can arrange to have materials retrieved from the stacks and provide other special services as required for users with physical disabilities. The Rockefeller Library currently has a computer workstation with magnification and reading software for the vision impaired.