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Admitted Students Guide: Libraries and Research Support

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Learn more about our spaces and operations for Spring 2021 during the global pandemic. Students may reserve space through our study space registration form.

Library Experts

Through your Brown University Library, graduate students have access to Library experts, outstanding campus spaces, and physical and digital resources covering over 80 core academic areas and myriad interdisciplinary subjects. The Library’s physical collections are housed in five campus buildings as well as the nearby Library Collections Annex. In addition, the John Carter Brown Library — an independent research institution dedicated to study of the Americas prior to 1825 — is located on campus and open to Brown students.

Library experts are available to help you take full advantage of the Library's incredible collections, formulate effective strategies for identifying and locating materials, and more. We recommend making an appointment with the library expert in your field of study when you begin your program at Brown.


BruKnow is Brown’s catalog search engine — your gateway to Brown’s collections of nearly 6 million volumes, including 2 million ebooks, more than 70,000 ejournals, and over 500 research databases. (If connecting from off-campus, be sure to check the off-campus login options.) BruKnow provides the call number and stack location for physical materials as well as direct links to online content. Resources that live on the Library website which are not cataloged can be searched from the Library homepage

Special Collections

The John Hay Library is home to Brown’s special collections, which total more than a half-million items and include several hundred named collections of books, manuscripts, and prints, including distinctive collections in the areas of American literature and popular culture, LGBTQ writers, speculative fiction, political and diplomatic history and propaganda, the history of science, book arts, and comic books. See our selective list of special collections and peruse the Hay’s collection policy, which includes six distinctive collecting areas and three integrative themes in the sciences. A Carnegie Library, the Hay is open to the public (visiting information). 

Digital Scholarship and Resources

The Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS), the University’s digital scholarship hub, provides expertise, support, and training on a variety of topics in digital scholarship such as data visualization, textual and quantitative analysis, data management, digital research project consulting and more. Graduate students also have opportunities to collaborate with CDS staff on faculty-driven digital projects and publications via summer and academic year proctorships or similar appointments.

State-of-the-art data visualization facilities are available at the Rockefeller Library’s Patrick Ma Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL). The DSL enables scholars across disciplines to engage with research data using advanced visualization hardware and software, to examine and compare high-resolution digital content, and to experience audiovisual media in a setting unique on Brown’s campus. The space complements other visualization resources on campus, including the Center for Computing and Visualization CAVE and the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.

The Sidney E. Frank Digital Studio at the Rockefeller Library provides a unique and exciting intellectual hub for digitally enhanced scholarship at Brown. Expanding on the concept and functionality of the adjacent Digital Scholarship Lab, infrastructure and staff in the Digital Studio facilitate both short-term and extended engagements with academic questions that benefit from the infusion of technology and new methodologies in research and learning. Open to all faculty and students, the Studio contains a soundproof audio/video recording suite, a 3D scanner, and more. 

Borrowing Beyond Brown

Libraries in Consortia

Students can place requests for books from the collections of Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, Stanford, and Yale. In addition, both print books and journal articles (in pdf form) from several thousand research libraries worldwide are available through interlibrary loan. Use easyBorrow to request books that Brown does not have or that are checked out from the Library’s collection.

Brown graduate students can visit and borrow from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) library, other Rhode Island academic libraries. Additionally Brown’s reciprocal access policies with our Ivy League peer institutions means that graduate students are able to enter and borrow from Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, Stanford, and Yale.

Borrowing Outside Consortia

If you need an article from a journal that Brown does not subscribe to, use the ILLiad system to request a pdf copy.

Course Reserves

The Online Course Reserves Access (OCRA) system is used to place text, audio, and video materials on reserve for classes. Anything placed on reserve in OCRA will also be accessible to students in Canvas. Please see the staff in any of the libraries for assistance, contact the Library via chat, or email [email protected].  

Library Buildings and Spaces

The Library offers a variety of spaces for research, teaching, and study for groups and individuals. To accommodate the use of materials in long-term projects, study carrels can be obtained at the Rockefeller, Sciences, and Orwig Libraries, and lockers are available at the Rockefeller and Sciences Libraries. 

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
The John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, known as “the Rock,” is the primary teaching and research library for the humanities and social sciences. Reference services, interlibrary loans, and reserve items are available on the entrance level (Level 1). On Level 2, graduate students have exclusive ID-swipe access to the Vincent J. Wernig Graduate Student Reading Room.

The Sciences Library
The tallest building on campus at 14 stories, the Sciences Library, known as the "SciLi," supports research in medicine, psychology, neural science, biology, chemistry, earth, environmental, and planetary sciences, physics, engineering, computer science, and pure and applied mathematics. The Friedman Study Center, located on Level A, includes computer clusters and library services. The [email protected] space is located on the 11th floor.

John Hay Library
The John Hay Library houses the Library’s Special Collections and Archives. The classic and grand Willis Reading Room is open to all for quiet study. The Gildor Family Special Collections reading room is open to all Brown community members as well as the public via appointment. The Hay's Special Collections materials can be requested online with an account in the Hay’s request system. The Hay is also available as a primary source laboratory for instructors and students. The Hay hosts over 150 class sessions from nearly all Brown departments each year, and staff are available to teach sessions and to help graduate students learn about researching and teaching with primary sources. 

Orwig Music Library
The Virginia Baldwin Orwig Music Library houses the main teaching and research collections in music and related areas such as dance and music-related forms of theater. Its collections include LPs, books, scores, periodicals, compact discs, and DVDs and playback equipment. DVDs and CDs circulate to the entire Brown community. To check out the LPs please consult with Orwig staff for instructions on handling. Graduate students can borrow these media materials for one week.

The Annmary Brown Memorial
(Currently closed) This unique building is both a museum and a mausoleum, and its distinguishing architectural features include the imposing bronze doors with allegorical representations of Art and Learning. The Memorial exhibits American and European paintings from the 17th through the 20th centuries and selected personal effects of its founder, General Rush C. Hawkins, including his collection of swords, and of the Brown family. 

Library Collections Annex
This high-density storage facility with a capacity of 1.5 million volumes is located approximately 4 miles from campus. Materials shelved at the Annex can be requested using BruKnow (the Library’s online catalog) for retrieval and use on campus. Journal articles from titles shelved at the Annex can be scanned and delivered electronically to your desktop.

John Carter Brown Library
The John Carter Brown Library is the preeminent research collection in the world for the study of the Americas prior to 1825. By preserving, expanding, and providing enhanced access to its world-renowned collection, the JCB inspires scholarship, stimulates innovative and creative engagement with its materials, and connects communities around the world to the history and culture of the early Americas. The JCB hosts lectures, seminars, and workshops to which graduate students in any field are welcome. The JCB also offers the J.M. Stuart Fellowship (tenable for nine months) to Brown graduate students in the humanities or social sciences whose dissertation topic relates to the early history and culture of the Americas. Stuart Fellows benefit from membership in an international community of scholars in residence, dedicated office space, and privileged and sustained access to the resources of the JCB.