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John Hay Library

Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is new at the John Hay Library following the 2013-2014 renovation?
  2. Can I get an overview of special collections at Brown?
  3. How can I find information about my old books?
  4. Why are things that are neither rare nor old housed at the Hay where they cannot circulate?
  5. Why would a recently published popular title be stored off campus and need to be used at the Hay?
  6. My parents are coming to visit. Can I arrange for them to see some of the treasures at the Hay?
  7. What is the difference between the John Hay Library and the John Carter Brown Library?
  8. Who is Josiah Carberry?
  9. How do I search for a thesis?
  10. How do I request a thesis?
  11. Where do I search for a dissertation?

What is new at the John Hay Library following the 2013-2014 renovation?
Brown University’s John Hay Library underwent a major renovation and reopened in September 2014. Renovation of this historic landmark included a refurbishment of the magnificent first floor reading room into an open, welcoming study space; the creation of a new state-of-the-art special collections reading room; the building of a new exhibition gallery; an addition of a student lounge and a private conference room; and the installation of handicapped access to the front of the building. Fire safety and security system improvements were also addressed by the renovation. In addition to the physical enhancements, the John Hay Library hours are extended.

Can I get an overview of special collections at Brown?



How can I find information about my old books?
One of the best sources of information for basic questions about rare books and book values is the brochure, Your Old Books, by the late Peter Van Wingen.

Guides to book values available in the library are:

  1. Ahearn, Allen and Ahearn, Patricia. Book collecting : a comprehensive guide. New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c1995
  2. American Book Prices Current. [New York] Bancroft-Parkman, 1894/95- - lists actual prices realized
  3. Bookman's Price Index. Detroit: Gale, 1964- - lists catalog asking prices

Why are things that are neither rare nor old housed at the Hay?
In addition to housing a high proportion of rare and unique materials, the Brown University Library’s Special Collections also contains many thematic special collections of which individual parts may not be 'valuable' or 'rare', but, as an aggregate, constitute a historically significant body of material. Keeping these materials together as a special collection enhances their research value.

For example, since many of the contemporary texts acquired for the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays are readily available in the marketplace it may seem puzzling that their circulation should be restricted. The collecting policy of the Harris Collection, since the 19th century, has been to acquire all materials in lyric and dramatic form produced by Americans from the earliest period to the present day. This mission (and the endowed funds and gifts that support it) has produced the most comprehensive collection of its kind in the world. Many current titles in the Harris Collection are duplicated for the circulating collections, but if you feel that the Library should own a circulating copy of a particular title, you are encouraged to fill out a Suggested Library Purchase form.

Why would a recently published popular title be stored off campus and need to be used at the Hay?
In 1997 St. Martin's Press agreed to transfer their archives - thousands of publications and book and author files - to the Library. In addition to receiving the complete inventory of St. Martin's Press publications dating back to the founding of the press in 1952, the Library receives a copy of every new St. Martin's Press title as it is published. Many of these titles are popular works which would normally be out of scope for a research library collection.

Because the John Hay Library has been at capacity for some time now, these materials are housed in an offsite storage facility. We are happy to retrieve these materials for you but, being part of a special collection, they do not circulate. A circulating copy may be requested by submitting an easyBorrow request. Although interlibrary loans are usually not accepted if Brown owns an item, an exception is made in the case of St. Martin's Press materials.

My parents are coming to visit. Can I arrange for them to see some of the treasures at the Hay?
By all means! Tours of the John Hay Library may be arranged: call 401-863-3723 or e-mail hay@brown.edu. There is permanent exhibition of miniature soldiers in the Anne S. K. Brown Gallery and, with a little advance notice, we are happy to call up materials that might interest visitors.

What is the difference between the John Hay Library and the John Carter Brown Library?
The John Hay Library is one of the five libraries that make up the Brown University Library system. (The others are: John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, Sciences Library, Orwig Music Library, Annmary Brown Memorial.) The John Hay Library houses diverse collections spanning many subjects and time periods, with particularly strong collections in American literature and history, popular culture, military history and iconography, history of science and the art and history of the book.

The John Carter Brown Library is an independently administered and funded center, which holds primary historical sources pertaining to the Americas, both North and South, before about 1825.

Who is Josiah Carberry?
Josiah S(tinkney) Carberry (fl. 1929-?), legendary professor of psychoceramics (the study of cracked pots) since 1929, was born on a bulletin board in University Hall. More information…

How do I search for a thesis?
Search Josiah by author or title using the Library's Search interface. To view a list of theses, change the drop down box from "Everything" to "by Call Number" (Honors thesis call number: 1-N HO; Master’s thesis call number: 1-N M). To locate an Honors thesis particular year (Example: 1-N HO 1968). To locate a Master's thesis created in a particular year between 1895 and 1999 add the last 3 digits of the year (Example: 1-N M 968); for a Master's Thesis created during 2000 to the present add all 4 digits of the year (Example: 1-N M 2002).

How do I request a thesis?
Locate the thesis in Josiah and select "Request This" (near "Status") to have the thesis sent to the John Hay Library and placed on reserve in your name.

Where do I search for a dissertation?

  1. 1893-2000
    Historical database of theses and dissertations (metadata only)
  2. 1893-2011
    ProQuest
  3. 2008-present
    Brown Digital Repository (BDR) Select "Browse" tab to browse by collection (department).
    Search Brown Dissertations in the catalog.