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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

Literary Arts + Studies Research Guide

A brief guide to RISD library resources

Remote Access to the Fleet Library

Stay Up-to-Date

Please visit our Remote Library Operations guide for up-to-date information on library updates, access, and resources.

News from the Library

Library in darknessFleet Library is currently closed to visitors. We are still providing services online.

Until it is deemed safe to work in shared facilities, library staff are working remotely. Currently, there is no access to items physically located at Fleet Library. For now, we encourage you to explore our vast collection of online resources and reach out to librarians for help with your research!

Do you have library books? Don't worry - most due dates have been extended. Visit the "Returning Library Materials" page of this guide for details on returning items, including material samples and picture collection files.

What is available while we are closed?

What is not currently available?

  • Printed books, periodicals, DVDs, material and picture samples, all physical collections
  • Interlibrary loan for books and DVDs
  • The Providence Athenaeum: due to the current circumstances the RISD community cannot check out books from the Athenaeum. We will keep you informed as circumstances change.

Accessing Digital Resources Off Campus

Library access anytime!

You can access our databases and other digital resources when you're off campus, just login.

 Follow these 3 easy steps:

1. Go to the library website

2. Select My Account in the top right hand corner

3. Enter your surname (last name) or your given (first) name should work and your 14-digit barcode number (starting with 3444400...) on the back of your RISD ID .

If you are trying to download an item from EBSCO you will also have to create or login to your EBSCO account when prompted.

Common Issues:

Make sure you have entered your name and information correctly?

Is your library registration is up to date?

  • If you’ve checked books out this year, it probably is.

I receive an error when I try to login, what should I do?

  • If you receive an error when you try to log in, please reach out via to have your registration renewed.


What is Fleet Search?

Fleet Search is the perfect place to start your research! You can quickly find relevant resources on a subject without having to decide which databases to search. You can filter your search results in a variety of ways such as date range, source, source type, subject, and scholarly designation. The library's cataloged resources are also integrated into the search results.

What's Included in Fleet Search?

  • Books+
    • e-book Academic Collection
    • RISD/ATH Library Catalog records (Athenaeum services for the RISD community are currently unavailable)
    • RISD Archives Finding Aids
    • RISD Graduate Thesis titles
    • RISD Picture Collection folder records
  • Articles:

What's not in Fleet Search?

Not all databases are searched when you use Fleet Search. If you are looking for images, it is best to search the image databases directly. See the list below for databases which are not searchable through Fleet Search.

EBSCO eBooks

Search or Browse the EBSCO eBook Academic Collection

Our largest collection of eBooks. Contains a large selection of multidisciplinary titles representing a broad range of academic subject matter. There are over 140,000 eBooks including titles from leading university presses such as Oxford University, State University of New York, Cambridge University, University of California, MIT, Harvard University and others. Additional academic publishers include Elsevier, Brill Academic, Taylor & Francis, Sage Publications, and John Wiley & Sons.

All titles are available with unlimited user access.

Searching Tips

As you search for information on your topic you will develop your own vocabulary and terms related your topic. Keeping track of searches that worked well or creating lists of synonyms for your keywords can be very helpful. RISD librarians are here to help, please email for help finding resources you might need.


Keyword Searches

Whether you are searching on the library Catalog or in Fleet Search, searches will default to Keyword searches.

A Keyword search looks for words anywhere in the title, summary, or metadata of an item. Keyword searches are a good substitute for a subject search when you do not know the standard subject heading. Keyword may also be used as a substitute for a title or author search when you have incomplete title or author information.

  • Use this type of search technique when you are getting a feel for your topic and you are finding general information on a topic or subject.
  • For example, a keyword search for "Kara Walker" will give you results for items about her and written by her. If you want to find books written by Kara Walker use an author search and enter "Walker, Kara." If you enter Kara Walker as a subject, the items you see in the search results will be about her, not necessarily written by her.


Artist/Author Searches

This search looks for the name of the artist, author, editor, or translator of an item. It is helpful to think of the artist as the author of his/her/their own work.

  • Use this search when you know the name of the artist, author, editor or translator of a item.
  • Tip: search last name, first name, for example "Walker, Kara." If you don't find the artist or author you are looking for try a keyword search of their name.
  • Tip: Galleries or museums can be listed as authors. Try searching museums and galleries to see exhibition catalogs and other publications by institutions. For example Museum of Fine Arts Boston or Museum of Modern Art.
  • For example, if you want to find books written by Kara Walker use an author search and enter "Walker, Kara." If you enter Kara Walker as a subject, the items you see in the search results will be about her, not necessarily written by her. A keyword search for "Kara Walker" will give you results for items about her and written by her.


Subject Searches

A subject search is more specific than a keyword search. Subject headings are a predetermined list of possible terms, which reflect the content of the item. Most academic libraries use Library of Congress Subject Headings. Subject headings are not intuitive, here is a cheat sheet for subject headings related to art.

  • Use this type of search when you want to find information which reflects the about-ness of a topic.
  • For example, if you enter Kara Walker as a subject, the items you see in the search results will be about her, not necessarily written by her. If you want to find books written by Kara Walker use an Author search and enter Walker, Kara. A Keyword search for "Kara Walker" will give you results for items about her and written by her.

Title Searches

This search looks for the exact words you entered as the title of an item. If you don't know the exact title try using a Keyword Search instead.

  • Use this when you know the exact title of a book, exhibition catalog, or journal.

Art & Design Resources during COVID-19


Many databases are expanding their access to articles and resources to help students and faculty while classes are completely online.

Searching Images & Photographs

Here you will find resources that help you find photographs both through online databases and the Picture Collection at RISD.

Online Image Databases

There are many databases which contain images, but here is a short list of helpful databases many of which focus on photographic images.

Google Image Search

Google is an easy way to search for photographs and photographers. There are advanced search features that let you search for specific aspect ratios, restrict the color, specify the image size and much more. Try Google's Advanced Image Search.

Types of usage rights

Understanding rights is helpful if you want to use a photograph you found online. Copyright can be complicated, if you are unsure about the rights of an image ask for help. Google allows you to limit your search by certain rights and licenses.

This info graphic is from the Technology Enhanced Learning Blog, and helps to explain Creative Commons Licenses.


RISD's Picture Collection

Students, faculty, and researchers have access to the Picture Collection which contains almost 500,000 hardcopy images of people, places and things. The images are searchable by Subject and Art File. You may check out up to 200 images at one time. Contact Alecia Underhill with questions.

Free/Open Resources

  • Digital Public Library of America
    • Online books, maps, photos, and much more from libraries, archives, and museums, freely available to all.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals
    • An index and search engine that provides direct links to journals and journal articles that are open to all.
  • ERIC
    • A wide variety of journal and non-journal literature in the field of education, provided by the US Dept. of Education.
  • Hathi Trust
    • A collaboration of the large libraries that provided their collections to the Google Books Project, this site is a repository of those books and others produced through local digitization projects. Material that is out of copyright (generally, that published before 1923) is open to all.
  • Internet Archive
    • Digitized books, journals, audio, video, and more, all free. In addition to contemporary texts, includes a wealth of digitized historical material.
  • Project Gutenberg
    • Over 49,000 free books available in a variety of downloadable formats.

Please check our Open Educational Resources page for more!

  • Internet Archive National Emergency Library
    • A collection of books that supports emergency remote teaching, research activities, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation while universities, schools, training centers, and libraries are closed.

Streaming Platforms

Exploring Theses

One of the best ways to learn about what other artists have done is by viewing and studying the graduate thesis projects of past RISD students. Check out the Graduate Theses Index by Department. This will allow you to explore theses by specific parameters and terms.

Many of RISD's Graduate Theses are available to view and download online on RISD's Digital Commons.

Getting Started

Formulate your questions: are you interested in background information (culture, history, geography, etc.), scholarly discussion of a topic, technical guidance about writing, inspirational material? Where do you think this information might be published -- books, journals, magazines, newspapers?

The Fleet Library collection is heavily focused on art and design topics. Members of the RISD community also have borrowing privileges at the Providence Athenaeum and Brown University Libraries.

If you are having any trouble finding what you need, please get in touch with us!

Where to Search



Citation & Style Guidelines:

Browsing Guide

Where to Look for Books

Library of Congress call numbers for literature (RISD and Brown both use the Library of Congress system)

P - General Language and Linguistics

PA - Classical Languages and Literature

PL - Languages and literature of Asia, Africa, Oceana

PN - Literary Criticism, Drama, Journalism & more

PQ - Romance literature (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese)

PR - English Literature (includes former commonwealth such as South Africa)

PS - American Literature

PT - German, Dutch, Scandinavian literature

PZ - Children's literature

See the 1st floor map.

Research Help

Ask a Librarian

Librarians are available to help students research a topic. Make an appointment at the RISD Library Research Help Desk or by emailing a librarian directly. We're available to meet with individuals or groups. This meeting will help you clarify your ideas, provide ways to approach your topic, and identify key terms, print and online resources, and search strategies to help get you started and save time.

A meeting with a librarian usually lasts 15-30 minutes depending on the scope of the topic. You are always welcome to make follow-up appointments.