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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

Library Resources for RISD Alumni

Take advantage of free library access, research help, and more.


We highly recommend you utilize your nearest public library's collections and services! Check out Eric Klinenberg's Palaces for the People (Crown, 2018) for a recent argument in support of public libraries and other social infrastructure. By using your library, you'll be saving money, building community, and showing support for a public resource that is absolutely life-changing for many Americans. 

Aside from print books and magazines, public libraries commonly offer access to:

  • ebooks and audiobooks you can check out from home
  • computers, printing and wifi
  • interlibrary loan (borrow books from other libraries)
  • online databases containing newspapers, genealogy resources, and more
  • language learning tools
  • special collections and archives
  • classes, workshops, talks, and events


If you want access to a broader range of scholarly databases and books, or have specialized research needs, you may need to look to academic libraries. Below are a few types and how you might gain access. Feel free to consult us for more guidance.

  • Public university/college libraries (look to your local state university or community colleges): Since they are funded with tax dollars, these institutions' collections are open to the public. You may even be able to create a borrowing account, depending on the school. Most libraries post their visitor policies online, but you can always call their front desk or Access Services office to confirm.
  • Private college libraries: to get into these spaces, you generally must show a legitimate research need that is related to their collection. At RISD, outside visitors must make an appointment with a librarian each time they wish for access or to view special items. Look to any library's staff page for likely contacts. If you don't mind paying, some private colleges also offer annual memberships!


Museum libraries and other specialized libraries/archives will often open their doors to those with an articulated research need. In most cases, you must make an appointment beforehand.

How can you find out these libraries exist? Well, most museum websites have a well-hidden library page with info. Or you can try searching the website. Another trick is to search, which collects many library catalogs in one place. If you're searching for a book, it uses your location to tell you where the nearest copies of that item are found. If you're in New York looking for an exhibition catalogue, you will likely see it at the Whitney, the Met, and MoMA as well as local colleges and public libraries.