The John Carter Brown Library and COVID-19

Amidst the turmoil around the world and increasing uncertainty regarding what will happen in the US over the coming weeks, we took the decision over the weekend to close the Library for at least the next two weeks. Our activities had already been decreasing over the past week, most of our research fellows have returned home (or are hunkered down in their temporary accommodations in Providence), and all of our other public-facing activities have been cancelled for the foreseeable future (at least through the end of April). 

We took this step of closing the Library to the public, staff, and researchers out of an abundance of caution and after careful consideration. As state and local governments have now recognized, it makes no sense to risk the exposure of staff members, fellows, their families, and the general public to anyone who may be a vector for the virus. This approach is in line with other peer research libraries, including the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Newberry Library, the New-York Historical Society, and several others, with whose directors I have been in regular contact. Over the weekend, Brown University also made the decision to close all non-essential centers and departments.

What can we do in these extraordinary times? In addition to practicing all appropriate techniques for diminishing group contact and maximizing personal hygiene, we want you to know that the Library remains open virtually and available to researchers, students, library staff, and the general public through our digital platforms. Fortunately, our new and greatly expanded website ( is fully functional. Please take this opportunity to discover our collection, review our past exhibitions, or connect with our digital collections.

This also might be a good opportunity to link up with our Instagram page, for instance, to see some of our more visually engaging posts from the past several months. We will continue to post beautiful images from these works as our talented digital team continues its work over the coming weeks. We will also be selecting special items from the Library's digital materials to highlight - like Maria Sybilla Merian's spectacular treatise on insects in Surinam, recently digitized and located here - even as we continue to develop a new digital platform for engaging with all of our materials in the coming months. In the meantime, our Internet Archive platform - with more than 14,000 digital items - can be accessed virtually, as can our Archive of Early American Images and Maps collections on the Luna platform.

These are complicated times, and the expectation is that things will get worse before they get better. But the entire staff of the John Carter Brown Library remains committed to maintaining and even expanding access to our resources during this period, and we look forward to accompanying you - our global community - through this moment of extraordinary challenges for all of us.