Library Policies

Last updated on July 15, 2020

Table of Contents


World atlases and a driving atlas of North America are found on a small table at the entrance to the first-floor Library stacks. Other atlases are found in the circulating and reference collections, in the “G” section of the classification.

Book Sale Shelves

The Library sells books and other materials to its patrons in the first floor of the Library. Prices are marked on the front cover or inside the front cover. Payment for these items should be given to the circulation desk attendant.

Borrowing Privileges

Borrowing privileges are extended free to current students, faculty and staff, students of the Geneva College Pittsburgh Campus, and the Adult Degree Program (ADP) of Geneva College. Student, faculty, and staff ID cards serve as their library cards.

All other adults desiring borrowing privileges must pay for them. The cost is $30 for RPTS graduates; $40 for local clergy; and $50 for everyone else per twelve-month period, payable in advance. See TREE,, to register for borrowing privileges.

Catalog—Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC)

The Library’s online catalog, or OPAC, has a computer devoted solely to its use, on the first floor of the Library next to the reference collection. All Library materials are listed in the online catalog. The Library catalog may also be consulted remotely through the Library’s website,, or the Seminary’s website,

Click Here to watch an informational video about the Library Catalog.


Books circulate for four weeks and may be renewed two times, for a total of twelve weeks. If the book you want is checked out, you may reserve it through the online catalog by placing a “hold” on it.

To check out a book during normal business hours, go to the Circulation Desk and an attendant will assist you. A self-checkout system will be available to check out books during non-business hours. Instructions for the self-checkout system are posted next to the circulation computer.  

Our cataloging system automatically sends email reminders to patrons five (5) days before their items are due. The system also sends overdue notices to our patrons, alerting them of overdue items on their account. Once students have received their final overdue notice (after three email notices and one written notice), their library account will be blocked, and a hold will be placed on their Seminary account. These holds will only be removed after the overdue items have been returned to the Library and fines have been paid. If you receive an overdue or fine notice which you believe is in error, contact the Library Staff by emailing

If you want to renew an item which may be renewed, you may do so through the Library website. All renewed materials are subject to recall by the Library at any time for the use of another patron. Renewals are not permitted if you have an outstanding fine.

The items you wish to borrow must be properly checked out. Removal of items from the Library premises without checkout is a violation of the RPTS Community Standards.


It is the policy of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary Library to comply with Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) which governs the use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes, including permissible reproduction. All persons using the Library are expected to comply with this policy.

Copyright is the set of exclusive legal rights conferred on authors and content creators to copy, distribute, adapt, perform and display their works and to authorize others to do so.

  • A work should be presumed to be under copyright unless it was authored by the United States Government or was published before 1923 or was released into the public domain by the copyright owner.
  • The absence of a copyright notice, especially for works published after 1978, does not necessarily mean the work is not copyright protected.

Copyright infringement is the exercise of the rights of the copyright owner without the owner’s permission unless there is an exception to the owner’s rights granted by law.

Fair use (Section 107 of the United States copyright law) is an exception to the rights of copyright owners, allowing for limited use of copyrighted works, without permission, for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship and research. Section 107, while allowing the copying of copyrighted works, does not define the amount that can lawfully be copied.

The law specifies four factors to be considered in determining whether use of a work is fair:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Virtually anything in the Library less than seventy-five years old (i.e., published from 1943 to the present), may be under copyright and, therefore, strict rules govern whether it may be legally copied.

In general, you may make one copy, digital or print, for your personal use of an article in a journal or a chapter in a book, as long as neither the article nor the chapter is inordinately long. A professor may make multiple copies of an article in a journal or a chapter in a book for classroom use only.

For more substantial photocopying, you must write to request written permission from the copyright holder (typically the author, the author’s estate, or the publisher) in order to make a photocopy.

Please respect the rights of those who have created the information you find interesting and useful.

Current Periodicals

Current periodicals are displayed on the main floor of the Library wing, immediately to the right as you enter the wing, in alphabetical order.

Denominational Periodicals

In the wooden cabinets along the walls of the Reception Room are found denominational periodicals of other denominations, in alphabetical order. Periodicals of the Reformed Presbyterian Churches are found in the R.P. Archives.

Distance Students

Distance students have full access to the Library, just as any on-campus student. They may request physical resources, which the Library staff will mail to them, via media mail, by visiting TREE and selecting Request Library Materials in the Mail under the Services and Students tabs. The Library will pay the postage for all resources mailed to students. However, students are expected to pay the postage for resources mailed back to RPTS by media mail. Library staff reserve the right to decline mailing resources to students outside of the United States. Staff will assess these requests on a case-by-case basis and based on student needs, postage costs, and customs requirements.

Distance students also have full access to all subscription and free online resources.

If distance students need to speak with a member of the Library staff they may do so by phone (412-731-6000 ext. 5), email (, or by live chat on TREE.


The Library makes e-books available to patrons through the Library catalog and through the Theological Library E-book Lending Project (TLELP). TLELP is an online catalog with more than 1,000 e-books, which is shared by a number of other seminary libraries. This resource gives students a plethora of online resources for a fraction of the cost to our institution. For instructions on how to access the resources on TLELP go to the “help” section of TREE. All of the e-books on TLELP (and some on the local catalog) require the patron to enter his or her email username and then your post 21-22 school year ID #; others may be downloaded directly.


The Library charges small fines to encourage patrons to return items. The fine is twenty cents per day for most items, however, the fine for reserve books is $1.00 per hour. Fines are not charged for the Lord’s Day when the Library is closed. If you receive an overdue or fine notice which you believe is in error, contact the Library Staff by emailing

Payment for fines can be made online by credit card on your patron account or given to the circulation desk attendent in the form of cash or check. All checks should be made out to “RPTS”.

If you have books due or overdue and do not anticipate coming to the Seminary in the near future, you should carefully box the items and mail them by “Media Mail” rate to the Library at 7418 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa 15208. Alternatively, you can renew the items online.

Food and Drink

Food and drink is permitted in the Library; however, they may not be consumed in the stacks

Hours of Opening

The Library is open twenty-hours a day from Monday through Saturday but closed on the Lord’s Day. Library staff members are available most weekdays from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., normal holidays excluded.

Interlibrary Loans

If you fail to find an item in our collection, you should first check the website of the Barbour Library, McCartney Library, or the Trinity School for Ministry Library before initiating an interlibrary loan request. If those libraries do not have what you want, fill out the request form for a book or for a periodical article; the form can be found under “services” on TREE. In some cases, the Library must charge for items for which we pay to receive from other libraries.

Library Storage

If the book you are looking for is in “storage”, let a member of the Library Staff know and they will retrieve it for you.

Lost or Damaged Items

When an item that is checked out is lost or damanged, the borrower will be charged for the cost of the replacement item(s), a $25.00 processing fee, and any associated fines.


Many items are available as microforms, which include microfiche, microfilm, and micro-cards; however, the Library has no micro-cards.

All microforms in the Library are cataloged.

Microfiche are housed in gray file drawers above the gray file cabinet on the Mezzanine.

Microfilm is housed in the gray file cabinet on the Mezzanine.

A microform reader-printer-scanner is available on the main level of the Library near the computers. Instructions for its use are available from the Library staff.


The Library collects all minutes of the Reformed Presbyterian Churches (North America, Ireland, Scotland, etc.), and the minutes of the major assemblies of other denominations, including the Associate Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the Protestant Reformed Churches of America. The minutes of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Presbyterian Church of North America are available at the Barbour Library of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

All minutes not in the Reference Room or Reformed Presbyterian Archives may be checked out.

Overdue Item(s)

Patrons automatically receive three emails reminding them when an item is overdue. After patrons receive the third and final notice, they have 30 days to return the overdue item(s). After 30 days have passed, Library Staff will automatically mark the item “lost.”

See “Lost or Damaged Items” for details about any charges or fees that patrons may incur for lost items.

Oversize Books

Books taller or deeper than 26 cm (or ten inches) are labeled “Oversize” and are shelved separately from smaller books.

Each of the three major levels of the Library has an “Oversize” section. Oversize books from the BH-BR, BT, and BV section follow BV in the far end of the first floor of the Library. Oversize books BX-Z are to the right as you enter that section on the Mezzanine. Oversize A-BF and BS books begin to the left of the fireplace on the second floor and continue near the bay windows.

“Oversize” books circulate like other books and are shelved using the Library of Congress Classification as are other books.

Pamphlets are arranged alphabetically by subject. Certain subjects, such as various cults, the Sabbath, and alcohol, are well-represented. One sample copy of the periodicals of many denominations can also be found there.

Most significant pamphlets have been cataloged and are shelved in the book collection, usually in a protective folder. The rest are in the Pamphlet File.


The Library receives about two hundred periodicals currently; nearly all are displayed in the Current Periodicals Room.

The Library collects about 870 other periodicals, most of them no longer being published.

A list of our periodical holdings is available near the entrance to the first floor of the Library in a gray three-ring binder; this list is updated every six months.

After a certain period of time, issues of currently received periodicals are taken from the Current Periodicals Room and shelved with other back issues.

Periodicals are protected for future use by several forms of binding; fiscal restraints mean that many have not yet been bound.

Most periodicals, except for recent issues of periodicals currently received, are housed in alphabetical order on the outside walls of both the first floor and Mezzanine of the library. Periodicals beginning with the letters “A” through “Et” are on the first floor and “Eu” through “Z” are on the Mezzanine.

Periodicals do not circulate, except by special permission of the Librarian.

PIN Number

In order to access your account on the Library website, you must enter the barcode number from your RPTS student card and your PIN number, the latter being the last four digits of your student card barcode number.


Plagiarism is defined as “using the wording, ideas, or outline of another person without acknowledging the source.” Plagiarism is distinguished from excessive dependence. In the latter, the student fails to process information through his or her own critical and constructive thinking, and follows too closely the wording, ideas, or outline of another person, while giving adequate reference to sources. Excessive dependence reduces the quality of work done, but is not ordinarily regarded as dishonest. See the Student Handbook for the Seminary’s official policy on plagiarism.

Plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft, which involves claiming the work of another as one’s own. Many free plagiarism checking websites are available for student use. If substantiated as deliberate, plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the paper, and for the course.

Rare Books Room

The Rare Books Room is located on the second floor of the Library. Inside, rare books are kept under controlled temperature and humidity. Books published before 1830, publications in Braille, and very rare volumes are housed here.

The Room was opened in 1986 and funded largely by a gift from the women of the North Hills Reformed Presbyterian Church.

The Room is kept locked, but you may ask for the key in the Library Office or the Seminary Office. The book cabinets within the Room are never locked.

The Room is to be used only for using the rare books, unless the Librarian grants special permission for other purposes. Meetings in this room must be scheduled through the Seminary Office.

Rare Books

The rare books found in the Library have come to us from two major sources: the Associate Presbyterian Church Collection and the Willson Family Collection.

Over 1700 volumes are found in the Rare Books Room on the second floor of the Library. They are grouped in three areas: “Rare Mini” for small books, behind the door; “Rare Oversize” for large books, opposite the door; and the regular size books, which are simply marked “Rare”, on the three main walls and in the closet.

Rare books do not circulate, but they are listed in the online catalog.

Nearly all our rare books date from before 1830; the earliest was published in 1534, the year after the conversion of John Calvin, but before he settled in Geneva (1536).

Reciprocal Libraries

The RPTS Library is enrolled in the ATLA Reciprocal Barrowing Program. This means that as a student at RPTS you have full borrowing privileges at any of the reciprocal libraries by displaying your RPTS student ID card. The three reciprocal libraries in close proximity to RPTS are Barbour Library of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, McCartney Library of Geneva College, and the Trinity School for Ministry Library. Visit TREE to see the full list of participating libraries.

Reference Collection

Reference books are kept on the first floor of the Library.  

Reference books do not circulate, but you may use them anywhere in the building for short periods of time.

Reformed Presbyterian Archives

First copies of books, minutes, and periodicals, and archival materials about the Reformed Presbyterian Churches of the world are housed in the Reformed Presbyterian Archives, located on the second floor of the Library, in the first room to the left at the top of the main stairs.

This room is kept locked, but the key may be procured from the Seminary Office or the Library Office. The minutes, books, and periodicals in the Archives are all cataloged, but few of the other materials are.


Do not shelve books or other Library materials. You are likely to make a mistake and the item is thus effectively lost until someone finds the error, perhaps many years later. Even Library staff members occasionally make such mistakes! Place books in the book depository or on any of the green book carts found on the three levels of the Library.

Study Carrels

Twelve study carrels are provided for the use of patrons, who may use a carrel for study. The carrels are first come, first serve, and may not be reserved. Library items left overnight on a carrel will be checked in and reshelved. All other items will be placed in the Seminary’s lost and found.


TREE (Theological Research Electronic Expressway) is the Library’s online research portal. Our hope is that this research suite will be a “one stop shop” for students, faculty, and staff as they search for online resources. T.R.E.E. hosts our Online Catalog as well as access to Ebsco-Host, WorldCat Discovery, a variety of blogs, online journals, and a plethora of free online resources. You may access T.R.E.E. by going to the RPTS website or by going directly to If you should have a question regarding the online research portal please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Library staff.

Click Here to watch an informational video about TREE.