A textbook which introduces vocabularies that could appear on the day of the test (TOEFL) gives me a below sentence.

It sounds like the staff at the circulation desk knows you pretty well. These days I'm mainly using the reserve desk and the reference section. My biology professor puts a lot of articles on reserve, and then there're these big reference volumes -- like The Encyclopedia Of Biology -- in the reference room that he wants us to read. You can't check those out. So I usually take them to a quiet desk up in the stacks and read them there.

I "conquered" several parts which are easy to native speakers, but I finally gave up when I came across the bold part. (Googling didn't help). Could you please help me what up in the stacks mean, in (probably) this context?

  • 1
    "staff" here is actually plural (it a rather odd noun) so it should be "...know you pretty well..."
    – James K
    Jun 16, 2018 at 12:55
  • Thank you. You know how much time I spend just for this sentence. Imagine if you come to Japan and go to our library and start reading like a "native" speaker. :9
    – user17814
    Jun 16, 2018 at 13:41

1 Answer 1


It simply means "up around the bookshelves". From Wikipedia:

In library science and architecture, a stack or bookstack (often referred to as a library building's stacks) is a book storage area, as opposed to a reading area.

And, from an "Ask a Librarian" column:

'Stacks' are the open shelves of library books. If the catalogue says a book is in the stacks, then it's on a shelf in the branch indicated in the catalogue.

The precise meaning of a preposition depends on the context. In this case, if a book is "up in the stacks," that means it's on the bookshelf, but if a person in "up in the stacks," that means they are sitting on a chair or at a table that is surrounded by bookshelves, or perhaps standing in the aisle looking at a book.

  • Ughhh...I knew what the word "stack" means "basically". ( piles, numbers of so on and so forth. ) But it could convey another meaning according to the context. Thanks!
    – user17814
    Jun 16, 2018 at 11:43
  • 2
    The word has its own special meaning in a library, much like the word memory might have a different meaning, depending on if you are a computer scientist or a neuroscientist.
    – J.R.
    Jun 16, 2018 at 11:45
  • Stack can also mean 'a storage area for less-used books using compact shelving'. Feb 21 at 17:38

You must log in to answer this question.