Harvard University Library System

Harvard’s library system, which dates from 1638, is the oldest library in the US and the largest academic library in the world. With more than 16 million books and a burgeoning number of digital objects and electronic resources, the collections are housed in more than 70 libraries, most of which are located in Cambridge and Boston. Of these collections, more than half are in the purview of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, specifically in the Harvard College Library (HCL).

Harvard College Library


The Harvard College Library (HCL) is actually a system of libraries that support the teaching and research activities of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the University, and the larger scholarly community. Librarians throughout the HCL libraries offer a variety of services to users: assistance at reference desks, individual consultations by appointment, IM reference service, and course-related research instruction. They compose research guides on almost every subject offered in the College and make them available online (www.hcl.harvard.edu/research/guides).

In addition to the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library—which is the University’s flagship—HCL includes:

  • Cabot Science Library

  • Fine Arts Library

  • Fung Library

  • Harvard Film Archive

  • Harvard Map Collection

  • Harvard Theatre Collection

  • Harvard–Yenching Library

  • Houghton Library

  • Lamont Library

  • Loeb Music Library

  • Quad Library

  • Tozzer Library

Harvard’s Graduate and Professional Schools

Each of Harvard’s graduate and professional faculties supports additional significant libraries. These include:

Additional Collections

Harvard’s library system also includes numerous departmental and special libraries within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and a number of additional and affiliated collections, ranging from the Villa I Tatti in Florence to the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library in Washington, DC. For a complete directory of Harvard libraries and archives, as well as their Websites, visit lib.harvard.edu/libraries.

Digital Collections

Harvard offers a growing number of subject-specific, web-accessible collections, including photographic collections, documents, musical scores, prints, drawings, historical maps, books, legal transcripts, diaries, manuscripts, and more. To survey these collections—many of which were developed with support infrastructure and expertise provided by Harvard’s Library Digital Initiative—visit digitalcollections.harvard.edu.

Access for Undergraduates

Undergraduates with valid HUID cards have access to all Harvard libraries. It is important to recognize that the individual libraries establish separate circulation policies, and that those policies may vary significantly. For more information, visit lib.harvard.edu/libraries.

HOLLIS Discovery System


HOLLIS now offers users a simple, intuitive interface for discovering library resources in significant new ways. The new HOLLIS is “a discovery environment” and not just a catalog. Located at http://discovery.lib.harvard.edu, HOLLIS now reflects a new generation of creative thinking about searching on the web as it differs from searches in traditional library catalogs. As users experiment with the new system, the older version – dubbed “HOLLIS Classic” – remains in place, continuously providing traditional search methods at http://holliscatalog.harvard.edu. Both can be accessed from the Harvard Libraries portal at http://lib.harvard.edu.

Using a HUID and PIN, members of the Harvard community are able to use HOLLIS to renew, hold, or recall items; to view a list of items checked out; and to check fines online.

Library Websites

Harvard Libraries: lib.harvard.edu

A major starting point for research is the “Harvard Libraries” Website, which is an online gateway to the library resources of Harvard University. The site serves as an important research tool for Harvard’s current students, faculty, staff, and researchers who hold HUIDs and PINs. Through E-Research @ Harvard Libraries, it provides access to electronic resources and journals licensed by the Harvard libraries, as well as links to all of the Harvard library catalogs. It also points to research guides compiled by the libraries across campus and provides practical information on each of the more than 70 libraries that form the Harvard system.

Most of Harvard’s libraries also have developed their own Websites, which are full of valuable links and information covering their areas of specialty.

E-Research @ Harvard Libraries e-research.lib.harvard.edu

E-Research @ Harvard Libraries is an online library service that provides access for Harvard users to over 8,000 electronic resources, 49,200 journals, and 300,000 e-books.  E-Research also allows users to store and manage their search results.

Using E-Research, users can

  • Find and access article databases and indexes, encyclopedias, e-book and e-journal collections, and many other electronic resources.

  • Find articles on a topic by searching across the content of multiple e-resources with a single search.

  • Find and access individual electronic journals by title, subject, or ISSN.

  • Add selected e-resources to personal lists for cross-searching and reference (My E-Resources).

  • Save lists of favorite e-journals for quick reference (My E-Journals).

  • Store links to articles, books, and other items (My Citations).

  • View past searches (Saved Searches).

  • Save citations to local workstations or to bibliographic management software RefWorks or EndNote.

  • Click on “Find It @ Harvard” buttons for all search results in order to locate items online or on the shelves at Harvard libraries.

In order to achieve maximum benefit from E-Research @ Harvard Libraries and to access all of Harvard’s licensed e-resources, Harvard users should log in, using Harvard IDs and PINs, at the beginning of each session.

Harvard College Library A Research Tool for Library Users


This user-friendly site is a complement to the Harvard Libraries portal and offers quick access to a variety of research tools like research guides, research contacts, online forms, Ask a Librarian online reference service, and information about hours, admittance and borrowing, copying and scanning services, exhibitions and events, services for persons with disabilities, and more.

Other Harvard Library Catalogs

Google Book Search for Harvard


This new, Harvard-specific version of Google Book Search offers users the option to search the full text of all books available in Google Book Search—whether contributed by Harvard, another library, or the publisher. Users of GBS for Harvard will see “Find at Harvard University” links displayed with every item in a search-result set. By clicking these links, library users reach individual catalog records when exact matches are found in HOLLIS—together with information on location and availability within the Harvard library system. If an exact match in HOLLIS is not found, a pre-populated HOLLIS search screen opens, making it easy for the patron to launch a new HOLLIS search session.

The Visual Information Access (VIA) system


The Visual Information Access (VIA) system is a union catalog of visual resources at Harvard. It includes information about slides, photographs, objects, and artifacts in the University’s libraries, museums, and archives. Approximately 50% of the records in VIA contain digital images.

Online Archival Search Information System (OASIS)


The Online Archival Search Information System (OASIS) provides centralized access to a growing percentage of finding aids for archival and manuscript collections at Harvard. These finding aids are detailed descriptions of collections that contain a wide variety of source materials, including letters, diaries, photographs, drawings, printed material, and objects.

Harvard Geospatial Library (HGL)


The Harvard Geospatial Library is a system for the discovery, analysis, mapping, and delivery of geospatial data. It is also possible to pass on coordinates from external applications in order to plot or draw your own data on top of HGL maps.

Responsibilities of Library Users

The Harvard libraries are maintained for the University’s students, faculty, staff, and other authorized members of the scholarly community. In order to preserve the collections and to ensure ongoing access to them, users are expected to respect the rules and regulations around use of library materials and property and to assist in the protection of library materials.

Every user of the library has a responsibility to:

  • safeguard the integrity of library resources;

  • respect the restrictions placed on access to and use of those resources;

  • report to library officers the theft, destruction, or misuse of library resources by others;

  •  respect the rights of others to the quiet use of the library; and

  • respect the authority of the librarians and staff whose job it is to protect library resources.

The following is prohibited:

  • the exploitation of library resources or materials for profit or use for commercial purposes

  • the systematic printing or downloading of significant portions of licensed online resources

  • unauthorized removal of materials or property from the library

  • destruction, defacement, or abuse of library materials or property

  • use of library privileges for reasons other than personal academic pursuits

Students, staff, faculty members, researchers, visitors, and other users who fail to comply with library rules and regulations are subject to revocation of library privileges, disciplinary actions, and legal prosecution. All library users are subject to the fines and penalties of the University, as well as the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts governing crimes against property.

Services for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities are directed to the reference desks of individual libraries for assistance in getting books. If special arrangements are required, students should contact coordinators of individual libraries. See individual listings for building access, or visit "Library Services for Persons with Disabilities" at lib.harvard.edu/libraries/disability_services.html or "Services/Access for Persons with Disabilities" at http://hcl.harvard.edu/info/disability_services/.

HCL Libraries

Lamont Library

Harvard Yard
Sun.–Thu., 24 hours Fri., closes 9:45 pm Sat., 8 am – 9:45 pm Sun., opens 8 am (schedule changes during intersession)

Lamont Library houses a number of services. For undergraduates, it holds the books required for most courses and tutorials, course-reserve readings, and books for general reading. Also in Lamont are Morse Music and Media, the Woodberry Poetry Room, the Farnsworth Room recreational reading collection, and the Language Resource Center. The Lamont Library Café is located on the main level. For details on the café, please visit: http://www.dining.harvard.edu/campus_restaurants/.

accessThe main entrance of Lamont is ramped for wheelchair access and there is elevator service to all levels. Some University telephones and pay phones in the library are adapted for voice amplification; check with library staff for locations.

Cabot Science Library

Science Center
Regular Term Hours: Mon.–Thu., 8:30 am–midnight; Fri., 8:30 am–6 pm Sat., noon–10 pm; Sun., 10 am–midnight (schedule changes during intersession)

Located in the Science Center, Cabot houses general collections in all areas of science, with undergraduate materials in applied sciences, astronomy, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, geology, physics, zoology, history of science, and agricultural engineering; and research collections in earth and planetary sciences, pure mathematics, and theoretical statistics. The library has ample study space on three levels, as well as rooms for group study and for viewing videos of selected courses given in the Science Center.

accessAccess for persons with disabilities: The Science Center is wheelchair-accessible and the elevator key is available. For more information call 617-496-4958. Special services include HOLLIS terminal with printer and VisualTek closed-circuit television enlargement for viewing printed or microfiche material. Group study rooms can be used for readers with visual handicaps, although not on a reserved-time basis.

Widener Library

Harvard Yard
Mon.–Thu., 9 am–10 pm; Fri., 9 am–7 pm, Sat., 9 am–5 pm; Sun., noon–8 pm (schedule changes during intersession)
617-495-2414 / 617-495-2413

Harvard’s flagship library located centrally in the Yard, Widener contains more than 3.5 million books, journals, and other materials that comprise one of the world’s most comprehensive research collections in the humanities and social sciences. The library has four spacious reading rooms featuring a variety of seating and study spaces, wireless connectivity, power/data jacks, and ample lighting. Orientation tours of the building are offered throughout each term. See the Website for details.

accessParts of the building are wheelchair-accessible from the Massachusetts Avenue entrance.

The Harvard Map Collection

Pusey Library
Mon.–Fri., 10 am–4:45 pm

America’s oldest map collection includes rare editions of Mercator, Ortelius, and Ptolemaic atlases, as well as large-scale current topographic maps of geographic areas throughout the world. It also features significant holdings of early state, county, and town maps from the mid-19th century. The modern maps include topographic series from around the world, thematic maps, nautical charts, aerial photography, and satellite imagery. The Harvard Map Collection acquires and provides access to digital cartographic resources and geographic information systems.

accessPeople with disabilities wishing to visit the Harvard Map Collection should call 617-495-2417 in advance to make arrangements.

Harvard University Archives

Pusey Library via Lamont Library West Door
Mon.-Fri., 10 am-4:45 pm

Permanent records of Harvard University from 1636 to the present; Harvard dissertations and undergraduate honors theses; Harvard and other historical materials, including photographs, faculty papers, and records of student organizations; records management program.

accessAccess for persons with disabilities: People with disabilities wishing to visit the Harvard University Archives should call 617-495-2461 in advance to make arrangements.

Houghton Library

Harvard Yard
Mon., Fri., Sat., 9 am–5 pm; Tues. – Thurs., 9 am–7 pm; Sun. Closed (schedule changes during intersession)

Harvard’s primary repository for rare books and manuscripts, Houghton holds collections on the study of Western civilization, particularly European and American history and literature, and special collections in printing and graphic arts and the theater. The library hosts a number of exhibitions during the academic year and introductory tours of the building on Fridays. See the Website for details.

accessCall 617-495-2440 or 617-495-2441 to make arrangements for wheelchair access.

Fine Arts Library Littauer Building, North Yard
Fine Arts Library Digital Images and Slides

Sackler Building, 485 Browdway St.
Mon.–Thu., 9 am–10 pm; Fri., 9 am–6 pm Sat., 10 am–5 pm; Sun., 1 pm–6 pm (schedule changes during intersession)

One of the world’s most comprehensive academic art libraries, the Fine Arts collection covers all of Western and non-Western art and architecture, from antiquity to the present, with special collections in East Asian and Islamic art and architecture and the Harvard Film Archive.

accessAccess for people with disabilities to the Fine Arts Library is available at the Prescott Street entrance. Elevators and accessible restrooms and telephones are available in both facilities.

Harvard–Yenching Library

2 Divinity Avenue
Mon.–Fri., 9 am–10 pm Sat., 9 am–5 pm; Sun., noon–5 pm (schedule changes during intersession)

With the most extensive academic research collection on East Asian materials outside of Asia, the Harvard–Yenching Library holds publications in the humanities and social sciences on traditional and modern East Asia, and is renowned for its rare books and manuscripts.

accessAccess for people with disabilities is available at the side entrance of the building. Persons with disabilities wishing to visit the library should telephone 617-495-2756 in advance to make arrangements for assistance. An accessible elevator, restroom, and telephone are available.

Loeb Music Library

North Yard
Mon.–Thu., 9 am–10 pm; Fri., 9 am–5 pm; Sat., 1 pm–5 pm; Sun., 1 pm–10 pm (schedule changes during intersession)

One of the world’s preeminent libraries supporting music research, Loeb Music collections include thousands of books, scores, and recordings; a world music archive; the world’s largest collections of Turkish and Indian classical music; jazz and African-American music; and an extensive Mozart archive.

accessAccess for persons with disabilities is through the entrance of the Paine Hall wing of the Music Building. Once inside the building, follow signage to the library. An elevator, an accessible restroom and telephone, and retrieval upon request are available.

Quad Library

Hilles Building
Mon.–Thu. ,1 pm–2 am; Fri., noon-5 pm; Sat.–Sun., closed (Open only during the academic year)

The Quad Library is a comfortable study space located on the first floor of the Hilles Building in the Quad. The library holds an open-stack collection that includes high-use volumes of scholarly works, selected reference materials, and some current periodicals. There are an ample number of computer workstations with print capability, a self-service scanner and photocopier, power/data jacks, and wireless connectivity.

accessThe library is accessible through the Campus Drive entrance across from Cabot House. An elevator and an accessible restroom and telephone are available. Transportation for students with disabilities requiring door-to-door adaptive transportation may be arranged with Shuttle Van Service at 617-495-0400.

Tozzer Library

21 Divinity Avenue
Mon.–Thu., 9 am–9 pm Fri., 9 am–5 pm; Sat.–Sun., 1 pm–5 pm (schedule changes during intersession)

Tozzer is one of the world’s foremost collections supporting the study of anthropology, extending to all its subfields including archaeology, and is renowned for collections relating to the indigenous people of the Americas.

accessAccess for people with disabilities is at the front entrance of the library. An elevator, an accessible restroom and telephone, and retrieval upon request are also available.