Using HOLLIS and Worldcat

HOLLIS is Harvard's online search engine for our physical and online collections. There are two different options for searching:

  • Library Catalog searches books, journals, videos, images, government documents, manuscripts, digital resources, etc. It searches the full text of archival finding aids.
  • Everything searches journal and newspaper articles and a vast range of other electronic resources, some of which Harvard does not possess, together with the Library Catalog.

How to Get It :

View Online and Locations & Availability are usually straightforward, but How to Get It can be confusing. Sometimes How to Get It  takes you to the full text or a HOLLIS record, but if not, go back to the Details page.  If you see Is Part Of and then a title, copy the title and search it in HOLLIS.

Finding Books:

A keyword search (Everything) limited to Books (either pre-search in Advanced Search– adjust Resource Type from Any resource type to Books; or post-search – Refine My Results: Resource Type: Books) yields numerous book chapters and books not available at Harvard.  To find books available via the Harvard Library, use 'Show Only' at the top of the right hand column on the Results page.  Note that you can limit here to books not in Storage.

For more on HOLLIS

Search Tips

Use quotes "" to keep words together as a phrase, thus "shell shock" rather than shell shock which is searched as shell AND shock. Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to do complex searches: e.g., (“electronic surveillance” OR eavesdropping) AND privacy

  • Note that OR and AND must be in caps. 

Find all forms of a word with wildcards. ? matches a single character and * matches multiple characters: e.g., feminis?; gene* therapy

  • Note: Phrase searches cannot include wildcards, and you cannot use a wildcard at the beginning of a word).

Subject Searches

  • 1. Search any reasonable keywords
  • 2. Choose pertinent records
  • 3. Look at the Subject terms
  • 4. Redo the search using those terms
  • or Open More options under Subject (left-hand column) and mark Include or Exclude to narrow down your original search. Copy and search Subject terms if you don't want to just narrow down your original search.

Subject terms are chosen by the Library of Congress to express the subject matter of the book. For example, the LC subject term for drones is "Drone aircraft".  The most common Subject terms in your Results set are listed under Subject on the right-hand side.  The Library of Congress subject system is complex, and often there will be several pertinent Subject terms.

Note that only the initial terms in the Subject term strings are listed in the right-hand column.  Thus, in Creationism -- Political aspects, only Creationism is included.  It is often useful to look at several pertinent records to find these qualifying terms, called subdivisions.  You can search "Creationism -- Political aspects" as a phrase (in "").  Also try browsing your subject term: next section.

Subject Browsing:

You can browse subjects in HOLLIS:

  • Choose the option to Starts with.../Browse
  • Choose “By subject” from the dropdown menu on the left
  • Type in your subject to browse.  

You will see your subject broken down to show various aspects. This is often very useful, especially for big subjects.

A search for "Evolution (Biology)" (as an example) will retrieve the Subject "Evolution (Biology)" broken down to show various aspects of that subject. Thus:

  • Evolution (Biology) -- Political aspects -- Great Britain
  • Evolution (Biology) -- Popular works
  • Evolution (Biology) -- Psychological aspects
  • Evolution (Biology) -- Public opinion -- History
  • Evolution (Biology) -- Quotations, maxims, etc
  • Evolution (Biology) -- Religious aspects
  • Evolution (Biology) -- Religious aspects -- Catholic Church

The various terms coming after the main terms, for example, Religious aspects after Evolution (Biology), are called “free-floating subdivisions" and can be applied to other main terms, for example, Nature -- Religious aspects.

A list of free-floating subdivisions is available at Library of Congress Subject Headings PDF Files.

Browsing the Shelves Online

Browsing the actual shelves allows you to dip into books and immediately gauge their value. You will, however, miss any books that are checked out or in the Harvard Depository. You can browse these too, although you cannot dip, in HOLLIS.  

  • Use the Starts with.../Browse link on top of the search screens
  • Choose the call number system you want to browse by from the dropdown menu on the left.
  • If you don’t see the call number system you want, choose “Other call number.”
  • Find the call numbers for your search by doing keyword searches or subject browses and noting the call numbers for appropriate items.

The Library of Congress Classification is available online.

Finding Articles in HOLLIS

If you don’t find the article you want in HOLLIS Everything by searching the article title, try searching the journal title in HOLLIS Library Catalog.  You may limit a title keyword search in Advanced search to journals (adjust Limit to: from All items to Journals) or Starts with.../Browse by title.

Not all of our electronic resources are searched in HOLLIS Everything.  To view our available databases go to E-Resources. Opening the Subject tab will show the various types of e-resources arrayed by subject.


For material not available at Harvard, search in: WorldCat (Harvard login),  which includes catalog records from over 45,000 libraries worldwide but largely U.S. Includes books, periodicals, archives and manuscripts, maps, videotapes, computer readable files, etc. Includes Boston-area libraries. Public version of WorldCat

Importance of WorldCat (aka OCLC):

  • 1. Subject searching beyond Harvard. For periodicals: Advanced search. Document type-Serial Publications
  • 2. Clues for finding items in the HOLLIS Catalog, e.g., volumes in monograph series for which HOLLIS has only one record for the whole series.
  • 3. Finding non-Harvard books in Boston-area libraries.
  • 4. Verifying references for Interlibrary Loan. Entering the OCLC Accession number on the ILL form will result in faster ILL service. (*If there are multiple WorldCat/OCLC records for your item, choose the one that lists the most libraries and mention in the notes that there are other OCLC numbers.)

Tips for items not in HOLLIS

When in WorldCat (see WorldCat information): find the Series field on the WorldCat record. If your book is a volume in a series, Harvard may own the whole series and have one HOLLIS record for the series, rather than a record for each volume

If pre-1923: look in HathiTrust (Harvard Login to download public domain materials), Google Books and Internet Archive.

Submit a purchase request (link also exists on the main HOLLIS page). If it is a very new book, it may be that we have received it but do not yet have it entered in HOLLIS.

Getting What You Need

Much of this information concerns normal library services. For the current situation see the Working Off Campus page.

Finding a pertinent book on the shelf and then looking at its neighbors is an excellent way of finding more material, because the call number system is also a subject system:  QH 30 means biographies of biologists and naturalists.

How to Use Your Harvard Key to Get Online Articles for Free

The Digital Scholarship Support Group offers faculty, students, and staff interested in incorporating digital methods into their teaching and research a single point of entry to the many resources available at Harvard.

Many of Harvard's library materials are located in Offsite storage. When HOLLIS "Location and Availability " indicates that a title is in Offsite storage, hit Request Item. After your Harvard Key there is a pull down menu allowing you to choose delivery location. Sometimes there is a single delivery option. Submit your request. You will receive an email usually in next business day (not weekends or holidays) morning.  Often the item is not actually ready for pick-up until mid-afternoon.  Sometimes Offsite storage material is in-library use only.  For Widener, this is the Phillips Reading Room (up the stairs in the Circulation Room).  Most Offsite storage material is available for scanning via Scan & Deliver (see below). 

The Harvard Direct system allows you to request that a book from one library be delivered to another or paged and brought to the circulation desk of the home library.  Hit Request item on the HOLLIS record for a book that is not checked out. Delivery takes 1-4 days.

If you have the citation to an article which is not available online or the pages or chapter (up to 30 pp.) from a book, Scan & Deliver will email you the pdf within 1-4 days. Hit Scan & Deliver on the HOLLIS record.  For an article in a journal or pages from a book not owned by Harvard, Interlibrary Loan will obtain scans: choose Request Article/Chapter under ILL Requests on your ILL page.  You can also access Scan&Deliver on the HOLLIS home page (on the left).

If a book is checked out or not owned by Harvard, you can probably get it within 1-4 days via Borrow Direct.  This is quicker than recalling it from the person who has it.

Interlibrary Loan will obtain, generally within 1 week-10 days, material not held by Harvard.  This includes books (for which try the quicker Borrow Direct first), DVDs, microfilm and other formats: choose Request Loan under ILL Requests on your ILL page.  ILL will also obtain scans of periodical articles and book chapters not available at Harvard: choose Request Article/Chapter under ILL Requests on your ILL page.  This takes only 1-4 days. Use WorldCat to verify references for InterLibrary Loan. Give them the Accession no. at the bottom of the WorldCat record in the OCLC field of the ILL request form.

Submit a purchase request (link also exists on the main HOLLIS page). If it is a very new book, we may have received it, but it is not in HOLLIS yet.