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.

The Subject field in HOLLIS uses the Library of Congress classfication system. 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 system outline is detailed 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 see lists of our databases, go to the Databases page and enter a major subject area (like "history of science" or "medicine" or "african american").

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.

  • Fall 2020: this applies to lots of copyrighted material too while HathiTrust is making it available through their Emergency Temporary Access Service. If we have a book in print and it exists in HathITrust's database, we should be able to view the full text.

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

This page will be updated as our pandemic services evolve over the course of the semester.

How can you get your hands/eyes on material?

This list includes Harvard Library services and selected non-Harvard resources that may be particularly helpful during the pandemic. Harvard Library has so many resources that there is no one perfect way to get at all materials, or to see if we have access, but we've listed the best options for most situations. 

 HOLLIS- the center of the Library ecosystem. This is often be the best first step to see if we have something. Many items are readily available through HOLLIS by clicking on "Online Access" or opening the listing and scrolling down to the "Get it" section. Check the HOLLIS section of this guide. 

Browser Plugins for Library Access- Harvard Bookmark and Lean Library plugins can help you find out if we have access to books and articles online-- so you don't always have to go to HOLLIS when you want to know if we have a certain item.

Some of the below options will be offered in HOLLIS; others you may have to seek if you've checked there and haven't found what you needed. 

HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service- full text books online, some available nowhere else. (Not to be confused with traditional HathiTrust. ETAS explained here Expected to continue as long as our campus is mostly virtual. Note that:

  • Make sure you're logged in once at the HathiTrust site (look in the upper right corner)
  • Periodicals available via HathiTrust ETAS are not always linked from HOLLIS, so look them up in the HathiTrust Catalog Search. 
  • The full runs of journals available in HathiTrust will be available even where Harvard only has a partial run
  • When searching from the HathiTrust site, do not select View Online Only.  That applies to the HathiTrust site at large, not to the ETAS materials, and would omit the Temporary Access material in your results.
  • No downloading is available for the Temporary Access material. You can only view it online because it's not an official program through the publisher; it's meant to replace no access to some of the millions of books currently "trapped" in libraries during the pandemic.

Non-Harvard sources for online books:

  • Digital Libraries like Internet Archive 
  • Public libraries: while they don't have everything carried by a research library, there is more overlap than you might expect. They're often a good source of ebooks, too- so if we don't have something or only one of us can read it at a time it might be available through your public library, often in an easier-to-read format. Check their website for more information.

    • Boston Public Library has said they will honor Harvard email addresses during the pandemic even for students who aren't living in the neighborhood as usual. They have books, newspapers, and plenty more.

If you can't get to it online: 

  • Scan & Deliver- request pdfs of articles and book chapters we have in print (from the HOLLIS listing).
  • Interlibrary Loan request materials from other libraries (log in on the ILL page)
  • BorrowDirect- the fastest way to get books, music scores, some DVD and video, that we don't have in the library. 

Purchase Request- they're prioritizing ebooks right now; specify if you hope to pick up print

Digitization of Special Collection Materials- at Harvard and elsewhere

  • From Harvard's collections: look for "View in Library" in HOLLIS (to place a scanning request) or contact the repository directly. Most of our larger archival collections are able to provide scans. 
  • Beyond Harvard: Some non-Harvard repositories may be willing and able to scan material (usually for a fee) during the pandemic.  Our Interlibrary Loan department will place the request and help with the cost (there is a cap).
  • Contact the other repository to see what their current services. If they're able to help, get a price estimate for the material you need  and the exact details (like Box 77 folder 4- this is available in Finding Aids)
  • Log in to ILL.  On the left side it says "Make a Request."  Open that and choose "Request Article." 
    • Fill in what you can (put in N/A if the field is inapplicable) with the price and other information in the Comments box.
    • This will get the process going and ILL will get back to you if they need more information or to discuss the price.

For those on campus/in the area: Library Pickup (make an appointment to pick up books at Lamont Library) and BorrowDirect (the fastest way to get a book Harvard doesn't have on the shelf), but not available for all books.

Book mailing
The Library has begun a Book Mailing Service for up to 10 books at one time via USPS.  Users are limited to 100 books in total.  Only for books unavailable digitally.  Local people should still use Lamont Pick-up. Request via the Book Mailing Request Form rather than HOLLIS.

Remote Microfilm Viewing

A system for remote viewing of microfilm is available.  You make an appointment, and a Widener staff member loads the reels into the machine, which you can access remotely via your home computer.  You may view up to three reels per hour. Request form to remotely view microfilm.

You can often get microfilm via Interlibrary Loan which you can view remotely.

Options beyond Harvard: 

Visit a Library near You

Other institutions: Most research libraries are still operating at limited capacity and admitting (if anyone) only specific groups (like students invited to be on campus). 

Public libraries: while they don't have everything carried by a research library, there is more overlap than you might expect. Check with your local library to see what the current possibilities are for access. Even if they aren't admitting visitors right now they may have book pickup, interlibrary loan services, and online databases. 

Search tips: WorldCat (the OCLC Union Catalog) which includes catalog records from over 70,000 libraries worldwide but largely U.S. Includes books, periodicals, archives and manuscripts, maps, videotapes, computer readable files, etc.  Harvard's subscribed version offers the most powerful search (use Advanced search), but the public version allows you to enter your zip code and find nearby libraries holding a specified book (first find a listing for the item you have in mind. From there you can see what libraries report having it).

Visit an Archival Collection near You

Most libraries and archives are still operating at limited capacity and may be admitting a limited number of people (like students invited to campus for the semester), if anyone. It's always important to call ahead but during the pandemic, check their website or reach out to the archive to find out what services are available. The guides below may help you investigate the options and/or plan for future trips. 

Our Library Research Guide for Finding Manuscripts and Archival Collections guide gives instructions for finding archives and manuscripts outside of Harvard. Methods for limiting by region, where available, are given for the archive and manuscript databases. Some archives have digitized, usually small, selected portions of their collections. These are often accessed through collection finding aids, sometimes through digital collections.

Our Research Travel Checklist guide offers advice on visiting non-Harvard archives.