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 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.

Books can be returned at the back (Massachusetts Avenue) door of Widener.

Library book pickup (Current Harvard faculty, staff and students who are onsite/can come to campus for pickup)

You can check out books from any of our facilities to which we have access. Check our How to Borrow Our Materials and Use our Services During COVID page to see what's available and how to arrange pickup at Lamont Library (appointment only). Books available through HathiTrust Temporary Access can not be requested for Lamont pick up.

Borrow Direct  (Current faculty, staff and students who are onsite/can come to campus for pickup)

If a book is already 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 (hitting the Request link) from the person who has it.  Largely for books, but some DVDs, microfilm and other formats are available.  The Borrow Direct catalog can be tricky to search.  Omlt subtitles in searched, and use the main title and the author's last name. Try several searched to be sure. Borrow Direct applies only to print materials; it doesn't include online access to materials at other institutions (for legal and licensing reasons).

HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (not to be confused with HathiTrust's regular services- see Digital Libraries in this guide)  (Current Harvard faculty, staff and students only) 

HathiTrust Emergency Access (explained here is 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.

There are several non-Harvard sources for online books

Center for Research Libraries. (Current Harvard faculty, staff and students)

For accessing CRL material, see this guide

Scan & Deliver (Current Harvard faculty, staff and students) This service can provide portions of works, such as an article from a journal issue or a chapter from a book. It's traditionally applicable to print materials in our collection but during the pandemic you can request any book or article via Scan & Deliver. The service is limited to roughly 10 percent of a work (up to 30pp).  When you make a request, we will do our best to scan or find find a digital version for you. Please submit your request via HOLLIS, regardless of the library location, and we’ll let you know if it’s available. 

Interlibrary Loan Services Curent Harvard faculty, staff and students)
Physical Interlibrary Loan is back. Not all potential lenders are participating so it may take longer than usual. . Interlibrary Loan will obtain scans of book chapters and articles where possible: choose Request Article/Chapter under ILL Requests on your ILL page. This takes only 1-4 days.

Some non-Harvard repositories are willing and able (they may be short-staffed at the moment) to scan material (usually for a fee).  Our Interlibrary Loan department is willing to contribute some money toward scanning.

Contact the other repository for a price and submit that with the exact details (like Box 77 folder 4- this is available in Finding Aids) and 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 they will get back to you if they need more information.

Digitization of Special Collections materials (Current Havart faculty, staff, students and affiliated researchers)
Several special collections, including Harvard Archives, Houghton and Schlesinger, will digitize material for students and researchers.  If you have requests, please submit them as soon as possible. Contact them directly with requests or from within a specific HOLLIS listing: click on "View in Library" "Get It" to register and place a request for scanning. As of February, we're still unable to admit patrons to actually view materials in person.

Purchase Requests (Harvard affiliates)
Purchase requests for books will be filled by e-books (available to current faculty, staff and students) where available.

Browser Plugins for Library Access (aka I need an article I found online but not through HOLLIS or Harvard Library Databases) 
Instructions in: How to Use Your Harvard Key to Get Online Articles for Free

Digital Scholarship Support Group
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. The schedule for summer workshops in data visualization is available.

Visit a Library near You

Your local public library may have an e-books program.

Search in: 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.

You can probably visit a nearby university library, if open, although you won't be able to borrow books (unless it is a Borrow Direct library - see below).  Many university libraries have special borrower cards available for purchase.  Always check with the library on its admittance policy before visiting.

Harvard’s membership in Borrow Direct entitles you to visit and borrow from other Borrow Direct libraries: Brown  --  Columbia  --  Cornell  --  Dartmouth  --  Duke  --  Harvard  --  Johns Hopkins  --  MIT --  Princeton  --  Stanford  -- Univ. of Chicago  --  Univ. of Pennsylvania --  Yale.  All these libraries are currently closed.

Bear in mind that even open libraries may be reducing occupancy by eliminating special borrowers.  So check with your intended libraries

Visit an Archives near You

This guide gives instructions for finding archives and manuscripts outside of Harvard: Library Research Guide for Finding Manuscripts and Archival Collections.  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 

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