Understand What HOLLIS Is

HOLLIS is two databases in one. 

It combines the extensive contents of our library catalog, the record every item owned by every Harvard Library with those of another, large and multidisciplinary database of journal, newspaper, and magazine articles. 

Think of HOLLIS as a discovery platform -- a way to search panoramically across subjects, languages, time periods, and information formats.

In HOLLIS, you'll only get at articles by using the default "Catalog & Articles" option. That's the most common way users approach HOLLIS: they take a wide-angled approach to their information seeking and work to sharpen their focus from there.

Know How to Build Good Searches in HOLLIS

Creating search strings with some of the techniques below can help you get better results up front. 


conventions to use quotation marks, Boolean operators, truncation with an asterisk, parenthesis for synonyms


Take Control of Your HOLLIS Search Results

While the broad and panoramic approach to searching HOLLIS can be mind-opening, you can sometimes find yourself overwhelmed by either the numbers or types of results your search returns.

When that happens, try one of these easy tricks to bring your results into sharper focus:

Limit your search results set just to the items listed in as  BOOKS or BOOK CHAPTERS

  • Your numbers will immediately get smaller. And with book chapters, you may discover a great resource that you might not have seen by relying solely on the titles of books.

 Limit your search results set to items that are identified as PEER REVIEWED ARTICLES.

  • You'll eliminate newspaper and magazine materials as well as books, of course, but you'll also raise the visibility of scholarly journal articles in what displays. 

Think about limiting your results to publications from the last 5, 10, 15, or 20 years.

  • By doing so you'll get a snapshot of the most recent research trends and scholarly approaches in a field (or around a particular issue).


Searching non- English Language Materials in HOLLIS

There are times when you'll want to limit your search results in HOLLIS by languages.  If you feel most comfortable reading scholarship in English (or if you don't work in a  language other than English), the easiest way to eliminate foreign language results is simply by using the LANGUAGE FILTER, which displays on the right side of hour HOLLIS results screen. 

Sometimes  though, students want results in a language than HOLLIS. You can use the filter post-search, of course to drill a linguistic set. 

You can also rig up a search from the start that. Here's how: 

  • From the HOLLIS advanced search screen, change the field in the first box from keyword to CODE: Marc language
  • Enter the first 3 (English letters) of the language you want to search in -- e.g.,  spa  for Spanish language (not esp)
  • On the next line(s), add your keyword terms and run the search.

Click the image below to see this trick in action. 

image of the advanced search visualizing the code:marc language search combined with keywords.

Searching Non-Roman Scripts in HOLLIS


Primary Sources In HOLLIS




  • Sometimes, adding the word sources to a keyword string will retrieve published collections of primary source materials. Other words that you can try include document* (for documents and documentary);;anthology;casebook.
  • Using the right side limits, adjust the date parameters of your search results. Items that were published on or around that date/historical period/moment in time that you specify will usually qualify as primary sources.
  • Using the right side limits, examine the Form/Genre categories. Items that have been tagged with words like interviews, autobiography, memoir, speeches, photographs, correspondence, images (and so on) might help you target various kinds of primary sources.

Getting PDFs From Us

Scan and Deliver

When an article you find in HOLLIS is not owned at Harvard, or is available in a printed journal volume but not online, you can ask us to make a PDF for you through a service called Scan and Deliver.

We'll send you an email when it's ready for downloading, typically between 1 and 4 days after you place the request. Scan and Deliver is a free service to Harvard affiliates.

Scan and Deliver is also an option if you want up to two chapters of any Harvard-owned book digitized for your use.  

Finding Books Near You

When you're far from Cambridge, identifying books in print and on shelves in Harvard's library buildings can seem like a futile exercise.

Even if you live many miles away from the Yard, however, you can often track a copy down closer to home.



  • WorldCat: This is a database of library catalogs and useful for identifying college, university, and other  library collections that are in your vicinity.

Search for the title and then enter your ZIPCODE to identify potential options. You'll need to follow up about possible access, but a phone call can often do the trick!

  • Check the catalog of the large PUBLIC LIBRARin your area.  Depending on the region, the size of the library, its mission, and its funding, a local public library may have a significant research component to its collection (The Boston Public Library at Copley Square is a prime example), including e-books and some digitized materials that Harvard may not have.

Public libraries large and small also have access to ebooks, and can be a rich alternative source if Harvard doesn't have what you need or you can't get to our copy.

  • Ask your local library about INTERLIBRARY LOAN.

Libraries routinely borrow from each other on behalf of their patrons; if you have a library card, you should be able to request it (or have a librarian do so).  ILL can take a bit of time, however. You might wait a week or a bit more before the item arrives. Some places charge a small fee for the service.

  •  If you live close by the college or university from which you graduated, ask about ALUMNI PRIVILEGES there.