Alumni benefits and resources from Harvard Library and from the Harvard Alumni Association continue to support your learning after you graduate.


Library services for alums can include building access, book borrowing privileges, and online access to a selection of databases. Keep scrolling for details.

  • Keep your ID card - for building access
    • If you have a Harvard student ID that was issued in 2009 or later, it will be activated for building access after you request library privileges
    • If you need a new ID card: first activate your library privileges (using our online form or in person at Widener Library's Access & Borrowing Office), then visit the ID card office in the Smith Campus Center to be issued a new card
  • Keep your HarvardKey - you can keep your login name even after you lose access to your Harvard email address
  • Update your contact email - this will ensure that HOLLIS sends notifications to the correct address
  • Follow Harvard Library news


The alumni association offers you a worldwide community of over 400,000 Harvard graduates, with opportunities for networking, professional development, volunteering, and more.

Access to Harvard Library buildings

Alums and other special borrowers are welcome in almost all Harvard Library buildings. This includes access to databases and e-resources via library computers. Alums may also bring a limited number of guests into the library. One-day passes are available from the Access & Borrowing Office.

  • Submit your application for free-of-charge access and borrowing privileges
    • Privileges are active for 12 months. To renew, simply re-apply
    • Your Harvard ID card will be automatically updated for tap or swipe access to Harvard Library buildings
    • Borrowing is for Harvard Library materials only (no ILL)
    • Loan period is typically 28 days, with automatic renewals up to 12 months
    • Materials must be borrowed in person, but may be returned by mail
  • Computers, printing, and scanning
    • Log in to a library computer for access to online resources
      • No HarvardKey required: from a library computer, you will be able to access to most licensed databases and to open "ONLINE ACCESS" links in HOLLIS, regardless of your affiliation
      • Login instructions for library computers:
        • Select "OK" to get past the warning that data will not be saved
        • Ignore the first set of login boxes: instead, select "How do I sign in to another domain?” (small, pale link below the login boxes)
        • Log in on the next screen: note that you may need to use a backslash - this is found above the return key on a typical keyboard
          • Check the computer for a label with the login and password information (typically affixed just below the monitor screen)
          • Alternatively, check for on-screen instructions below the login boxes (use hcl-patron as your local user name)
    • Self-serve scanners: send the file to an email address or save it to a portable USB drive
    • Printers are available for a per-page fee
      • You can print from desktop computers in the library with a dedicated Crimson Cash card. You can obtain a Crimson Cash card from most library service desks and from the Access & Borrowing office in Widener. The FAQ on printing in FAS libraries includes more details about pricing and locations. (Note: alums cannot print from laptops.)


Alums cannot access

  • ONLINE ACCESS links that require login

Use the links in the list of Electronic Resources under Using Harvard Library as an Alum to access content licensed specifically for alums.

Alums can access

  • HOLLIS search results (the list of citations relevant to your search)
  • "Request pick up" options for Harvard Library collections
    • Apply for borrowing privileges to activate this option
  • ONLINE ACCESS links to public domain and Open Access (OA) material
  • READ ONLINE (1-hour loan) links - requires free account with the Internet Archive's Open Library
  • My Favorites: saved ("pinned") items, searches, and alerts. Note: some article items may disappear from your HOLLIS Favorites when you graduate. This is due to licensing restrictions placed by the content providers for those article citations.

PRO TIP: make WorldCat your new go-to, especially for books. WorldCat is a global catalog of library holdings across the U.S. and beyond, also known as a union catalog. It’s the easiest way to find out which libraries near you hold a copy of a specific book.

Online access via Harvard

Harvard offers special database access for alumni. How to Use Harvard Library as an Alum has all of the details. Look for:

Harvard's Digital Collections are open to all.

Other ways to get access

Public Libraries

Public libraries offer a much broader and richer array of resources than most people realize. They are also "use it or lose it" public goods, so make sure to engage with your library as much as you can - visit the branch or the website, borrow materials, and send feedback.

Note: the examples above are from American libraries. While services may differ, you can find public libraries and other public institutions in any country.

State Universities and Colleges

Especially helpful for academic research materials. Services for state residents may include:

National Libraries & Special Collections

These institutions steward unique materials and cultural heritage for everyone's benefit. Most are open to all researchers. Services include:

On-site access

Registration and appointments often required. Most libraries accept any government-issued ID for registration.


Digitization services

Many repositories have a system for requesting scans from collection materials. Most charge a fee for the service.


Find an Open Access Version

If you find a paywall on one site, remember that the same material may be available for free somewhere else.

Many scholars publish their academic research in "open access" formats that make them accessible to all. Some publishers allow scholars to make individual articles and chapters open access, and some publish entire journals and books this way. Scholars also often self-archive their work on their personal websites and/or in a repository via their institution (e.g. Harvard's DASH) or via a subject-based repository (such as arXiv).


  • Select the "Open Access" option in the filter menu
  • Check for "VIEW PDF (OA)" or "VIEW PREPRINT" links

On the web

Two popular tools for locating an OA version:

Have a question not answered here?

Use our Ask a Librarian service [we usually respond to questions within 24 hours (M-F)]


This guide extensively incorporates information and advice from Steve Beardsley (Associate Director of Access Services), and is adapted from the work of Cheryl LaGuardia (retired Harvard research librarian).