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.

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).

How to Get It Confusions:

View Online and Locations & Availability are usually straightforward, but How to Get It can be confusing. Sometimes FindIt@Harvard  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 ‘Material 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 Harvard Depository.

For more on HOLLIS

Subject Searches

  • 1. search any reasonable keywords
  • 2. choose pertinent records
  • 3, look at the Subject terms
  • 4. redo the search using those terms

Subject terms are chosen by the Library of Congress to express the subject matter of the book. For example, the LC subject term for persons of Chinese origin in the US is Chinese -- United States; for  persons of Chinese origin who are US citizens it is Chinese Americans.  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.

Other Subject terms:

East Indian Americans
East Indians -- United States
Japanese Americans
Pacific Islander American gays
Pacific Islander American women
Pacific Islander Americans
Pacific Islanders -- United States

Note that only the initial terms in the Subject term strings are listed in the right-hand column.  Thus, in 'Chinese -- United States -- Economic conditions', only Chinese is included.  It is often useful to look at several pertinent records to find these qualifying terms, called subdivisions.  You can search "Chinese -- United States -- Economic conditions" 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 "Chinese -- United States" (as an example) will retrieve the Subject "Chinese -- United States" broken down to show various aspects of that subject. Thus:

  • Chinese -- United States -- Anecdotes
  • Chinese -- United States -- Bibliography
  • Chinese -- United States – Biography
  • Chinese -- United States -- Caricatures and cartoons
  • Chinese -- United States -- Directories
  • Chinese -- United States -- Drama
  • Chinese -- United States -- Economic conditions
  • Chinese -- United States -- Education
  • Chinese -- United States -- Exhibitions
  • Chinese -- United States -- Fiction

The various terms coming after the main terms, for example, 'Economic conditions', are called “free-floating subdivisions" and can be applied to other main terms, for example, Japanese Americans -- Economic conditions.

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

Primary Source Terms:

These added terms (called subdivisions) usually indicate primary sources:

  • --Archives
  • --Biography (Includes autobiographies as well as (secondary) third person biographies)
  • --Correspondence
  • --Description and travel
  • --Diaries
  • --Interviews
  • --Manuscripts
  • --Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc.
  • --Personal narratives
  • --Sermons
  • --Sources (usually refers to collections of published primary sources)

e.g., Civil rights movements -- United States -- Sources

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 the basic search screen
  • 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.

Getting the Books You Find

The vast diversity of material found in a HOLLIS Everything search can be confusing if you are looking for books:

  • Search in HOLLIS Everything
  • Then (on the left) choose Books. 
  • Records marked “View Online” or “Locations & Availability” are usually straightforward. 
  • For records marked “How to Get It”
  • 1. Hit the Title link or Details
    • Notice if it says: "Is Part Of:" about 2/3 down the record.
    • If so you have found a chapter in a book. Copy and search as a phrase the book title after "Is Part Of:"
  • 2. If not a chapter, hit “How to Get It”
    • Choose Check Locations & Availability for our copy in HOLLIS
    • If you find no Harvard copy, try, first, BorrowDirect and then InterLibrary Loan.

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 to journals (adjust Limit to: from All items to Journals) or “Browse HOLLIS 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 (the OCLC Union Catalog) 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.

Importance of WorldCat:

  • 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. Give them the Accession no. at the bottom of the record.

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, Google Books and Internet Archive

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.