HOLLIS (and other) Catalogs


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).

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

The subject tags you see in HOLLIS records tell us the topic and scope of that item:

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.

Subject Browsing:

You can browse related subject tags in HOLLIS Library Catalog: Choose the option to Starts with.../Browse.

You will see your subject broken down to show various aspects. This is often very useful, especially for big subjects.

The various terms coming after the main terms, for example, Controversial Literature after Creationism, are called “free-floating subdivisions" and can be applied to other main terms, for example: Evolution -- Controversial Literature.

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)
  • --Caricatures and Cartoons
  • --Correspondence
  • --Description and travel
  • --Diaries
  • --Interviews
  • --Manuscripts
  • --Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc.
  • --Personal narratives
  • --Pictorial works
  • --Sermons
  • --Speeches
  • --Sources (usually refers to collections of published primary sources)

Example (use Advanced Search):

sources OR diaries OR interviews OR correspondence (Use Subject rather than Any Field)

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 HOLLIS link
  • 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.

All material in a language

You can do a search on everything in one language  and then limit by location, format, date. Language codes.

All material published in a country or state

You can do a HOLLIS search for material published in a particular country or US state.  In HOLLIS Advanced Search Adjust Any Field to Code: MARC place of pub and enter ir (for Iran),  Country code list. You can do the same thing in WorldCat Advanced Search. Put cp:iran in the 'Search for:' field. Cp: is country/state of publication.

These searches can be limited by language, dates, format, etc. In the usual way

All material in a library or subcollection

You can do a search on everything in one library or subcollection and then limit by language, format, date.  Go to Advanced Search, then Code: Library + Collection.  Collection code list.

  • To search by library only use the 3-character code with an asterisk
  • To search by library and location code use the 3-character library code followed by the location code, with no spaces in between them

All material with one call number root
You can do a search on everything in one root call number  and then limit by language, format, date.  Go to Advanced Search, then Code: Local call number. For example Afrdoc*.  You must eliminate spaces and add the *.

Local call numbers (compressed with no spaces and no punctuation)  E.g. FilmS830* (instead of Film S 830*) 
This is NOT designed to find a specific call number. This is designed to find a group of records with the same class number (e.g. beginning part of the call number) 
Your search must include at least 3 characters 
To find an individual call number, use the HOLLIS browse for call number.

Form/Genre terms can be searched in HOLLIS Advanced search and WorldCat Advanced search.

Many HOLLIS records have no Form/Genre (or even Subject) terms, so they cannot yield exhaustive results.  They are very useful in narrowing a large keyword results set and for finding appropriate keywords.

Find Form/Genre terms by doing keyword searches and noticing the Form/Genre field in pertinent records.

A list of Genre/Form terms is available at Library of Congress Subject Headings PDF Files and in RBMS Controlled Vocabularies: Controlled Vocabularies for Use in Rare Book and Special Collections Cataloging.

Harvard objects. 

There is a good deal of material in the Kress Collection of Business and Economics at the Baker Library, Harvard Business School acquired too late to appear in The Making of the Modern World which is not included in HOLLIS. There is much material on th environment of economics and business: social conditions, politics, public health, trade and transport, etc. This material is accessed via a card file at the Baker Library Historical Collections.

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 Starts with / Browse 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.


Look for specialized subject bibliographies in HOLLIS: Search, e.g., <"science and state" [Keyword search] and bibliography [Subject Keyword search]> on Advanced Search screen or in WorldCat.

Not Online Via HOLLIS?

Try Internet Archive. For in copyright books, you will need to set up an account.  A Google account will serve.  Other sources for online books.

If Harvard Doesn't Have It

  • Look in Borrow Direct (See Getting What You Want).
  • If not in Borrow Direct, look in WorldCat (below), and submit an Interlibrary Loan request
  • When in WorldCat, 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 in HOLLIS. If it is a very new book, we may have received it, but it is not in HOLLIS yet.


For material not available at Harvard, 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. 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 (i.e., OCLC number) to speed up the request.

Using WorldCat

  • Use Advanced Search
  • Options (top right) lets you adjust records displayed from 10 to 100
  • Remove punctuation from titles (;,:, -, etc)
  • There are frequently several records for the same item. Search HOLLIS directly before you decide that Harvard doesn't have it.

Public Version: WorldCat.org

It is often easier to isolate open access material and websites in the public version of WorldCat.

On the results page, left-hand column: choose Open Content; also, separately, under Format, choose Website. This gets a mixture of free websites and subscription databases that must be accessed via the Harvard Library system.

The two vertical lines after the simple search box yield Advanced Search.

Other Collective Catalogs

Library Resources outside the U.S. (Brown University)

Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog searches simultaneously or individually the holdings of major libraries in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK and the German Union Catalog of Serials, German book trade catalogs, and German Books in Print.


  • Lack of subject headings
  • Many libraries not retrospectively converted.
  • Karlruhe sometimes cannot connect to the French and Italian catalogs

Heritage of the Printed Book (c. 1455-1830) includes records for early books in European libraries. More on the the HPB Database.


Catalogue Collectif de France contains:

  • Catalogue des Fonds des Bibliothèques Municipales Rétroconvertis
  • BnF catalogue général
  • Catalogue du Système Universitaire de Documentation/Sudoc


Istituto Centrale per il catalogo Unico: Indice SBN

Guide to libraries in Italy (UCLA)

UK (and English language)

Library Hub Discover is a collective catalog of numerous British libraries.

English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC), 1473-1800, has over 470,000 catalog (no full text) entries listing books, periodicals, newspapers and some ephemera printed before 1801. Works published in Britain, Ireland, British colonies, and the US are included, together with items printed elsewhere which contain significant text in English, Welsh, Irish or Gaelic. Books falsely claiming London publication are included. Many of the included works are available full text in Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Eighteenth Century Collections Online. More information on EEBO and ECCO.

Nineteenth Century Short Title Catalog (1801-1919) offers citations of major research library holdings on all print materials published in the U. S. and British Empire, all books in English wherever published, and translations from English.