Access Options

Options for accessing materials through the library.

Your HOLLIS results list includes some access links. There are often significant additional access options available from the full record. (To open a record, select the title from the results list.) 

Catalog & Articles includes many citations for items the library does not currently own, and there are still more materials that HOLLIS does not have any citations for. (Including some database content - not everything we have is in HOLLIS.) 

We will try to get you a copy of whatever you need, whether it is in HOLLIS or not.

Access Options from HOLLIS

You can use HOLLIS to:

  • Determine if you can retrieve the item yourself
  • Connect to online access (may require sign-in)
  • Request a copy to borrow or a scan to download (requires sign-in):


ONLINE ACCESS means there is likely an electronic copy available. This is a best-bet link. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t give up: you can usually get what you need with a little troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting tips - when ONLINE ACCESS fails:

  • Are you on a new site? Use the site’s own search box to search for the title of the item you want.
  • Go back to HOLLIS and select the title to open the full record: sometimes there are additional access options listed. 
  • Check HOLLIS for duplicate records: sometimes what appear to be duplicate records connect to different access points 
  • Visit Ask a Librarian for help tracking down the source.
  • Report a broken link so that we can investigate and fix the problem.


This indicates that HOLLIS likely has both print and online access, which are listed on separate records. The results list displays only one of the records: select MORE PRINT & ONLINE OPTIONS for a full listing.
For journals, MORE PRINT & ONLINE OPTIONS also often signals our principal record for the journal.


CHECK ACCESS OPTIONS means there may be a copy available, but HOLLIS hasn't automatically connected to it. You must select CHECK ACCESS OPTIONS to prompt HOLLIS to check for access. 

Pro Tip: HOLLIS uses numerical identifiers such as an ISBN or ISSN to try to find a match. If HOLLIS fails, it’s a good idea to try to find a match yourself using other information, such as the title of the book or journal that contains the article. (In a HOLLIS record, you may find that title under “is part of.”) For other types of items, try searching by author or publisher.

HOLLIS pulls print access options from other matching records (e.g. holding library, call number, loan status). If you want to locate the source record, use a call number browse. You can also usually search by journal or book title.

Library name and call number

If a Harvard Library name displays with the item, this means the library owns at least one physical copy. Select the title to open the full record: this is where you will find request options to borrow a copy or request a scan. 

Access options

Request links and information about specific volumes are often in the main record. In other cases, you need to select the name of a holding library to find request options and volume listings.

Pro Tip: Harvard has many different libraries! Use “Hours & info” to learn more about a library’s location, hours, and policies.

Request to Copy or Visit

“Request to Copy or Visit” signals that the item is in a special collection, which typically means that it is rare or unique. You can consult the item on-site at the relevant collection’s reading room, or you can request that the library make a scan for you. “Request to copy or visit” takes you to the HOLLIS Special Request system, where you can place these requests. Each special collection has slightly different policies: use the “hours & info” link to connect to the relevant library’s website.

Special collections house archives, manuscripts, rare books, etc., and their collection items are brought to you in a reading room. By contrast, circulating collections allow you to browse the shelves, or "stacks," and most items can be borrowed and taken out of the library.

Go to the shelf

Harvard’s on-site circulating collections are open-stack, which means that you can go to the shelf to get a book quickly or to browse. 

How to tell if an item is available for you to retrieve:

  • Status is “in library or storage”
  • Not in a special collection (no “Request to Copy or Visit” option)
  • Location name does not include “offsite”
    • Note: a small number of items are in staff-only onsite areas. If the location name is not clear, ask for help.

How to find an item on the shelf

  • Note the call number, an alphanumeric code following the library name. You will need the call number even if HOLLIS displays floor and row number locations for the item.
  • Find the call number’s location on the shelf. Every library has charts, maps, and staff available to help.

Pro Tip: you can text yourself a call number. Find this option in the "Send to" menu.

Example call numbers:

Access Options Beyond HOLLIS

HOLLIS is huge, but there’s even more beyond it. For some materials at Harvard, as well as lots of materials elsewhere in the world and on the web, HOLLIS may not have a citation or may be missing an online access option. Find additional resources and search tools under “No citation in HOLLIS.”


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