Advanced Search

Use HOLLIS's precision search options to get exactly what you want.

General tips

Use Library Catalog

“Title” and “author” searches will work well in either Library Catalog or Catalog & Articles.

Other Advanced Search options work best in Library Catalog. The metadata in Library Catalog is highly structured and supports complex searching. The metadata in Catalog & Articles varies significantly in quality and structure, and Advanced Search options may not work as expected.

Expand or collapse search options

Select “search options” to expand or collapse the search panel. 

The search panel will automatically collapse after you conduct an Advanced Search. An abbreviated search bar remains available, where you can modify your search terms. You must expand the panel to modify Resource Type, Language, Publication Date, and search scope (e.g. Catalog & Articles).

Search filters

On HOLLIS’s Advanced Search page, select the “keywords anywhere” dropdown to choose a search filter.

For more information and examples of how to use a search filter, follow the jump link in the list below.


Searches an array of fields, including title, variant and alternate titles, series title, preceding and succeeding titles, related titles, and tables of contents, and series title.

To conduct a “starts with” search for title, use Starts with/Browse.


Searches an array of creator roles, including author, translator, editor, contributor, illustrator, former owner, and names of corporate bodies and conferences.

Examples (Library Catalog)

“Library Catalog” uses Library of Congress Names. For phrase searches, make sure to use last name followed by first name. Birth and death dates help disambiguate people with the same name.

Examples (Catalog & Articles)

“Catalog & Articles” is less consistent. We recommend searching for multiple variations.For phrase searches, we recommend multiple name orders and spellings.

To conduct a “starts with” search for an author, use Starts with/Browse.


Searches all available subject headings. There are often several pertinent subject terms for a given topic.

Library Catalog records use subjects from several well-controlled but complex taxonomies. HOLLIS displays only the subjects from the most commonly used taxonomies.

Subject taxonomies displayed in HOLLIS records

A HOLLIS record may have subjects from additional taxonomies: these do not display in the record but they are indexed for search and may show up in the Subject filter. Library Catalog records can include terms from any taxonomy on the Library of Congress’s list of subject heading and term source codes. “View Source (MARC)” gives you access to undisplayed elements for the HOLLIS record. 


Find materials that contain specific types of information
  • Statistics - finds works about the study of statistics or consisting of statistical data
  • Sources - finds anthologies of primary sources
  • Correspondence - finds collections of letters
Differentiate between related topics
  • Drama - finds works on the literary form, such as textual analyses of plays, while Theater finds works on performance
  • Darwin - finds works about Darwin (not works by Darwin)
Subjects can overlap
Check for general categories and specific subheadings

“Catalog & Articles” will not behave as expected for subject search and will include irrelevant results. Nonetheless, your results may still be more focused as compared with searching “keywords anywhere.”

To conduct a “starts with” search for a subject, use Starts with/Browse.

Subject, MeSH

Searches only MeSH subject headings. Compare with “Subject,” which searches all available subject headings.


  • MeSH: valve will omit materials about trombones and locomotives


Searches series title and volume number. Used primarily for monographic series.


Pro Tip: If you do not find the volume you need, try searching for the series name as a Title rather than a Series. This will find the main series record, which may list holdings by volume number: Lecture Notes in Computer Science.

Note: There is a lot of variation in the information HOLLIS has for series, as well as variation among Harvard libraries. Sometimes item availability is listed on a record for the individual volume title, sometimes the availability is only listed on the main series record, and sometimes each library’s copy is listed in a different way. The “notes” field in HOLLIS often provides details about how information is distributed across different records.


Form/genre describes the physical form of an item, as opposed to its subject or format.  

Form/genre terms are most often used in special collections or subject libraries. Some but not all Harvard libraries use the Form/genre field, and each collection uses it in a different way and to a different extent. If you are conducting an extensive search for materials in a particular physical format, we recommend contacting library staff for more information on how that specific form has been cataloged.


SPECIAL CASE: MICROFORM. HOLLIS uses the Form/genre field to identify items in Microform formats (microfilm, microfiche, etc.). Search form/genre: microform or select “microform” from the form/genre filter menu next to your search results. 

You may also find form and genre terms displayed in the subject heading field. Often, this signals that the work is about that form or genre. In cases where the form or genre term in the subject heading does refer to the physical form of the item itself, the term is usually repeated in the form/genre field. 

We do not recommend using a Form/genre search for “Catalog & Articles” because it will omit a significant number of relevant results. 


Searches names that are coded as places. The coding is hidden and the names are drawn from specific fields in the item description, primarily subject headings.

Use this field to search for a place as a topic. Note: some records lack coded place names. It’s best to try multiple search strategies.


  • Place search for Chicago - finds items about the city of Chicago, but not about the Chicago Academy of Sciences or the Broadway musical "Chicago”

Place of publication

Searches "place of publication,” which is a free-text field that transcribes the place name as it appears on the copyright page or equivalent. Also searches some place-coded fields added by the cataloger. 

Include potential variations in your search, such as all relevant city names, abbreviations, and variant spellings. 


Note: no place of publication search finds everything published in that location, due to variations in cataloging. To search as comprehensively as possible, use Place of publication in combination with Code: MARC Place of publication


Searches “publisher/producer,” which is a free-text field that transcribes the publisher name as it appears on the title page or equivalent.


Note: publisher and organization names often contain abbreviations: make sure to include potential variants in your search. The abbreviations s.n. (sine nomine) and s.l. (sine loco) are sometimes added by the cataloger when there is no producer or place of publication listed.


Used for finding items intended for people with visual disabilities.

Searches a field that describes a category of persons for whom the resource is intended. The only category used reliably in HOLLIS is “People with visual disabilities.” 

For more information about which types of items are defined as for “people with visual disabilities,” consult the footnotes section of the HOLLIS data elements page on the library staff wiki.


Caution: this field is not yet widely used, and not used at all for arrangements. Always supplement with a keyword search.

Searches “instrumentation,” or medium of performance, which defines the instrument(s) used for a piece of music. Can apply to recordings or scores.


Image Repository:

Searches the “image repository” field, which typically lists a Harvard image repository by its full name. 

Image repositories at Harvard include archives, museums, libraries, and other collections throughout Harvard University. If Harvard holds only a copy of the original image, such as a slide negative, the HOLLIS record may also identify the repository that owns the original object.


Pro Tip: use HOLLIS Images for extensive image searching. HOLLIS Images is Havard’s dedicated image catalog. Its display is optimized for image viewing and it provides additional filters for repository name and whether Harvard owns the original or a reproduction.


This is an international standard identifier for books. Useful for pinpointing a specific edition. You can enter an ISBN into HOLLIS’s general search box. The Advanced Search field restricts your results to books in the Library Catalog whose ISBN field matches to your search.


  • 9781119493914 finds only the 5th edition of Organic Chemistry as a Second Language : Second Semester Topics


This is an international standard identifier for journals.


Pro Tip: if the ISBN or ISSN returns no results, search by title instead. There are many books and journals for which the HOLLIS record may not contain the relevant ISBN/ISSN, or which have not been assigned an ISBN/ISSN at all. 

There are also cases where one book has multiple ISBNs, or the same ISBN has been used for more than one book.

Music Pub. No.

Searches the music publisher number field. These numbers identify specific editions of a printed musical work or releases of a sound or video recording. The format of the number varies considerably.

What is a music publisher number? (FAQ)


  • 302 - a number used by multiple publishers
  • Eschig OR ME - publisher name may be full or abbreviated
  • 01-085919-501 - a number unique to one publication

OCLC number

Also known as the WorldCat accession number, this is a numeric identifier associated with the WorldCat record for this title. The OCLC number can be an efficient way to find the HOLLIS record for an item you’ve discovered in WorldCat where Harvard is listed among the libraries that hold a copy. 


  • 81861443 finds Institutions of Reading

Note: HOLLIS records do not display OCLC numbers: use the “View in WorldCat” link to search WorldCat for the relevant OCLC number. 

WorldCat records combine information from multiple library catalogs. Some works have multiple WorldCat records, each with their own OCLC number.


The HOLLIS number is a unique identifier that Harvard Library assigns to records in its Library Catalog. 

The HOLLIS number refers to the record and not the physical item. It is possible for multiple collection items to be grouped into one record under a single HOLLIS number. It is also possible for a single item to have two associated records, each with their own HOLLIS number, one for the individual title and one for the series or collection that includes the item. If the record you are viewing does not include location or availability information, check the “Notes and Holdings” section for a cross-reference to another HOLLIS record.


The "Code" Fields

These fields provide additional search options for the Library Catalog.

"Code:" searching is an excellent strategy if you want to find all items in a category without having to enter a search keyword. 


Note: while code searches are reasonably complete, some HOLLIS records lack relevant codes and may be missing from your results. Additionally, HOLLIS uses an approximation to generate number counts for filter menus: these numbers are not suitable for reporting purposes.

Code: MARC lang - Captions/Subtitles

Searches a MARC language code field that identifies the language of available captions or subtitles, as well as other accessible language, such as audio, picture-in-picture signing, or associated transcripts. 


Code: MARC Language

Searches the MARC language code field, which uses the MARC language code list. This field identifies the predominant language(s) present in the item.

Unlike the language drop-down menu also available in Advanced Search, this field allows you to find all items published in the chosen language, without having to enter additional keywords.


Code: MARC place of pub

Searches for MARC place codes, which identify the country or U.S. state. These place of publication codes are searched but do not display in the HOLLIS record. Typically, the HOLLIS identifies place of publication with the name of a city, and catalogers add the MARC place code for the relevant country.

MARC Place codes


For the most comprehensive search, use Code: MARC Place of publication in combination with Place of publication. Due to variations in cataloging, no search finds everything.

Code: Library + Collection

Library codes

HOLLIS gives each library a 3-character code. To find all items in that library’s collections, enter the code followed by an asterisk.

Access the full list of 3-character library codes


Collection codes 

HOLLIS also assigns codes to specific collections and sub-collections. To find all items in a specific collection, enter the 3-character library code followed by the collection code, with no spaces.

These codes and the way they are applied can change: contact Ask a Librarian to confirm the best option for your search needs. 



Code: Local Call Number


Searches within non-LC (Library of Congress) call numbers. Enter 3 or more characters from the beginning of the call number, removing all spaces and punctuation, followed by an asterisk. 


  • FilmS830* searches within Lamont microforms call number Film S 830
  • MsAm* searches within Houghton’s collection of American manuscripts
  • Afrdoc* and Language:Swahili finds all Swahili materials within the African documents in Lamont’s Government Documents collection

Code: Local Call Number search applies only to classification schemes that are unique to Harvard. This excludes the large portion of our materials that are classed in national systems such as Library of Congress (LC), National Library of Medicine (NLM), Dewey, and Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc).

Another option to explore by call number is “Starts with/browse,” which returns a list of items in shelf order. “Starts with/browse” allows you to browse the national systems excluded from Code: Local Call Number search (LC, NLM, Dewey, and SuDoc).

Up Next: Starts with/Browse


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