Skip to main content

HOLLIS User Guide

HOLLIS is the library's main search interface. It includes the Harvard library catalog as well as a huge (and more heterogeneous) collection of citations for a variety of materials, including articles and book chapters.


System Functionality

Understanding Your Search

Troubleshooting: Missing Results

Troubleshooting: Things in the Wrong Order


My results sometimes take a long time to load. Will it always be this way?

No: we are documenting this issue and pushing the vendor who provides the HOLLIS system to address it.

Why don't I see the floor and row number?

Floor and row number information will display for on-site items from Widener, Lamont, and Law only. This feature is still being developed, please report any errors you notice in the display of floor and row number for those three libraries.

Why don't I see an option to export all of my search results?

HOLLIS currently limits bulk export to 50 results at a time. This feature will improve: in response to customer feedback, the vendor that provides HOLLIS is currently developing the functionality for exporting full results. In the meantime, here are the workaround options HOLLIS currently offers.

Option #1 is to save the search. This allows you to return to your results set at any time, via the My Favorites menu (though, of course, the results will change as new items are added to HOLLIS).

Option #2 is export items from HOLLIS to a reference manager such as Zotero in batches of 50 (the current maximum), and then use the reference manager to generate your export. For more on installing and using Zotero see our guide to Getting Started with Zotero. For further help with exporting results, feel free to contact us and/or review the vendor site's instructions for exporting results.

Option #3 is to use the Library Cloud API (requires some programming knowledge).


What does “relevance” mean? How is that calculated?

HOLLIS, like most databases, defaults to sorting results by something called “relevance.” Each database has its own proprietary formula, but generally, HOLLIS favors results that meet criteria such as: recent publication date; higher total number of matches to your search terms; matches to your search terms in the author, title, and subject fields; and, for articles, peer-reviewed or highly-cited articles. You’ll also notice that if you enter a person's name, HOLLIS will favor items written by that person over items about that person. HOLLIS also guesses whether you’re trying to search for a specific citation (as opposed to a general topic), and adjusts results accordingly.

If I want to find books and not articles, should I always limit my search to the Library Catalog?

Not necessarily! “Everything” allows you to find books that Harvard doesn’t own, and to identify individual book chapters you might not otherwise see. Filter your “Everything” search by resource type="books." If needed, use "How to Get It" to get to a copy of the book or chapter (see Get It for more details). But there are also drawbacks to searching "Everything": you will see more duplicates and subject filtering will be messier.

The system requires a keyword, but I want to be able to see ALL of the holdings e.g. published in a particular language, or in a specific library collection. How do I do that?

You can do this by using the “Code” search options in Advanced Search.

Do punctuation and accents (diacritics) matter when searching HOLLIS?

Generally, you can include or omit punctuation marks and diacritics, and your search results will be the same. There are a couple of exceptions. Certain symbols that carry lexical meaning, such as ampersand (&), are searched and matched. If you are working with Korean translations, it’s useful to know that alif cannot be searched as a comma. Note: you may observe slightly different behaviors in Basic Search and Advanced Search as compared to Starts with/Browse. For example, in search, a hyphen and a space are considered the same, while in Browse they are not.


I saw an article in HOLLIS but now I don’t see it, even when I search for the article’s exact title. What happened?

Try signing in: the most likely explanation is that this particular article is invisible unless you’re signed in. It is also possible that the article is no longer in HOLLIS. The big database of citations in "Everything" changes constantly; most updates involve additions or improvements, but some involve deletions. While we are happy to pass on feedback, please be aware that we do not have control over individual records in the "Everything" index.

I can find an article by title but when I filter by subject I don’t see it anymore. What happened?

It's likely that the subject you selected is not listed in the HOLLIS record for the article. The way the subject filter works is by matching the subject you select to the subjects that appear on the article record. While the subject may correspond perfectly to the topic of the article, if the system doesn’t find an exact match in the record, it will exclude that record from your results.

The archival collection I’m looking for doesn’t show up in my results, even though I did an exact phrase search for a sentence that I know appears in the finding aid. What happened?

As of June 2018, there are 115 finding aids (2% of the total) that are over 80,000 words long. For these very long finding aids, only the first 80,000 words are searchable in HOLLIS. We anticipate that a future update will remove this limitation.

I saw an article in the MLA International Bibliography, a database I access through Harvard Library. Why can't I find that same article in HOLLIS?

HOLLIS does not search our databases. It searches the "Everything" index, which is an independently compiled collections of citations. There is often a great deal of overlap between the contents of "Everything" and the contents of a Harvard-licensed database, but sometimes there is no overlap at all, or only partial overlap.

Even when all of a database's citations are included in HOLLIS, the database's native interface will be structured differently and may offer advantages not available in HOLLIS, such as more precise and customizable search options, and links to full text or datasets.

For databases that are poorly represented in HOLLIS, there may be some chance overlap with citations that HOLLIS received directly from publishers. While basic citation information may be very similar between HOLLIS's publisher-sourced citation and the citation you find in a database, there are usually significant differences in the abstract, subject terms, and other key descriptive information.

More details about which databases share information with HOLLIS are available at HOLLIS: Sources of Content. (Log in with your Harvard Key to view the list of “PCI collections.”)

A book showed up in my results even though the HOLLIS record for it does not contain all of my search words. Is this an error?

While it is generally true that HOLLIS searches only what you see in the record, there are a few exceptions specially designed to improve your search experience. If you don’t see your search terms in a record that was included in your results, it is likely that one of the following is true: 1) your search terms included a common misspelling of a word that does appear in the record; 2) your search terms matched a hidden cross-reference; or, 3) your search terms matched to a separately linked table of contents (but please note there are many books for which HOLLIS does not have a table of contents to search).

HOLLIS’s hidden cross-references include updated subject terms and alternate names. For example, a search for “landscape architecture” will return this master’s thesis on landscape architecture, even though those terms are not present in the displayed record. This is because HOLLIS has cross-referenced the name “Harvard University. Urban Design Program” to the name “Harvard University. Department of Landscape Architecture. Urban Design Program.”


When I browse by title things sometimes seem to be in the wrong order. Is this an error?

If the error happens around an ampersand or other symbol, you are actually seeing results in the correct order. HOLLIS’s rules for alphabetizing symbols may be different from those you see in other systems. If you’re noticing something else, let us know so we can investigate.

Can we make the HOLLIS User Guide more helpful to you?