Please feel free to email us with questions. We can make an appointment for you to come in, and we can talk at length about your project.

This is an abstract of our larger guide: Library Research Guide for History

  • Fred Burchsted (burchst@fas.harvard.edu) Research Librarian and Liaison to the Department of History, Widener Library.
  • Anna Assogba (assogba@fas.harvard.edu) Research Librarian, Lamont Library (With particular knowledge of Zotero and other citation management systems).

Help with Digital History

Digital Scholarship Support Group
The Digital Scholarship Support Group offers faculty, students, and staff interested in incorporating digital methods into their teaching and research a single point of entry to the many resources available at Harvard. The schedule for summer workshops in data visualization is available.  Digital Mapping and GIS Support

Getting What You Need

This page will be updated as our pandemic services evolve over the course of the semester.

Books can be returned at the back (Massachusetts Avenue) door of Widener.

Library book pickup (Current Harvard faculty, staff and students who are onsite/can come to campus for pickup)

You can check out books from any of our facilities to which we have access. Check our How to Borrow Our Materials and Use our Services During COVID page to see what's available and how to arrange pickup at Lamont Library (appointment only). Books available through HathiTrust Temporary Access can not be requested for Lamont pick up.

Borrow Direct  (Current faculty, staff and students who are onsite/can come to campus for pickup)

If a book is already checked out or not owned by Harvard, you can probably get it within 1-4 days via Borrow Direct.  This is quicker than recalling it (hitting the Request link) from the person who has it.  Largely for books, but some DVDs, microfilm and other formats are available.  The Borrow Direct catalog can be tricky to search.  Omlt subtitles in searched, and use the main title and the author's last name. Try several searched to be sure. Borrow Direct applies only to print materials; it doesn't include online access to materials at other institutions (for legal and licensing reasons).

HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service (not to be confused with HathiTrust's regular services- see Digital Libraries in this guide)  (Current Harvard faculty, staff and students only) 

HathiTrust Emergency Access (explained here https://www.hathitrust.org/ETAS-Description) is expected to continue as long as our campus is mostly virtual  Note that:
--Make sure you're logged in once at the HathiTrust site (look in the upper right corner)
--Periodicals available via HathiTrust ETAS are not always linked from HOLLIS, so look them up in the HathiTrust Catalog Search. 
--The full runs of journals available in HathiTrust will be available even where Harvard only has a partial run
--When searching from the HathiTrust site, do not select View Online Only.  That applies to the HathiTrust site at large, not to the ETAS materials, and would omit the Temporary Access material in your results.
--No downloading is available for the Temporary Access material. You can only view it online.

There are several non-Harvard sources for online books

Center for Research Libraries. (Current Harvard faculty, staff and students)

For accessing CRL material, see this guide

Scan & Deliver (Current Harvard faculty, staff and students) This service can provide portions of works, such as an article from a journal issue or a chapter from a book. It's traditionally applicable to print materials in our collection but during the pandemic you can request any book or article via Scan & Deliver. The service is limited to roughly 10 percent of a work (up to 30pp).  When you make a request, we will do our best to scan or find find a digital version for you. Please submit your request via HOLLIS, regardless of the library location, and we’ll let you know if it’s available. 

Interlibrary Loan Services Curent Harvard faculty, staff and students)
Physical Interlibrary Loan is back. Not all potential lenders are participating so it may take longer than usual. . Interlibrary Loan will obtain scans of book chapters and articles where possible: choose Request Article/Chapter under ILL Requests on your ILL page. This takes only 1-4 days.

Some non-Harvard repositories are willing and able (they may be short-staffed at the moment) to scan material (usually for a fee).  Our Interlibrary Loan department is willing to contribute some money toward scanning.

Contact the other repository for a price and submit that with the exact details (like Box 77 folder 4- this is available in Finding Aids) and log in to ILL.  On the left side it says "Make a Request."  Open that and choose "Request Article."  Fill in what you can (put in N/A if the field is inapplicable) with the price and other information in the Comments box.  This will get the process going and they will get back to you if they need more information.

Digitization of Special Collections materials (Current Havart faculty, staff, students and affiliated researchers)
Several special collections, including Harvard Archives, Houghton and Schlesinger, will digitize material for students and researchers.  If you have requests, please submit them as soon as possible. Contact them directly with requests or from within a specific HOLLIS listing: click on "View in Library" "Get It" to register and place a request for scanning. As of February, we're still unable to admit patrons to actually view materials in person.

Purchase Requests (Harvard affiliates)
Purchase requests for books will be filled by e-books (available to current faculty, staff and students) where available.

Browser Plugins for Library Access (aka I need an article I found online but not through HOLLIS or Harvard Library Databases) 
Instructions in: How to Use Your Harvard Key to Get Online Articles for Free

Digital Scholarship Support Group
The Digital Scholarship Support Group offers faculty, students, and staff interested in incorporating digital methods into their teaching and research a single point of entry to the many resources available at Harvard. The schedule for summer workshops in data visualization is available.

Visit a Library near You

Your local public library may have an e-books program.

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.  Harvard's subscribed version offers the most powerful search (use Advanced search), but the public version allows you to enter your zip code and find nearby libraries holding a specified book.

You can probably visit a nearby university library, if open, although you won't be able to borrow books (unless it is a Borrow Direct library - see below).  Many university libraries have special borrower cards available for purchase.  Always check with the library on its admittance policy before visiting.

Harvard’s membership in Borrow Direct entitles you to visit and borrow from other Borrow Direct libraries: Brown  --  Columbia  --  Cornell  --  Dartmouth  --  Duke  --  Harvard  --  Johns Hopkins  --  MIT --  Princeton  --  Stanford  -- Univ. of Chicago  --  Univ. of Pennsylvania --  Yale.  All these libraries are currently closed.

Bear in mind that even open libraries may be reducing occupancy by eliminating special borrowers.  So check with your intended libraries

Visit an Archives near You

This guide gives instructions for finding archives and manuscripts outside of Harvard: Library Research Guide for Finding Manuscripts and Archival Collections.  Methods for limiting by region, where available, are given for the archive and manuscript databases. Some archives have digitized, usually small selected, portions of their collections.  These are often accessed through collection finding aids, sometimes through digital collections 

This guide offers advice on visiting non-Harvard archives: Research Travel Checklist..

Getting What You Need

These services are not currently being offered. For the current situation see Working Off Campus.

  • Get a checked-out book within 1-4 days (from another institution) via Borrow Direct.
  • Get an item delivered from another Harvard library within 1-4 days via Harvard Direct (use the Request Item link in a HOLLIS record).
  • Request an electronic scan of a book chapter or a journal article within 1-4 days via the Scan & Deliver link in a HOLLIS record.
  • Request an item from another institution via interlibrary loan. For articles, requests usually take a few hours. For other materials, requests could take 1-10 days. Use the OCLC number from the bottom of a WorldCat record to speed processing of your request.
    • Interlibrary Loan may be able to obtain a scan of clearly specified archival documents.  You must negotiate with the holding repository and ascertain if they are able to provide a scan, exact specification of the item needed, their exact price and contact information.  Provide this information to ILL on the Request Article form.