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Frequently Asked Questions



How can I get a copy of a Harvard dissertation or thesis?

 Harvard affiliates with a HarvardKey can access the full text of most Harvard PhD dissertations since 1990 from the database Dissertations and Theses Full Text. All scholars can order copies of most Harvard dissertations from 1982 to the present by contacting UMI/ProQuest at 1-800-521-3042. Access to Harvard dissertations that are not available through ProQuest depends on the school of origin and its associated library.  Check the HOLLIS Catalog to see where a thesis is housed. The most frequently-requested dissertations are from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. They can be consulted in the University Archives. All dissertations are stored off site, so please contact the University Archives before visiting at  Photocopies of most PhD dissertations from 1981 and earlier and undergraduate honors theses older than five years can be ordered from Imaging Services. For more information, consult this research guide.

How do I access electronic resources on and off campus?

Using your HarvardKey, you can access electronic resources from any computer—on or off of campus. All libraries provide unrestricted access to e-resources from public library computers located on campus.  You will find links to e-resources throughout library search and discovery catalogs and systems. E-research is a good place to start.There are some restrictions to accessing full text when you are accessing the Harvard Library systems from locations outside the US. Contact your preferred library or Ask a Librarian.

Can I search all the resources of the Harvard Library in one search?

HOLLIS+  searches almost all of the content from Harvard's print and digital collections, including books, articles, images, manuscripts, data, sound recordings and much more. More details are available at HOLLIS +: Databases.

I can’t find the answer to my question in these FAQ – where can I get more help?

Try Ask a Librarian for library and research-related questions.


Does my Harvard ID get me into all the libraries?

Generally, yes. However, the details may vary between libraries. Check the individual library page for more information.

Who can use Harvard's libraries?

Harvard's 70+ libraries primarily serve the University's current faculty, students and researchers who hold valid Harvard IDs. Policies on admittance, borrowing, hours and services vary by library. For more information on a specific Harvard library, please visit the individual library page.

Are Harvard's libraries open to the public?

While some Harvard library buildings are open to the public, most require a valid Harvard ID for admittance. Borrowing privileges, which vary, are generally limited to current members of the Harvard community. For information on a specific library, please visit the individual library page.

How do I borrow and renew materials?

To borrow items from The Harvard Library, take them with your ID to the appropriate circulation desk, and the staff will check them out to you. A growing number of libraries have self-checkout kiosks where you can checkout books as long as you have your ID card.  

As long as no other library patron needs them, you can renew books five times. Use My Accounts to access your account. You will need your HarvardKey username and password. 

For more information, please see Ask a Librarian.

Can I return materials to any Harvard library?

You are welcome to return most material to any Harvard Library; however, reserves and interlibrary loan items should be returned directly to the library from which they were borrowed.

What do I do about fines?

The policies for fines vary among Harvard's libraries. Please contact the appropriate library directly.

What if an item I need is checked out to somebody else?

You can recall the book and the patron who has it is required to return it within seven days. To initiate a recall, click on the “Request Item” link through the item record in HOLLIS.You can also request the book through Borrow Direct and receive it within about four business days. 

Can I have books from one Harvard library delivered to another Harvard library?

Yes.  Harvard Direct is a program which allows the delivery of regular loan books upon request to one of these locations:

  • Andover-Harv. Theol
  • Baker Business
  • Countway Medicine
  • Fine Art
  • Gutman Education
  • Harvard Kennedy School
  • Harvard Yenching
  • Lamont
  • Law School
  • Loeb Design
  • Loeb Music
  • Museum Comp. Zoology
  • Sackler Building
  • Southborough (SB staff only)
  • Tozzer
  • Widener
  • Wolbach

Regular loan books are available from the following loaning libraries:

  • Andover-Harv. Theol
  • Countway Medicine
  • Fine Art
  • Gutman Education
  • Harvard Kennedy School
  • Law School
  • Loeb Design
  • Loeb Music
  • Museum Comp. Zoology
  • Tozzer Anthropology
  • Widener

What do I do if Harvard does not have the materials I need?

The Harvard Library Get It service provides Harvard students, faculty, staff with several options for locating and requesting library materials from Borrow DirectScan and Deliver as well as from other libraries. You can also suggest items for the Library to purchase.


How do I get permission to publish materials from the Harvard Library?

Requests for permission to publish should be directed to the library that holds the material. Consult the individual library page for more information.

How can I get help with my assignment, research paper or dissertation?

Harvard's Research Librarians are eager to assist you. You can review Research FAQ, Ask a Librarian or request a research appointment

 How can I get help with RefWorks, Zotero, EndNote or other citation tools?


Where did that e-resource go?


We occasionally withdraw resources for a number of reasons. Some resources are no longer available. Others are no longer free and funding could not be found. Trial subscriptions sometimes expire before a library sponsor for the resource could be found. If you would like us to reinstate a resource, please let us know.  

What if I'm informed an e-resource has reached the maximum number of users?

Some e-resources on the E-Research @ Harvard Libraries site allow only a limited number of simultaneous users, so you should try again later.  If this happens frequently, please let us know.  

Can I request electronic copies of articles or chapters from various Harvard libraries?

If you are affiliated with Harvard, you can place Scan & Deliver requests through the HOLLIS/HOLLIS Classic records and receive PDFs of the materials by email in one to four business days. The libraries will fill two requests per patron per business day. Requests are filled in the order in which they are received, and there are no rush orders. 

 Does Harvard have electronic books that I can download?

 The Harvard Library has a growing collection of electronic books, some of which can be downloaded. Check HOLLIS for titles. Consult this research guide for more information. 


How do I ask the library to purchase materials?

You can use this form to suggest items for purchase.

How do I donate materials to the Library?

Acquisitions policies vary among Harvard's libraries. Please visit individual library pages for more information.

Are there group study/meeting spaces in the libraries?

Some of the Harvard libraries have group study/meeting spaces. Visit the Find a Library page and filter by Amenities. 

How do I find out about printers, scanners and availability of carrels or lockers?

Most Harvard libraries have printers and scanners, but the availability of carrels and lockers varies among the libraries. Consult the individual library web pages for more information or use the “Amenities” filter on the Find a Library page to see a list of all libraries with carrels or scanners.   

How do I print or make copies in the libraries?

Patrons can usually print from all public computer workstations, as well as laptops, but exact equipment and policies can vary by library. Consult the individual library pages or use the “Amenities” filter on the Find a Library page to see a list of all libraries with copiers and printers. Printing fees can be paid with Crimson Cash.


Why can't I access e-resources or e-journals after entering my HarvardKey login?

  • Are you using a “special borrower” card? Most special borrowers are not generally authorized for access to electronic resources. However, special borrower card holders may use electronic resources from public computers inside Harvard libraries.
  • Are you a Harvard Medical School or hospital affiliate?If you are experiencing problems with access to electronic journals or other electronic resources, please contact Countway Library through their comments and questions form. Alternately, you can reach their reference desk at (617) 432-2134 from 9:00 until 5:00 Monday through Friday.
  • Are you a retired faculty member?Contact your “home” library to get help or send a request through Ask a Librarian.
  • Are you being prompted by an external e-resource provider (e.g. JSTOR, Lexis)?It may be that it is not Harvard University that is prompting you for a password. In certain circumstances, the e-resource may not recognize you as a Harvard user and will prompt you, in error, to enter a username and password. If you believe this is happening, please bring it to a librarian's attention.
  • Is your ID card new or recently changed?The ID database may not yet reflect your new information. Please try again 24 hours after the change was requested. If your HarvardKey still does not work, contact us through Ask a Librarian

Still having problems? Let us know.

Is there a specific browser I should use for Harvard Library Websites?

The current versions of the following browsers are fully supported by the Harvard Library:

  • Firefox
  • Chrome 
  • Safari 

Please note that many electronic journals require the use of Adobe Acrobat for viewing full text. You can download Acrobat for free from A small number of resources require a proprietary client or plug-in.Please let us know if you are using one of the supported browsers but are still having problems.To use the e-resources and e-journals, your browser needs to have cookies and JavaScript enabled.

What if I'm informed that an e-resource has reached the maximum number of users?

Some e-resources allow a limited number of simultaneous users, so you should try again later. If this happens frequently, please let us know.  

How do I find out about known database problems or downtime?

The Public System Downtime page lists known IT problems.


Who can use Harvard's libraries? Are they open to the public?

It depends which Harvard library/libraries you wish to visit. Please consult the individual library web pages for information about access policies.
Admittance to Widener Library, Harvard's central research library for the humanities and social sciences, requires either a Harvard ID or arrangements with the Library Privileges Office.

Can alumni/ae use Harvard's libraries?

Most of the libraries extend privileges to Harvard alumni/ae, but the details vary. Please consult the individual library web pages for more information.

Who can use online resources available through the Harvard Library website?

Access to most e-resources is restricted to current Harvard faculty, students and staff with a valid HarvardKey.

What is a HarvardKey and how do I get one?

 A HarvardKey is a user name and password that serves as a secure means of authenticating one's identity as a Harvard affiliate. Visitors typically do not get a HarvardKey, but there are exceptions. Since these policies vary among Harvard's libraries, please consult the individual library web pages for more information. 

Can I purchase access to the Library's restricted electronic resources?

Sorry—the Library is contractually obligated to limit access to current Harvard students, faculty and staff.

Can you help me find accommodations, transportation and parking?

The Harvard University Travel Portal  provides up-to-date information about area hotels and ground transportation. Parking in Harvard Square is very difficult, so we strongly recommend public transportation.