Visitor Access

Harvard’s libraries offer events, exhibits, and programming for the public. Researchers from beyond Harvard may apply for Borrowing and Access cards, as well as use special collections.

COVID-19 Guidance

Updated August 29, 2022

As of August 29, 2022, Harvard Library has resumed our regular visitor access policies, and all libraries, archives, and special collections are open to visiting researchers.

  • Masks optional: Although it is not required, please consider wearing a face covering while inside a library.
  • Keep Harvard Healthy: Read the latest COVID-19 information from Harvard University.

Welcome!

Visiting a library

Interested in using our libraries, but are not a Harvard student, faculty, alums, or staff? You’re in the right place. 

While our libraries primarily serve the Harvard community, we strive to make our world-class research resources available to as many researchers as we can. There are plenty of opportunities for visitors to experience our collections.

Harvard ID holders may bring up to four guests into the library.

Events & Exhibits

Many of our events and exhibits are open to the public, and many are virtual.

An event at Houghton Library

Public Events

Many library events are open to the public online. Check the event details for admittance information.

An exhibit at Houghton Library

Exhibits

Library exhibits tell the unique stories of our diverse and deep collections. Many are open to the public.

A visitor takes an image inside Widener Library

Tours

Browse upcoming library tours. Some tours are open to the public; others are open to Harvard ID holders and their guests.

Special Collections and Archives

Many of our libraries are home to rare and unique materials that can’t be found elsewhere. Those special collections are available to all researchers, regardless of academic affiliation.

  • Our special collections and archives are open to all without a fee, by appointment.
  • Please contact the holding library to learn more about accessing their special collection items in person. 
  • Lamont Library’s collection of government documents is available to the public.

See more about how to use our special collections.

Students looking at a rare book in Houghton Library

Library Access Cards

Library Access Types

If you would like to use Harvard’s library materials, including special collections and archives, and you are not a current Harvard student, faculty, or staff, we offer different types of access.

Special Collections

Harvard Library's special collections and archives are open to all without a fee, by appointment. Please contact the holding library to learn more about accessing their items in person.

Library Access Card

  • Access a library’s physical space. You can access reading rooms for consulting general-use in-library materials. Book borrowing and access to restricted stack areas are not included.
  • Use computers in the library space, which gives you access to the full range of our electronic resources.
  • Charges may apply for some. See Request Library Access, below, for details.

Library Borrowing Card

  • In addition to the access outlined for Access Card holders, Borrowing Card holders can also borrow materials from our libraries.
  • Loan periods vary depending on your affiliation. 
  • Charges apply for some.

How to Request Library Access

Whether you’re renewing an account or requesting access for the first time, please submit an application in advance.

Select your affiliation, below, and fill out the associated application. Once your application has been approved, we’ll contact you to set up an appointment to complete the application process.
 
If you do not see yourself in any of the descriptions, contact the Harvard Library Access and Borrowing Office and we’ll discuss available access options.

Harvard Alumni

All Harvard alumni are eligible to apply for a Library Borrowing Card, which comes with on-site library access at no charge. 

Free | Alumni application

Research Assistants and Library Proxies

If you are working with a Harvard University faculty member, they can sponsor a Library Borrowing Card and submit a request form. 

Free, expires after 1 year or with end of role | Library Proxy Access Request form

Domestic Partners of Harvard Faculty, Staff, and Students

Domestic partners and spouses of Harvard faculty, staff and students are eligible for borrowing and access to Harvard’s libraries. You will be asked to show a government-issued ID and a copy or picture of your partner’s HUID. If you and your partner’s last names are different, we ask that you also bring a copy of a lease, utility bill, marriage certificate, or other piece of official mail with both names listed as residing at the same address. 

Free, expires after 1 year or with end of role | Spouse/Domestic Partner Harvard Library Account Application

Harvard-Affiliated Programs and Centers

If you are part of a program or center affiliated with Harvard University, you can request a Library Borrowing Card, which comes with full library access at no charge.  

Free, expires after 1 year or with end of role | Institutions with Agreements Harvard Library Account Application

Ivy Plus and BorrowDirect

Our partnership with BorrowDirect allows physical access to our libraries to affiliates of fellow Ivy Plus institutions: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. You will be asked to show a government-issued ID and sign into BorrowDirect with your school credentials. 

Free, expires May 31 each year | Ivy Plus Harvard Library Account Application

Nonprofit Institutions with Harvard Library Agreements

Several institutions have direct agreements with Harvard Library to allow library use by their members. If you are not sure whether your institution has an agreement, please contact your benefits office. 

  • Library Access Card: Free, expires after 1 year or with end of role
  • Library Borrowing Card: $250 for six months; $450 for 12 months 

Institutions with Agreements Harvard Library Account Application

Non-Harvard Faculty, Doctoral Students, and Librarians/Curators

Researchers from other institutions can apply for library access and borrowing. You may qualify if you are faculty, a doctoral student, or a librarian/curator from another university or academic institution.

  • Library Access Card: Free, expires after 1 year or with end of role
  • Library Borrowing Card: $450 for six months; $850 for 12 months 

Independent Researcher Harvard Library Account Application

Independent Researchers

If you would like to research using Harvard Library and you do not have a Harvard University affiliation or belong to another organization with an existing library access agreement, you can apply for either a Library Access Card or a Library Borrowing Card.

  • Library Access Card: $50 for 1 month; $100 for 3 months
  • Library Borrowing Card: $450 for six months; $850 for 12 months 
  • Senior Citizen rate, Library Borrowing Card: $250 for six months; $450 for 12 months
  • Special Collections access: A card is not required, please contact the individual library to make an appointment.

Independent Researcher Harvard Library Account Application

Once you have submitted your application, you can schedule an appointment to complete your registration.

Harvard Library Access and Borrowing

Staff in the Harvard Library Access and Borrowing Office are here to answer your questions about library access and borrowing. See our hours with Widener Library's hours.

We are located on the left when you enter Widener Library via Harvard Yard. An accessible entrance is available on the Mass. Ave. side of the building. Tell security you're here to register with Access and Borrowing and they will direct you.

The front doors of Widener Library
Harvard Library Access and Borrowing

Widener Library Room 130
Harvard Yard
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States