Visitor Access

Visiting researchers and special borrowers with proof of vaccination are welcome to use many libraries in-person after October 4, 2021.

COVID-19 guidance for campus visitors

Updated September 29, 2021

As of October 4, 2021, several of our libraries — including Houghton Library and Harvard University Archives (full list below) — are open to visiting researchers and special borrowers who show proof of vaccination. 

For other libraries, special borrowers may use HOLLIS to request circulating collections to be picked up at Widener or Lamont, or another library open to visiting researchers and special borrowers as listed below. 

All of Harvard's libraries are open for in-person use by Harvard faculty, students, and staff. (Harvard Extension School students should consult their website for the latest guidance on access to campus.)

In-Person Library Use Guidelines

  • Masks are required indoors.
  • Beginning October 4, 2021, all eligible visitors to Harvard's libraries age 12 or older will be required to present proof of vaccination along with a photo ID for those age 17 and older. Read the Harvard Library Vaccination Requirement Policy.
  • Visiting researchers and special borrowers, including those with existing accounts, must schedule an appointment and bring their proof of vaccination to the Access and Borrowing Office, located inside the front entrance of Widener Library, before their access can be activated. See Request Library Access for details.
  • Those who are only visiting Houghton Library, may present their ID and proof of vaccination at Houghton Library.
  • Those who are only visiting the Botany Libraries may present their ID and proof of vaccination at the Botany Libraries. Researchers requiring access to the Botany archives should make an appointment with the library directly.
  • All visitors must understand and abide by current University policies found in the COVID-19 Safety Awareness Training: Protection/Prevention Practices.
  • Visitors must not come to campus if they are ill or if they are exhibiting symptoms. For those that have no COVID symptoms and no known exposure to an infected person, it is okay to participate in in-person activities on campus.

Libraries open to visiting researchers and special borrowers:

Botany Libraries
Cabot Science Library
Ernst Mayr Library
Fine Arts Library
Harvard Divinity School Library
Harvard Film Archive
Harvard Map Collection
Harvard University Archives
Harvard-Yenching Library
Houghton Library
Lamont Library
Loeb Music Library
Tozzer Library
Widener Library

See library hours

For visitor and access information to Harvard's professional school libraries, please see their websites.

Welcome!

Not a Harvard student, faculty, or staff member but interested in using our libraries? 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 qualified researchers as we can. There are plenty of opportunities for visitors to experience our collections.

Discover what you can do. 

What is open to the public

Due to current COVID-19 visitor guidelines (see above), please contact the library, special collection, or archive directly before planning a visit.

Special Collections, Archives & Government Documents 

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, including Lamont Library’s collection of government documents.

Planning Your Visit

Animals Are Us: Anthropomorphism in Children’s Literature
Open to the public beginning October 2021, Animals Are Us: Anthropomorphism in Children’s Literature is on exhibit at Houghton 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.

Library Access Types

For people who are not current Harvard students, faculty, or staff and would like to use Harvard’s library materials, including special collections and archives, we offer two types of access:
 

Library Access Card

  • Access a library’s physical space. You can use library materials while in the library, but you cannot borrow items.
  • Use special collections and archives in reading rooms. Most of Harvard’s special collections and archives are available for use in-person in a reading room. Libraries and archives ask that you contact them directly ahead of your visit in addition to securing a Library Access Card.
  • 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.

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 full 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

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