Campus & Community

Harvard’s new PIN system goes into effect in libraries

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Beginning Sunday, Aug. 19, the HOLLIS Portal, a gateway to Harvard libraries’ electronic resources such as Lexis-Nexis, MEDLINE, OED, and all electronic journals, will institute a University-wide authentication system – the University personal identification number (PIN) service.

The PIN service will replace the old authentication system of username and Harvard ID number. The primary reason for the switch, according to Caren Smith, application support manager in the Office for Information Systems, is that the PIN is more secure than the old system, since ID numbers may appear in print and are available on the ID cards themselves. In addition, future systems such as the one that enables users to view books charged out through the online catalog will benefit from a more secure login process.

Once the new system goes into effect, people who need to access Harvard’s electronic resources from a workstation outside any of the Harvard libraries must have a PIN to log in. On terminals inside the libraries, access remains PIN-free. Faculty, students, and staff who already have an assigned University PIN can continue to use it, but all other users will need to obtain a PIN through the University PIN Web site ( On this site, users with a valid Harvard ID can request a PIN and will be given a choice of receiving a letter through University mail with their assigned PIN or an e-mail with an encrypted URL that will take them to a PIN activation page.

Before the new PIN service is initiated on Aug. 19, the University will be sending out reminders and instructions via e-mail and hardcopy to all faculty, students, and staff who do not currently have a University PIN. This will give them adequate time to obtain a PIN, and it will help to make the transition to the new system a smooth one, assuring continued and uninterrupted access to the libraries’ electronic resources.

All PINs assigned for this new service require activation. PINs obtained via e-mail will expire after one day, while PINs obtained through a printed letter will expire after one month. During the activation process, the user will be asked to change the PIN to something he/she can easily remember.

The University PIN should not be confused with PINs from other schools. These PINs cannot be used in place of the University PIN to access the libraries’ electronic resources.