Campus & Community

Libraries open with a new, improved HOLLIS system

4 min read

As the 2002-03 academic year begins, returning students and faculty are finding that a new, Web-based version of the HOLLIS catalog is now in use. Users can connect to the new HOLLIS through the “Harvard Libraries” site at

Launched on July 8, the new HOLLIS catalog offers important new benefits to students, faculty, and staff. Immediately evident are refined and expanded search features that form a significant advance over the previous, Telnet-based HOLLIS catalog.

There are many important new search features in HOLLIS:

  • Searches can be limited to an individual library or a user-selected group of libraries.
  • Searches can also be limited to journals, reserves, or e-resources.
  • The new HOLLIS offers on-screen lists of languages, formats, and library names with which to refine a search. There is no need to look elsewhere for limit codes.
  • Searches using part of a word to find all forms of the word are now more flexible.
  • Users can see the status and location of Harvard reserve books without searching a separate database.
  • Users can return to previous searches and modify, combine, or review them.

While the new search features are available to all users of the HOLLIS catalog – both on campus and off – additional, PIN-activated, user-empowerment features give faculty, students, staff, and fellows who hold current Harvard IDs and Harvard PINs the ability to:

  • renew or recall items;
  • renew books from multiple libraries at the same time;
  • view a list of items checked out;
  • check fines online.

Members of the Harvard community can use their ID numbers and PINs to access a significant number of electronic resources. PINs are available to holders of valid Harvard ID cards by visiting

According to President Lawrence H. Summers, “The launch this summer of the new HOLLIS marks the culmination of years of research, planning, and large-scale collaboration. Hundreds of librarians and IT specialists across the University took part in this massive restructuring, and the effort that has gone into creating the new HOLLIS has yielded impressive results.”

Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the University Library, sees HOLLIS as uniting Harvard’s library holdings while eliminating some of the University’s barriers – whether real or imagined – to collaboration.

“Knowledge and learning know no faculty boundaries,” Verba recently commented. “The users of our great library system want the knowledge that the library has wherever it is located. Knowledge may be scattered across all the faculties, across all the buildings, but now it is in HOLLIS.”

HOLLIS, as an integrated library system, encompasses far more than users of the online catalogs can see. Because HOLLIS is used to order and pay for books, periodicals, and other library materials, it comprises one of the largest financial systems within Harvard University. When a book is ordered, it begins its life in HOLLIS. Through its cataloging functions, HOLLIS “places” the book appropriately within the University’s collections. Users can then “discover” that the book is on order using the HOLLIS catalog – known in the libraries as the OPAC, or online public access catalog. Once the book is received – and so noted in the catalog – HOLLIS circulation functions track the book’s comings and goings.

Verba explained the origin of the new system. “We spent many years finding and developing the new HOLLIS system. Our collections are the largest and most complex in the academic world, our users the most sophisticated and demanding, and our university structure decentralized and diverse. Finding a system that would handle our scale, satisfy our patrons, and adjust to the need to provide unified access to our collections among our diverse constituent parts was a challenge. We found such a system designed by the Ex Libris Company, but we also spent substantial time redesigning it to meet our special needs. It is up and running, and we are excited about its potential to make our collections more accessible.”

“Harvard University libraries have always been an incredible resource,” Summers continued. “The new HOLLIS has made them even more valuable to Harvard – and one of the greatest academic resources in the world. In an era when cooperation across parts of the University is essential to our success, the University Library is helping to show the way.”