Harvard Library Communications

Campus & Community

New library website provides digital front door to Harvard resources

3 min read

Combines Harvard and College library sites into one platform, focusing on user needs

The Harvard Library on Wednesday launches its new website, combining the Harvard Library and Harvard College Library sites into one platform with users at its heart.

Redesigned after extensive testing and feedback from more than 250 students, researchers, and faculty, the new site is intended to be intuitive, accessible, and simple to navigate — a single place where users can easily find and use library resources.

“People increasingly start their search for information online,” said Sarah E. Thomas, vice president of the Harvard Library, University Librarian, and Roy E. Larsen Librarian of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “[The] updated and streamlined website puts the user at the center, presents a unified view of library resources, and allows our diverse community to find information specific to their interests.”

New features include brief “how-to” guides on topics such as using Harvard’s special collections and archives; borrowing, renewing, and returning library materials; and getting research help. A services and tools directory lists all of the libraries’ resources, including:

  • The Lean Library browser extension, which gives seamless access to Harvard Library subscriptions from anywhere on the web;
  • Ask a Librarian live chat;
  • The Find a Space application, which makes library study spaces searchable for the first time.

The library collaborated with digital strategy firm Velir to build the new website.

“Our goal was to create a website that was creatively designed, intuitive to use, and endlessly helpful.”

Kerry Conley, director of communications at Harvard Library

The new site is built on an open-source platform, Drupal, under a Creative Commons copyright license. The code will be available in a public Github for other libraries to use.

The library also upgraded its catalog, HOLLIS, to a cloud-based system called Alma, which lets users customize and share their search results. Better behind-the-scenes functionality speeds up the process of requesting materials. The cloud system will also search the collections more effectively by bringing articles, dissertations, and e-books not currently visible in HOLLIS Classic to the surface.

The redesign was begun last summer by a team assembled from across the Harvard Library community. Suzanne Wones, associate University librarian for digital strategies and innovation, Claire DeMarco, assistant director of digital strategies, and Kerry Conley, director of communications at Harvard Library, led a team that included writer and digital content producer Abby Elizabeth Conway, senior user experience consultant Amy Deschenes, designer and multimedia specialist Enrique Diaz, and production systems librarian Lindsay Whitacre. The group partnered with Velir, a digital marketing agency based in nearby Somerville.

“The website is a critical element of our digital infrastructure,” said Wones. “Most of the people accessing the library’s materials and services do so online. The new site leverages modern web technologies to make library materials and services easy to find and incredibly useful.”

The site is designed as a permanent work in progress. The web team encourages visitors to provide feedback and continually makes enhancements based on user responses.

“The library has so much to offer students and faculty,” said Conley. “Our goal was to create a website that was creatively designed, intuitive to use, and endlessly helpful. We wanted to build a go-to place online where faculty and students can discover library resources easily and access them simply to enrich their time at Harvard.”