Last fall, a new special collections request system was introduced to Harvard College Library (HCL) with lofty goals and the promise of creating a better experience for both users and libraries.  With implementation complete in three of the six scheduled libraries, the word from both researchers and staff is “so far, so good.”

Students in a graduate seminar taught last semester by Charles Lea Professor of History Ann Blair and Professor of English Leah Price, used the system to request books, and Blair said it “maximized flexibility for our students, and simplified things for us.”

“It is very convenient to be able to order books ahead and track what one has on hold,” Blair said. “I like the way one can now order books from both HOLLIS Classic and the new HOLLIS, and I am grateful for the attention devoted to improving the new system based on user feedback.”

The Special Collections Request system allows patrons to register and place requests for materials online directly from the HOLLIS record or from a personal account page. This system replaces paper registration and request forms and, when implemented HCL-wide, will eliminate the need for patrons to register separately for use of each special collection.

Upon registering, an individual account is created. With that account a patron can:

  • submit requests through a form or submit requests via links in the catalog record
  • submit requests in advance of a visit to a library or while at the library
  • track the status of each request
  • access detailed information about past requests

All patrons, regardless of affiliation, are required to register before requesting special collections materials via a Special Collections Request account. This includes patrons who have registered before at one of the holding libraries.

While the “front end” of the system provides users with more convenience and a consistent experience across libraries, the “back end” provides the libraries  with the convenience of Web-based registration, and a higher level of knowledge and control of collections.