Use of the Libraries


2/24/2022: The Botany Libraries welcomes back all visitors to the reading room beginning Monday Feb. 28, 2022. Non Harvard ID holders will need to call 617-495-2366 upon arrival into the Herbarium lobby for access to the second floor. All visitors will need to follow the Harvard Library Visitor Access COVID-19 Guidance.


The Botany Libraries' reading rooms are open to all researchers regardless of academic affiliation but registration is required.  Harvard users should present a valid Harvard I.D or other form of identification when arriving.  Non-Harvard visitors are asked to present government-issued identification that includes a photograph and proof of a current address. Researchers may consult materials from the archives only by advance appointment.
All researchers visiting the Botany Libraries must adhere to the COVID-19 requirements presented in the Harvard College Library Visitor Access website.  Visitors do not need to make an appointment with the Access and Borrowing Office to use the Botany Libraries – required documentation as outlined in the policies may be brought directly to the Botany Libraries.

Registering and Requesting Materials

The Botany Libraries use the HOLLIS Special Request for patron registration and to process requests.  First-time researchers may register prior to or upon arrival.  Learn more about creating a Special Request account.

Using your Harvard Library Special Collections Request Account, researchers can:

  • submit requests for materials using a form or via links in the catalog record

  • submit requests in advance of a visit to a libraries or while at the libraries

  • submit requests for copies of materials

  • track the status of each request

  • access detailed information about past requests


General Policies

  • The Botany Libraries' collections do not circulate; all materials are examined in the reading rooms. Users may page materials from the Orchid and Farlow collections until 4:30 p.m. Materials from the Arnold, Gray, and Economic Botany collections may be retrieved until 4:45 p.m.
  • All types of bags or enclosures and coats must be stored in the spaces provided in the reading rooms.
  • Personal cameras, scanners, or other electronic devices may not be used without permission.
  • Food, drinks, and phone conversations are not permitted in the reading rooms.
  • Users may use personal items for taking notes. Pencils are provided, but pens are not permitted.
  • Researchers may be asked to wear gloves or wash their hands before handling rare materials and/or photographic materials.
  • All materials should be handled with care. A tutorial is available for proper care and handling our materials and Library staff will offer instruction. Book cradles and weights are available at the service desk.


Archives Policies

The archival collections of the Botany Libraries are open without fee to all adult researchers regardless of academic affiliation. Researchers may consult materials from the archives only by advance appointment. To make an appointment please contact Please allow one week for the processing of requests. In general, we can only accommodate one archives researcher at a time.

Once an appointment is confirmed materials must be requested using HOLLIS Special Request. Visit the HOLLIS Special Request instructions for information on creating an account, placing a request, ordering reproductions, and saving lists of materials in which you are interested.

Researchers can also add items to their HOLLIS Special Request account directly from Harvard’s finding aid portal HOLLIS for Archival Discovery. Learn more about requesting items from HOLLIS for Archival Discovery. If you do not already have a HOLLIS Special Request account, you will be prompted to create one upon submitting your requests from the finding aid. 

In addition to our General Policies, please be advised of the following when using archival material:

  • Researchers must complete a permission form to document the use of archival collections.
  • Books, notebooks, files, laptop cases, and all bags and purses must be stored in the spaces provided in the reading rooms. Archives researchers may have only loose colored paper (library will provide), pencil, laptop computer, and camera/cell phone with you at the table. No pens or highlighters.
  • Unrestricted material may be photographed for research purposes with a hand held camera or mobile phone.
  • Photocopies, flash photography, tripods, or hand held scanners are not allowed.
  • Researchers should use one folder at a time and materials should be kept in the order in which they are presented. 
  • Researchers should not mark, annotate, trace, or alter original material in any manner.
  • Materials may not be removed from clear sleeves.
  • Paperclips and other fasteners should not be removed. 
  • Materials should be kept flat on the table and handled as gently as possible.
  • A tutorial is available for proper care and handling our materials and Library staff will offer instruction.