Use of the Libraries


Harvard University is closely monitoring the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. Please check Harvard's dedicated Coronavirus (COVID-19) website for current advisories:

3/13/2020: The Harvard University Herbaria and Botany Libraries will be closed as of 5:00pm Friday, March 13 until further notice. Email accounts will be monitored. To contact the Botany Libraries, please email To contact the Herbaria, please email Thank you for your patience and understanding.

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.

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.  Instructions for creating an account are located here

Using your Harvard Library Special Collections Request Account 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. Library staff will offer instruction to users in proper care and handling. 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.

Once an appointment is confirmed materials must be requested using HOLLIS Special Request. Instructions are available for 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. Instructions are available here. 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.
  • Archival 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.
  • Materials should be kept flat on the table and handled as gently as possible.