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The Harvard University Library system comprises about 90 libraries, with more than 15 million volumes. It is the oldest library system in the United Statesmarker, the largest academic and the largest private library system in the world. It is the fifth largest library collection in the world, after the Library of Congressmarker, British Librarymarker, the French Bibliothèque nationale de Francemarker and the New York Public Librarymarker.

While the largest and best-known library building at Harvard is the Widener Librarymarker in Harvard Yardmarker, Cambridgemarker, Massachusettsmarker, this iconic building belongs to the Harvard College Library, the name of the library administrative unit within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The Harvard University Library, on the other hand, is the formal name for an administrative entity within the central administration of the University that has responsibility for central library services and policy. Robert Darnton currently serves as Director. The Harvard University Library has a number of subordinate offices. Some of these are listed below.
  • The Office for Information Systems develops and supports online library services including digital repository and cataloging systems.
  • The Weissman Preservation Center manages projects for preserving Harvard's collections.
  • The Harvard Depository is a storage facility for library materials.
  • The Harvard University Archives is the institutional archives of the University. It oversees the University's permanent records, collects Harvard-related manuscripts, papers, and historical materials, and supervises records management across the University.
  • The Office for Scholarly Communication provides for open access to works of scholarship produced by the Harvard community.


Harvardmarker's library system grew from a bequest in 1638 by John Harvard of 400 books.

Over the next century the library grew to become the largest in America, but in 1764 a major fire destroyed almost all of Harvard's books and scientific instruments. Books and donations were offered by friends of the college to replace its collections. An eccentric Englishman, Thomas Hollis V of Lincoln's Innmarker, Londonmarker, (great-nephew of one of the University's early benefactors), began shipping thousands of specially chosen volumes to the University Library. Hollis continued to send books regularly until his death in 1774 and he also bequeathed £500 for a fund to continue buying books. This became Harvard's first endowed book fund, and is still actively increasing the collections every year. HOLLIS, the acronym for Harvard Library's online catalog, "Harvard On-Line Library Information System", is named after him.

Some of the book have been digitized within the Google Books Library Project. Harvard Google Project, which was begun a as project developed with leadership and oversight by former Director Sidney Verba.

Libraries in the Harvard University System

This list covers the Harvard College libraries, the Faculty of Arts and Science libraries, and the libraries of other Harvard faculties. In addition, Harvard University has a large number of special libraries, house libraries, and affiliated libraries.

  • Special and Departmental libraries in the Harvard College Library
    • Biochemical Sciences Tutorial Library
    • Biological Laboratories Library
    • Birkhoff Mathematical Library
    • Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory Library
    • Chemistry and Chemical Biology Library
    • Child Memorial Library
    • Grossman Library for University Extension
    • History Departmental Library
    • History of Science Library
    • Linguistics Library
    • McKay Library of Engineering and Applied Sciences
    • Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Library
    • Paleography Library
    • Peabody Museum Archives
    • Physics Research Library
    • Raines Library in African American Studies
    • Robbins Library of Philosophy
    • Robinson Celtic Seminar Library
    • Sanskrit Library
    • Smyth Classical Library
    • Social Relations / Sociology Library
    • Statistics Library

  • Libraries of other Harvard faculties
    • Andover-Harvard Theological Library
    • Baker Library
    • Countway Library of Medicine
    • New England Primate Research Center Library
    • Gutman Library
    • Harvard Law School Librarymarker
    • John F. Kennedy School of Government Library
    • Frances Loeb Library
    • Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America

See also


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