Harvard Library Reopens Physical Spaces to Non-University Affiliates


The Harvard Library reopened its physical spaces to visiting researchers and special borrowers last week for the second time since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Though library spaces first reopened to visiting researchers in October, the library did not grant access to non-Harvard affiliates this semester until Feb. 28. Harvard affiliates have had access to the libraries’ physical spaces since September.

Visiting researchers must schedule an appointment and bring proof of vaccination to the Access and Borrowing Office in Widener Library before they can use the library’s physical spaces, per the Harvard Library website.

Anna Burgess, a spokesperson for the Harvard libraries, wrote in an email that library leadership has been closely monitoring University-wide health and safety guidelines throughout the pandemic. She added that the decision to reopen physical spaces to visiting researchers was based on University visitor guidance.


The reopening will benefit more than 3,200 special borrowers with active accounts.

“With our spaces reopening, these special borrowers may again access circulating physical collections within library spaces and browse the stacks in-person before choosing materials to borrow,” Burgess wrote.

“Folks impacted could be everyone from a prospective student viewing an exhibit in Houghton to an author conducting research for a book in the Archives,” she added. “Individual libraries and archives manage the visitors to their spaces and collections locally.”

Non-Harvard affiliates have the option of choosing between two types of access — a library access card and a library borrowing card. While visitors with library access cards can use a library’s computers and physical space, including reading rooms, they may not access restricted stack areas.

Visitors with a library borrowing card have the same benefits that access card holders have, but they may also borrow materials from the library.

Visiting researchers and special borrowers who plan on taking advantage of the reopening must follow certain guidelines, such as wearing a mask. Visitors are also advised not to come to campus if they are feeling ill or exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms.

Researchers who cannot visit library spaces in person can still browse Harvard Library’s digital collection, which contains 6 million items. The library’s website also includes virtual exhibits, public events, and tours of library spaces.

Researchers will also still have access to the library’s hybrid services, which have been available to the public since summer 2020. These services include scanning and delivering books, as well as preparing books for pickup.

—Staff writer Jorge O. Guerra can be reached at

—Staff writer Davin W. Shi can be reached at