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Admission to the Library

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The Harvard Law School Library is a private research facility that exists primarily to support the educational and research needs of the Harvard Law School faculty, staff and students and, secondarily, the needs of the Harvard University community. Consistent with its primary purpose, Harvard Law School Library attempts to serve the legitimate needs of scholars and researchers requiring access to the Law Library's unique collections. Please note:

  • Borrowing is limited to current Harvard ID holders.
  • During exam periods, access is restricted to current Harvard law affiliates, and collection users. Harvard University ID holders can always enter to retrieve a book to check out at the Circulation Desk.
  • Manuscript and visual materials, along with rare books, are housed in the Library's Special Collections. For information concerning access to these materials, please visit the Historical & Special Collections page.
  • The library staff is not available for legal advice. If you require legal assistance, click the following link for more information.

If you have any questions not answered on this site, or on the access application, contact the Langdell Circulation Desk staff, 617-495-3455, or email Access Privileges.

Harvard Affiliates 

Harvard affiliated students, faculty, and staff with a current Harvard University ID qualify for admittance to the Law Library and borrowing privileges. Medical campus IDs need to be activated at the Langdell Circulation Desk. People currently affiliated with a Harvard Law School program or Harvard University program qualify for admittance by obtaining a letter of introduction from the program, and then filling out an access application.

Faculty or staff of a Harvard Law School department or program, or a Harvard University department or program, may contact us to set up access to the library for a guest.

Special Borrowers

The Law Library accepts only five categories of Special Borrower cards for admittance and borrowing privileges: Harvard University Officer Dependents; Harvard University/Harvard Law School Spouse or Widow/er; Harvard University/Harvard Law School Domestic Partner; Fletcher School Students; and Research Assistants. These users must obtain the Special Borrower card from the Widener Privileges Office, 617-495-4166.

All other Special Borrowers (Harvard University alumni/ae, Non-Harvard Affiliates, MIT students, etc.) must fill out an access application and are not eligible for borrowing privileges

Research Assistants

For admittance to the Law Library and borrowing privileges Faculty Research Assistants must obtain a Research Assistant Special Borrower Card through the Widener Library Privileges Office; Widener fees apply. Please direct questions to Widener Library Privileges Office, 617-495-4166. Instructions and the application are available on their web site.

Alumni

Harvard Law School alumni/ae qualify for free access to the Law Library, but not borrowing privileges. Register at the Langdell Circulation Desk.   

Harvard University alumni/ae may apply for admittance to the Library, but not borrowing privileges.  Access is free for three days per calendar year.  After that, there is a $20 per day fee and reduced rates for access to the Library for a week, month, or year. No Widener stacks pass is necessary for access. There is free access for alumni/ae currently at another university as a faculty, PhD candidate, staff, or student requiring use of the Law Library collection. Please see the application form for details.

Access to Harvard College Libraries, Including Widener

Harvard University Alumni/ae, including Harvard Law School Alumni/ae, are eligible for a Widener Stacks Access Card without a fee.Using this card, you may be admitted to Widener stacks and most Harvard College libraries six days per 12-month period (not necessarily consecutive) without fee and may borrow six Widener Library books per year.  (No borrowing at Law)  To borrow more books, you must purchase a HCL Special Borrower Card.  For details, contact Library Privileges Office, Widener Library, Room 130, Monday-Friday,  9:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m., 617-495-4166.  The HCL Special Borrower does not include borrowing at Harvard Law School Library

Researchers from Outside Harvard 

Faculty, students, staff, librarians, and researchers from other accredited academic institutions may apply for admittance to the Law Library for short-term legal research. Because materials may be located offsite in storage or at the Harvard Depository, you may want to email Access Privileges, 617-495-3455, more than three days in advance. Access fees may apply; please consult the application form for details.

Admittance to the Library does not include borrowing privileges. For borrowing, inquire about Interlibrary Loan at your local, academic, firm, or public library.

Members of the bar, and individuals doing legal research who are not currently affiliated with an academic institution, may apply for admittance to the Library for a fee; please consult the application form for details. Reduced rates for access to the Library for longer than a day are available.

The Library reserves the right to limit or deny access based on legal research needs or other special circumstances.

Depository Collection Users

As a member of the United States Federal Depository Library Program and the European Union Depository Library Program, Harvard Law School Library receives selected European Union and US government documents. The Library is obligated by law to provide free access to these documents, which may be maintained and technically supported on the Internet or in other electronic formats, as well as held by the Library in paper or microformat.

International Students and Scholars

International students, scholars and faculty may apply for admittance to the Law Library. A letter granting admission to the Library does not serve as visa sponsorship from Harvard University. For information about visa sponsorship, housing, and other issues related to study or research from abroad, consult the Harvard International Office, 617-495-2789.

Access to Electronic Resources 

The Library subscribes to a number of electronic resources on behalf of Harvard Law School faculty, staff, and students; use of these resources is limited to members of the Harvard Law School community. Access is controlled by either IP address or password. See the Electronic Resources page for more information.

Access to Harvard Libraries 

Policies on admittance and borrowing, hours, and services vary. For more information on all libraries at Harvard visit lib.harvard.edu/libraries. The libraries of the Harvard College Library are research institutions for the use of Harvard students, faculty, staff, and visiting researchers. Harvard affiliates are admitted upon presentation of a current Harvard University ID. Non-Harvard affiliates can inquire about their eligibility to use the libraries at the Library Privileges Office, Widener Library, Room 130. The hours of operation are Monday–Friday, 9:00 am–4:45 pm. Inquiries can be made in person, by telephone at 617-495-4166, or by email.

Photography, Video, Tour Groups 

In order to respect the privacy of our students and to maintain the library as a place for quiet study, large tours, photography, videotaping and filming within the library are all not allowed. On rare occasions, special arrangements for filming can be made, however, permission must be obtained in advance. Please contact Library Administration, 617-495-3170 to request permission.

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