When material has already been checked out by someone else

When an item you're looking for is already checked out by another patron, we'll help you consider the alternatives.

  • If the item is a book and is held by another Borrow Direct participating institution, you can request it through Borrow Direct (about 4 days).
  • If the material isn’t available via Borrow Direct, there's Interlibrary Loan (articles average a few business days (often faster); books & microfilm usually take 7-10 days).
  • If the item doesn't appear to be available via ILL, you could also request that we purchase another copy using this form (turnaround time varies).

Please contact Ask a Librarian for assistance with investigating the options. If there is no other copy available to us, we'll help you request a recall via the Library Access & Borrowing Office.


If you received a recall notice from the library, you may be looking for our Recalls FAQ.

Service Alert:
  • Most Harvard Library locations will be closed or have limited hours and/or services from Friday, November 23 at 5pm to Sunday, November 25 in observance of the holiday. On Sunday the 25th, Ask a Librarian and Chat services will be limited to noon- 5pm; you can check the Library Hours page for location specifics.
  • If you're experiencing an ongoing technical issue when you attempt to access library materials with your HarvardKey, please report it to Library Technology Services.



Monday - Thursday 9am-9pm
Friday - Saturday 9am-5pm
Sunday 12pm-7pm

Chat is intended for brief inquiries from the Harvard community.


Talk to a librarian for advice on defining your topic, developing your research strategy, and locating and using sources. Make an appointment now.

These services are intended primarily for Harvard University faculty, staff and students. If you are not affiliated with Harvard, please use these services only to request information about the Library and its collections.