• Coronavirus Library Updates: The Harvard Depository is currently closed and the borrowing physical materials has been stopped. Read the full guidance.



The Harvard Depository is the University's remote archival storage facility for library books, manuscripts, film, tape, mircoforms, maps and other materials. In addition, the Depository serves the records storage needs of over 400 Harvard departments, programs and offices, overseen by the Records Management Services of the University Archives.

The restricted-access facility provides a strictly regulated media preservation environment, precise inventory-tracking controls, efficient online retrieval ordering and dependable overnight delivery of materials requested from storage. The Depository is owned and operated by Harvard University, under the directorship of the Harvard Library administration.

The mission of the Harvard Depository is to promote effective use of space on the Harvard campus and the retention of financially and historically valuable resources by providing a secure, reliable, and cost-effective archival environment for storage and retrieval of a wide range of materials.

Five overarching goals direct the Depository's mission:

  1. To protect and preserve the collections entrusted to our care
  2. To meet or exceed client and archival storage industry standards for services
  3. To apply cost-effective principles in all aspects of operations and administration to the maximum benefit of libraries and the University
  4. To conduct ongoing qualitative and quantitative measurement and continual analysis and reporting of performance
  5. To sustain a work environment that promotes teamwork, cooperation and communication as values supporting our mission

Background and Design

The Harvard Depository storage facility is of modular design, so that additional storage units can be added as needed. The site will allow for the eventual construction of 15 main storage units, amounting to approximately 200,000 square feet of storage space, with a capacity of three million linear feet of shelving. The Depository's offsite location provides a secure yet accessible point from which materials can be retrieved rapidly when needed.

The first Harvard Depository storage module opened in 1986, with a second unit added in 1991. Construction of a third module—and of a cold-storage vault—was completed in 1995. To keep pace with the demand for offsite storage space, a fourth Depository module was added in 1996. Two larger modules were completed in mid-1999, with each unit offering a storage capacity of 1.5 times that of the original individual modules. In 2004, a large unit was completed for the storage of temporary University records. Main module seven, a 19,000 square foot archival expansion, opened in fall 2009.

The Harvard Depository's primary responsibility is to meet the storage and access needs of the University's libraries, archives, and administrative offices. By combining state-of-the-art construction with a streamlined service operation, the Depository is able to provide depositors with an extraordinarily high level of physical control, environmental protection, and inventory security for their collections, all in a cost-effective manner.

Media Storage and Tracking

The Harvard Depository is a high-density storage facility designed to utilize space in an efficient manner. The following steps are among those taken at the Depository to maximize storage space and to provide accurate tracking and access to stored materials:

  • Items arriving at the Depository for storage are sorted by size and stored on appropriately-sized shelves. For book collections, each book's size—not its subject or author—indicates where it gets shelved.
  • Adjustable shelving is employed throughout the facility. Each shelf can be set to the height required by the material being stored. This flexibility enables the Depository to avoid the problem of wasted space found in typical library book stacks.
  • Depository clients are required to attach barcode label identifiers to all items prior to transfer to the Depository. Clients are responsible for maintaining an accurate catalog of all items transferred, one that links each cataloged item to its barcode.
  • Barcode information is recorded at the Depository in its local inventory control system. Barcode data are used to identify, track and locate all stored materials. Regular communication with HOLLIS maiintains synchronization of records for accurate and timely access.

Climate-Controlled Storage Environment

The Harvard Depository has been designed specifically to provide an archival-quality storage environment for books and other paper-based materials, one that will stabilize the condition—and extend the useful life of these materials. While the Depository's preservation environment is ideally suited for paper-based materials, other media formats are also appropriately stored in the archival environment, such as motion picture film, microforms, and magnetic tapes.

The following features of the Depository ensure a clean and stable preservation environment:

  • An integrated climate-control system monitors storage conditions within the stacks on a continuous cycle
  • Temperature within the main storage area is maintained at an average of 50° F; humidity is maintained at an average 35% RH
  • Film storage vaults have a fixed temperature setting of 40° F and humidity is maintained at an average 25% RH
  • The HVAC system is designed to enhance the storage environment by removing damaging particles and gases and maintenance of positive pressure against intrusion of untreated air
  • Motion-activated UV-shielded fluorescent lamps minimize the damaging effects on media of long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation
  • PH-neutral book storage containers prevent the spread of acids that may leach from paper-based materials