Privileges Division Now Accepting Credit Cards

credit cards

Anne-Marie Costa, Library Assitant in the Library Privileges and
Billing Division, demonstrates the credit card payment process.
The College Library's Privileges and Billing Division recently began accepting credit cards from patrons purchasing library privileges.


March 4, 2009 - The approximately 1,200 researchers and scholars who apply annually for permission to access the Harvard College Library's collections can now leave their cash and checks at home. The College Library's Privileges Office is now accepting credit cards from patrons applying for library privileges.

Visiting researchers and other individuals, such as Harvard alumni/ae, faculty and Ph.D. candidates at other institutions and researchers not affiliated with Harvard can gain access to the college library collections by purchasing library privileges. But with privileges costing as much as $750 per year, researchers were often forced to carry large sums of cash, or pay by check.

The new payment option, which began November 1, allows patrons to avoid carrying cash or checks, and has significantly sped up the process of obtaining library privileges; allowing researchers to focus their attention on scholarship, said Edward Doctoroff, head of the Library Privileges and Billing Division.

"We've had quite a few inquiries from our customers who wanted to be able to pay by credit card," Doctoroff said. "We wanted to be able to offer this option as a way to maintain our great record of customer service."

Thus far, Doctoroff added, the new option is proving popular. Just one month after its launch, and with no advertising by library staff, 40 percent of patrons seeking library privileges used credit cards, a figure he expects will increase as more people become aware of the credit card alternative.

 "We have always been in favor of it, because we thought it would be a great customer service," Doctoroff said, of accepting credit card payments. "When we first received the approval, I didn't' realize how complex it would be. It took several months to create the payment system, because the University and the banks are very stringent about ensuring the payments are secure, and that various University guidelines are followed."

"It's a win-win on all sides," said Ellen Cohen, director of Financial Services. "This will offer better service for our patrons, and it's a cleaner and neater process for us, because we no longer have to process checks drawn on banks all over the world."

McGrath and Doctoroff also offered praise for the College Library's Financial Services and Information Technology Services units, both of which played key roles in planning and implementing the credit card system.

 "I think our patrons expect this option," said Cheryl McGrath, Head of Widener Library Access Services. "Interestingly, when we implemented it, several people purchased privileges for longer periods, simply because they could pay by credit card."