Section of plate B41215 showing a positive image of Halley's comet against a starry sky. Section of Plate B41215 showing Halley's Comet in 1910.

The John G. Wolbach Library houses both Harvard College Observatory and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory collections, forming one of the world’s preeminent astronomical libraries.

The Wolbach Library's extensive collection is constantly evolving, and our special collections include primary sources associated with the institution’s history, as well as archival publications, papers, and objects created by observatories worldwide. The Wolbach is also the home of Harvard's Astronomical Photographic Glass Plate Collection.

Library Mission

We facilitate the creation and sharing of new knowledge by providing resources that respond to, and anticipate, challenges that impact the astronomy community.

Principles and Priorities

The below principles and priorities shape the Library's work and guide how staff build, organize, manage, house, and preserve collections of physical and digital artifacts.

Guiding Principles

  • Conversation: The Wolbach Library will work to foster conversation among members of the community and actively engage in those conversations to provide resources that meet the community’s continually changing and diverse needs.
  • Ownership: The Wolbach Library is a shared resource for all members of the astrophysics community. Community members are invited to contribute their ideas about how the Library can develop collections that help meet their scholarly and personal goals. 
  • Adaptability: The Wolbach Library will maintain a willingness to adapt to the community’s needs and to enable discovery, sharing, and publication of all research outputs.
  • Support: The Wolbach Library will support the community by providing resources that lower technical and social barriers that impact the future of astronomy research.
  • Humanity: Astronomy is a human endeavor, and the Wolbach Library sees people as the most valuable resource at the CfA. The Library therefore prioritizes people and astronomers’ human needs when making decisions about our collections, services, and projects.


  • Facilitate research about the Universe
  • Lower technical and social barriers that negatively impact the astronomy community
  • Promote and amplify the astronomy community’s contemporary and historic work
  • Develop projects and priorities that challenge Library staff to excel at an international level
  • Seek strategic collaborations that sustain Library programs, services, and projects
  • Enable scientific advancement through outreach and training programs