Many Somervillians (such as the members of our thriving community of artists and writers) have specialized interests and undertake projects that might benefit from access to an academic library. However, many of those same people are neither students nor employees of any of the local universities.
Fortunately, Harvard now offers adult researchers with no academic affiliation access to its special collections: Houghton Library, The Harvard Map Collection, The Harvard Yenching Library, The Fine Arts Library, the Loeb Music Library, and the Tozzer Library.
It's almost impossible to exaggerate what an opportunity this is. Are you interested in Oxyrhynchus papyri, medieval romances about Alexander the Great, drafts of Keats' poems? Houghton Library is the place for you. The Harvard Map Collection includes geodetic surveys, 19th-century fire insurance maps, and Renaissance atlases. The Harvard-Yenching Library holds newspapers, gazetteers, manuscripts and printed books in Asian languages ranging from Chinese to Mongolian.
To get an idea of what's in the Fine Arts Library, check out their Tumblr blog. The Loeb Music Library is the primary music library at Harvard, with roughly 91,000 books, 143,000 scores, and 83,000 sound recordings. Its periodicals collection includes journals of research on musicology, composition, music theory, and historically informed performances. And if you want to do anthropological research, you need to consider the Tozzer Library: its collections include works on cultural and social anthropology, biological and physical anthropology, archaeology, and anthropological linguistics. The Tozzer has an especially rich collection of primary sources on Mesoamerica.
You can read all about the procedures for access to Harvard Special Collections here.
Here is a video guide on how to handle materials from Harvard Special Collections.