National Library of Medicine (U.S.)

From HLWIKI Canada
Jump to: navigation, search
Source: NLM website
Are you interested in contributing to HLWIKI International? contact:

To browse other articles on a range of HSL topics, see the A-Z index.


Last Update

  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, July 2018


See also Data management portal | History of medicine portal | MLA - Medical Library Association (U.S.) | National Library of Medicine (NLM) Classification Scheme | PubMed - MEDLINE

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) in Bethesda, Maryland is the largest medical library of its kind in the world, providing access to biomedical information to support the work of the National Institutes of Health and its stakeholders. To support biomedical research, the NLM maintains a number of key health and medical databases such as PubMed - MEDLINE and OMIM (a genetic traits database), the fulltext repository of open-access journal articles in PubMed Central and products such as the NLM Classification System and the MeSH thesaurus. NLM's history can be traced back to John Lovell, John Shaw Billings and the Library of the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States Army in the 19th century. NLM's consumer health information portal is MedlinePlus (U.S.). NLM now also produces another major health portal called PubMed Health.

The NLM initiated the development of its next long-range plan in 2015 and a new blog called "Voyaging to the Future" to engage members of the public in the planning. See also: Fee E. Information on a global scale: the National Library of Medicine. Lancet. 2014 Jul 5;384(9937):21-2. In 2016, Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan assumed the position of NLM Director. SHe is the first female and first nurse to serve as head of the Library in its 180-year history.

History of the NLM

  • Before the United States' Civil War, there was little notion of an American medical library. The Surgeon General of the Army published the first catalogue in 1840, but its collection was not truly established until after the temporary war hospitals were finally closed in 1864, and their holdings were brought together under one library.
  • In 1865, Lieutenant John Shaw Billings, was hired to take charge of the collection. In one year alone, Billings grew the national collection from 2,100 volumes to 13,000. At Billings's retirement in 1895, the library's collection had grown to over 100,000 monographs and nearly 200,000 pamphlets.
  • Another triumph for the Library was instituted by Billings in 1880: the introduction of the Index Catalog which comprised author and subject indices of the Library's holdings. At the same time, in 1879, Billings began to index the world's medical journal literature in Index Medicus. Today, NLM's online database, MEDLINE, contains over 22 million citations and is freely available to the public through PubMed.
  • In 1922, the Library of the Surgeon General's Office was renamed the Army Medical Library and began to offer services to healthcare professionals across the Untied States. Senators Lister Hill and John F. Kennedy were instrumental in passing an Act of Congress in 1956 to move the library from the Army to the Public Health Service, renaming it the National Library of Medicine.
  • In 1962, the NLM opened at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, just outside of Washington, DC. NLM's many collections and services have grown alongside MEDLINE since the 1970s, including the Lister Hill Research Centre (1967) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (1988). Other online services include PubMed, the consumer health portal MedlinePlus and the national registry of drug trials,
  • A more detailed history can be found here, and an overview of the modern organization follows below.

Organizational Structure

The NLM has been led by Dr. Donald A. Lindberg, a world-renown pathologist, professor and scholar, for more than three decades. Lindberg has served on the boards of many scientific organizations, including the American Medical Informatics Association, Computer Science and Engineering Board of the National Academy of Sciences, National Board of Medical Examiners, and the Council of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. As director he oversees NLM units such as the Office of Administration, Office of Communications and Public Liaison, Office of Health Information Programs Development and various library divisions. Lindberg retired in 2015, and a new leader has not yet been announced.

NLM's Library Divisions

  • Library Operations
  • grant approval and awards
  • Research centre designed to increase the effectiveness and availability of technology in biomedicine.
  • Emphasizing research in medical imaging, visualization, language processing (automated indexing) and information systems.
  • Providing access to biomedical and genomic information through services such as PubMed, PubMed Central (PMC) and OMIM.

The official organizational chart of the NLM is here.

National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM)

The mission of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) is to advance the progress of medicine and improve the public health by providing all health professionals in the United States with equal access to biomedical information and improving the public's access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health care. The NNLM Program is coordinated by the National Library of Medicine and carried out through a nationwide network of health libraries and information centres. The NNLM was formerly the Regional Medical Library Program which has served the biomedical information needs of the US for forty+ years. Established by the Medical Library Assistance Act of 1965, member libraries in the NNLM provide health professionals and the general public with health information resources and services. Members are supported via eight regional offices under contract to the NLM. The National Network Office, located at the National Library of Medicine, oversees these contracts.

NLM Associate Program

The National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship Program is a one-year postgraduate program at the NLM in Bethesda, Maryland, with an optional second year. The program is designed to provide a foundation in health sciences information services, and to prepare future leaders in health libraries and health research. Associate Fellows are introduced to a wide range of technologies and skills used in managing information at a national library.

The fellowship program provides opportunities to:

  • gain experience with the areas technologies shaping the future of library and information science
  • explore research and development activities in biomedical information
  • examine current issues and trends affecting the library and information fields
  • prepare for careers in traditional and nontraditional settings in the fields of librarianship and information science

The NLM Associate program is a well-respected internship. Through internships, young professionals are able to integrate theory, skills, and knowledge and apply the ideals of the MLIS to practice; the intention is to reduce the gulf between LIS education and professional practice.


The NLM celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2011, and its proud, rich history serving the health community. In 1968, the NLM assumed its current name and profile once it was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The NLM holds 17 million publications in 150 languages, and important collections of ancient and modern historical texts as well as original publications of Vesalius and other founders of biomedicine. Its modern document collections illustrate the progress of biomedicine. The Library also provides services for health research and the public, including databases such as PubMed and MedlinePlus. The Library strives to satisfy the information needs of its clientele whether scientists or the public at large. For example, as the Hispanic population of the Unites States has increased in recent years, the NLM has made larger and larger amounts of data available in Spanish to fulfill the health information needs of this population. NLM programs train professionals in library science and biomedical informatics and link biomedical libraries of 18 academic centers throughout the United States. The NLM funds competitive grants for training at the Library, organizing short instruction courses about library science and informatics, and writing books on health related matters including the history of medicine and public health. The NLM is managed and maintained by an outstanding and farsighted group of professionals and dedicated support staff. Their focus on serving and reaching both the biomedical community and the public at large has been crucial to its development into a world icon of biomedical sciences, information technology and the humanities.


Canadian context

Canada's de-facto national library of science and medicine is the National Research Council Canada, National Science Library.


Personal tools