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Entrance to the NLM
Main reading room
History of medicine reading room
Official seal
The United States National Library of Medicine (NLM), operated by the United States federal government, is the world's largest medical library. The collections of the National Library of Medicine include more than seven million books, journals, technical reports, manuscripts, microfilms, photographs, and images on medicine and related sciences including some of the world's oldest and rarest works.

Since 1879, the NLM has published the Index Medicus, a monthly guide to articles in nearly five thousand selected journals. The last issue of Index Medicus was printed in December 2004, but this information is offered in the freely accessible PubMed amongst the more than fifteen million MEDLINE journal article references and abstracts going back to the 1960s and 1.5 million references going back to the 1950s.

The NLM also runs the National Center for Biotechnology Informationmarker (NCBI) which houses biological databases freely accessible over the Internet through the Entrez search engine and PubMed.

The Toxicology and Environmental Health Program (TEHIP), established at the NLM in 1967, is charged with developing computer databases compiled from the medical literature and from the files of governmental and nongovernmental organizations. TEHIP has implemented several information systems for chemical emergency response and public education, such as the Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET), TOXMAP, Tox Town, Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER), Toxmystery, and the Household Products Database. These resources are accessible without charge on the Web.

The Extramural Division provides grants to support research in medical information science and to support planning and development of computer and communications systems in medical institutions. Research, publications, and exhibitions on the history of medicine and the life sciences are also supported by the History of Medicine Division. In April 2008 the current exhibition Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health was launched.


For details of the pre-1956 history of the Library, see Library of the Surgeon General's Office.
The precursor of the NLM, established in 1836, was the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, a part of the office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and its Medical Museum were founded in 1862 as the Army Medical Museum. Throughout their history the Army Medical Library and the Army Medical Museum often shared quarters. From 1866 to 1887, they were housed in Ford's Theatremarker after production there was stopped after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

In 1956, the Library collection was transferred from the control of the U.S.marker Department of Defensemarker to the Public Health Service of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and renamed the National Library of Medicine. The Library moved to its current quarters in Bethesda, Marylandmarker, on the campus of the National Institutes of Healthmarker, in 1962.


Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health is an exhibition that opened to the public at the United States National Library of Medicine on April 17 2008. The exhibition explores aspects of the history of global health as wellas current issues, highlighting the shared concerns of communitiesaround the world. Materials from the History of Medicine Division of theNational Library of Medicine are on display alongside artifacts andimages gathered from across the globe. Featured stories include the Barefoot doctors of China, the impact of Hurricane Katrina on health care in the Mississippi Gulf region, the work of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and activism and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.

At the exhibition launch, an audience of young people from Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia heard from a panel of speakers that featured Jeanne White Ginder, mother of the late Ryan White and an advocate for people living with HIV and AIDS, and Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility and director of one of the first community health centers in the United States at Mound Bayou, Mississippimarker. The panel also included young activists Niko and Theo Milonopoulos, who founded Kidz Voice-LA and Vox Populi after a series of shootings in their hometown, North Hollywood.

See also


  • Miles, Wyndham D., A History of the National Library of Medicine: The Nation's Treasury of Medical Knowledge; U. S. Government Printing Office, 1992.


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