National Library of Medicine Celebrates its 175th Anniversary

17 May 2011 - 7:51am by Lynn Sette

In 1836, the library of the U.S. Army Surgeon General consisted of a small collection of medical books on one shelf. Today, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is the world’s largest biomedical library. With some 14 million items in more than 150 languages, it is the worldwide leader in trusted medical and health information and innovation.

But this unique library is about much more than books. Every day it delivers trillions of bytes of data crucial to the lives of millions everywhere. NLM–designed databases and tools lead people to helpful medical literature and health information; help researchers study genes and their role in disease; provide emergency responders with critical information on hazardous substances, and much, much more.

The Library is a leader in biomedical informatics, which is the use of computers and communications technology in biology, medicine, and health. NLM conducts and funds informatics research and trains future generations of scientists and information specialists. It plays an essential role in the development of electronic health records, health data standards, and the exchange of health information.

In 1971, for example, NLM created Medline, an online database of references to the biomedical literature. Completely free access to Medline began in 1997 through PubMed, a new access system.  Today, PubMed/Medline contains over 20 million references to articles published in more than 5,300 current biomedical journals from the U.S. and over 80 foreign countries. It is approaching one billion searches a year from users worldwide.

NLM’s information services and research programs serve the nation and the world by supporting scientific discovery, clinical research, education, health care delivery, public health response, and the empowerment of people to improve personal health.

The Library is committed to the innovative use of computing and communications to enhance effective public access to understanding and discovery in human health. - Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D.,Director, National Library of Medicine