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How to Obtain a Library Card and Request Library Materials

The National Library of Medicine's General Collection is housed in closed stacks. Visitors do not have access to this area. You may request stack items using LocatorPlus, the NLM online catalog; Library staff will retrieve the items for you to pick up at the Circulation Desk.

You need an NLM Library Card to request and obtain materials from the closed stacks. You can use this Card as a debit card for printing and photocopying at NLM.

Obtaining a Library Card
Requesting Materials
Picking Up Materials

Obtaining a Library Card

You must be in the Library to register for a NLM Library Card:

  1. Go to any public computer in the Main Reading Room.
  2. Click on the Get a Library Card link; then click the Register button (on the 1-2-3 Easy Steps page).
  3. Complete the registration form and click "Submit".
  4. Proceed to the Patron Registration & Photocopy Services Desk.
  5. Present a valid Photo-ID such as your state driver's license or state ID, passport, United States Military ID, University ID or NIH ID to complete the registration process.

If you make requests for History of Medicine (HMD) materials, you must complete an additional registration form at the HMD Circulation Desk.

Requesting Materials

Submit requests for items from the closed stacks at any of the NLM LocatorPlus workstations in the Main Reading Room or the History of Medicine (HMD) Reading Room using your NLM Library Card. You can also submit requests from the Reading Rooms using a personal device when you are connected to the NIH WiFi network.

  • Enter your requests from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Requests for General Collection items will be processed and delivered to the Circulation Desk between 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. (last request entered at 12 noon) and 2:00 p.m. - 4:55 p.m. (last request entered at 4:00 p.m.)
  • Service to the closed stacks stops one hour before the Library closes.
  • You may request a maximum of 50 items per day.
    • You may apply for an exception to the daily limit on General Collection materials by discussing your needs with Collection Access Section (CAS) staff at the Circulation Desk.
    • Discuss exceptions to the limits for History of Medicine collection materials with staff at the HMD Circulation Desk.
  • The Reading Rooms are closed weekends and Federal holidays. For a list of holidays, check Holiday Closings for NLM Reading Rooms.
  • NLM follows the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) operating status. During periods of stormy weather or other emergency conditions, check the OPM Current Status.

Picking Up Materials

  • Show your NLM Library Card when picking-up materials.
  • Pick up General Collection materials at the Circulation Desk in the Main Reading Room from 10:00 a.m. - 4:55 p.m.
    • The Circulation Desk is staffed 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. - 4:55 p.m. To pick up General Collection materials between 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., ask the staff at the Reference Desk for assistance.
  • Pick up items from the History of Medicine Collection at the HMD Circulation Desk.
  • Items in poor condition are not sent to the Main Reading Room. If an item is in poor condition and can be photocopied, library staff will provide the needed pages. If an item cannot be photocopied, staff will direct you to the Collection Access Section to view the item.
  • Use all materials in the Library. Return materials to the Circulation Desk.
    • You may not remove HMD collection materials from the HMD Reading Room.
    • You may take General Collection materials to the HMD Reading Room but should return the material to the Circulation Desk in the Main Reading Room at the end of the day.
Layout of NLM Reading Rooms

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