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Fact Sheet
The National Library of Medicine

The National Library of Medicine (NLM), in Bethesda, Maryland, is a part of the National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Since its founding in 1836, NLM has played a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice. It is the world's largest biomedical library and the developer of electronic information services that deliver trillions of bytes of data to millions of users every day. Scientists, health professionals, and the public in the US and around the globe search the Library's online information resources more than one billion times each year.

The Library is open to all and has many services and resources--for scientists, health professionals, historians, and the general public. NLM has nearly 19 million books, journals, manuscripts, audiovisuals, and other forms of medical information on its shelves, making it the largest health-science library in the world.

In today's increasingly digital world, NLM carries out its mission of enabling biomedical research, supporting health care and public health, and promoting healthy behavior by:

  • Acquiring, organizing, and preserving the world's scholarly biomedical literature;
  • Providing access to biomedical and health information across the country in partnership with the 5,600-member National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM®);
  • Serving as a leading global resource for building, curating and providing sophisticated access to molecular biology and genomic information, including those from the Human Genome Project and NIH Roadmap;
  • Creating high quality information services relevant to toxicology and environmental health, health services research, and public health;
  • Conducting research and development on biomedical communications systems, methods, technologies, and networks and information dissemination and utilization among health professionals, patients, and the general public;
  • Funding advanced biomedical informatics research and serving as the primary supporter of pre- and post-doctoral research training in biomedical informatics at 18 US universities.

Scientific Information Services:The most frequently consulted online scientific medical resource in the world is MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a publicly available database of over 22 million journal citations from 1946 to the present.

Another important part of NLM's vast online holdings is PubMed Central® (PMC), a Web-based repository of biomedical journal literature providing free, unrestricted access to more than 2.5 million full-text articles.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) distributes GenBank®, a collection of all known DNA sequences, and also provides access to the assembled Human Genome data. NCBI also has a prominent role in the important new Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) project, an NIH-wide initiative directed at understanding the genetic factors underlying human disease. In 2007, NCBI significantly expanded its breadth of public resources by developing the database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP). These and other NCBI resources are accessible at http://www.ncbi.nih.gov.

It has been 14 years since the Visible Human Project® male and female datasets were released by NLM's Lister Hill Center. The datasets (some 50 gigabytes in all) are being applied in a wide range of projects by nearly 3,500 licensees in 64 countries.

The Specialized Information Services Division (SIS) offers a wide range of resources relating to environmental health and toxicology . Among the best known is TOXNET®, a collection of databases on hazardous chemicals, toxic releases and environmental health. SIS also compiles information on HIV/AIDS, disaster preparedness and other topics.

Information Services for the Public: The Library has extensive information resources to serve the general public. The Library's main portal for consumer health information is MedlinePlus®, available in both English and Spanish (MedlinePlus en español). MedlinePlus has comprehensive, up-to-date, easy-to-read information on nearly 900 health topics. It also provides interactive health tutorials and a collection of surgery videos. MedlinePlus features information on thousands of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as well as alternative treatments such as herbals. And, to provide the public with more health care news it can use, NLM staff oversees the production of the free, quarterly NIH MedlinePlus magazine and its Spanish-language counterpart, NIH MedlinePlus Salud.

ClinicalTrials.gov provides the public with comprehensive information about all types of clinical research studies. The site has over 134,000 protocol records sponsored by the US government, the pharmaceutical industry, and academic and international organizations, in all 50 states and 180 countries.

Genetics Home Reference is NLM's Web site for consumer-friendly health information on genetic conditions. This information resource bridges consumer health information and scientific bioinformatics data, and it links to many existing resources, both at NLM and at other reliable sites.

Another information resource for the public is NIHSeniorHealth.gov, which is maintained by the Library in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging and other NIH institutes. The site features information on topics of interest to seniors, with special features like enlargeable type and a "talking" function that allows users to listen as the text is read to them.

NLM has information for the public, too, on toxicology, environmental health, and HIV/AIDS. The Household Products Database, provides easy-to-understand data in consumer-friendly language on the potential health effects of more than 2,000 ingredients contained in more than 7,000 common household products. Tox Town® points out many harmful substances and environmental hazards not only in a town but in a port, a big city, a farm, and the US-Mexico border area. The Division has also created a series of information portals targeted to special populations, including Native Americans, Asian Americans, and those living in the Arctic.

ToxMystery, an interactive Web site for children ages 7-10, teaches users about potential chemical hazards in a home. There is also a Spanish-language version (click on "español") of this lively interface.

National Network of Libraries of Medicine: NLM's key partner in making information available is the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. The network consists of 5,600 member institutions, including eight Regional Medical Libraries that receive NLM support, 125 resource libraries connected to medical schools, and more than 5,000 libraries located primarily in hospitals and clinics.

Grant Programs:The Extramural Programs Division provides grants to support research in medical informatics, health information science and biotechnology information, as well as for research training in these areas. Network planning and development grants support computer and communications systems in health institutions and the study of new opportunities with high-speed computer networks in the health sciences. Health science library resource grants assist in improving information access and services for health professionals. Research and publications in the history of medicine and the life sciences are also funded.

Annual Statistical Profile of NLM: (September 30, 2008)

  • Collection (book and nonbook) - 19,121,304
  • Items Cataloged - 21,507
  • Serial titles received - 20,901
  • Articles indexed for MEDLINE - 671,904
  • Circulation requests processed - 405,475
  • For interlibrary loan - 234,020
  • For on-site users - 171,455
  • Computerized searches (MEDLINE/PubMed) - 775,504,557
  • Budget authority - $345 M
  • Staff - 1,730

Visitor Information: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/about/visitor.html

Address: 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894

Phone (Toll-Free): 888.FIND.NLM (888.346.3656)

Tours: Mon.-Fri. (except Federal holidays), 1:30-2:30 PM. Originate in NLM Visitor Center, off first floor lobby of Bldg. 38A, Lister Hill Center. For group tours of NLM: 301.594.7526. For exhibition tours: 301.594.1947.

Reading Room Hours: Mon.- Fri., 8:30 AM-5:00 PM (except Federal holidays).

Holiday Hours: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/about/holiday.html

Complete List of NLM Fact Sheets: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/factsheets.html

For more information about NLM programs, contact the Office of Communications and Public Liaison (mailing address above), publicinfo@nlm.nih.gov, 301.496.6308, or consult the NLM Web site.