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The NLM Main Reading Room Collection

The NLM® Main Reading Room Collection, also called the Reference Collection, includes materials selected for their reference values. Users consult these for specific information rather than for cover-to-cover reading. This collection is current, mostly English-language, and contains over 5,000 titles. The Reading Room collection is open to all for self-service browsing and use.

What's in the Reference Collection?

The Reference Collection consists of the following:

  • Journals
    The Reading Room journal collection includes approximately 40 highly used titles in print and access to several thousand online journals. Journal call numbers begin with W1.
  • Monographs and Serials
    The Reading Room monograph collection includes textbooks in core, related, and peripheral subject areas defined by NLM, and traditional reference tools, e.g., dictionaries, biographical/membership directories, handbooks, atlases, guides, sourcebooks, almanacs. Monograph and serial call numbers begin with the letters A to WZ.
  • Abstracts, Indexes, and Bibliographies
    The Reading Room abstract, index, and bibliography collection may be monographs or serials. Works about library science are shelved here.The call numbers of items in this section begin with Z.
    Many abstracts and indexes are available as databases. Visit our page listing the electronic databases and directories available in the Reading Room.
  • Audiovisuals
    The Reading Room includes a self-service collection of recent audiovisual programs in DVD, CD, and videocassette formats. Equipment is available for viewing these programs and General Collection audiovisual programs. The Fact Sheet, Access to Audiovisual Materials, provides additional information about AVs available at NLM.

Identifying and Locating Items in the Reference Collection

Use LocatorPlus® or NLM Catalog to identify journals, monographs, audiovisuals, and serials in the Reference Collection.

  • Use LocatorPlus to search for items by author, title, subject, call number, or keyword. Limit title or keyword searches to items in the Reading Room by setting the LocatorPlus Quick Limit Option to "Reading Room Collection."
  • Use NLM Catalog to search for items by author, title, subject, call number, or keyword. If you use a MeSH (Medical Subject Heading) term to search NLM Catalog, the system automatically searches more specific MeSH terms.
    From the full display of the search results, click to view NLM holdings and location information in LocatorPlus. NLM Holdings in LocatorPlus Button