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History of the Associate Fellowship Program

The Associate Fellowship at the National Library of Medicine has a unique role within the field of health sciences librarianship: the Program’s duration of over 40 years, its high visibility within the field, and its placement within the context of health sciences librarians’ commitment to lifelong learning through formal and informal continuing education. In addition, the Program has a strong commitment to the challenge of cultivating leaders at such an early stage in their careers.

1977 Associate Fellows

NLM’s residency training of post-graduate librarians began at the National Library of Medicine in 1957 as the NLM Internship Program, with interns completing rotational work assignments throughout the Library. The program was suspended in the 1964/1965 years, and began again in 1966 under its current name, the NLM Associate Fellowship Program (AFP), and with a programmatic basic structure and design of 4 to 5 months of structured curriculum followed by 7 to 8 months of self-directed study, research or evaluation project experiences. Curriculum modules are developed and delivered by NLM staff.   The specific curriculum content has changed over time to reflect the changing NLM program priorities and the changing technologies used to produce and deliver NLM’s information resources.

From 1966 to 1998, the AFP was one year long and took place on site at NLM. Beginning with the 1998-99 class, an optional second year was added to the program. In the second year, Fellows participate in a field placement at a health sciences library, where they gain experience in various operational areas of the library, conduct projects, and have opportunities to observe leaders at the institution and within the profession.

NLM has also hosted international associate fellows, who join their U.S./Canadian colleagues in fully participating in the fellowship year. The first official international associate was JiJun “Harry” Guo, from China, in 1992, followed by associate fellows from Lithuania, Czech Republic, and China. Since the early 2000s, NLM has focused its attention in working with librarians from sub-Saharan Africa, hosting six librarians from the continent of Africa.

Over 200 librarians have participated in the Associate Fellowship Program, creating a vibrant alumni network of leaders throughout the field of health sciences librarianship.


Articles on the Associate Fellowship Program, from a personal perspective, to a description of the program to evaluations of library residencies and the associate fellowship program specifically:

Burke CY. Beginning a career in medical librarianship: my experience at the National Library of Medicine. IN: Diversity in libraries. Greenwood Press, 2001.

Carle DO. A longitudinal study of associates at the National Library of Medicine, 1957-1990. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1995 Jul;83(3):275-9.

Dunn K. Evaluation of the Impact of National Library of Medicine Associate Fellows' Projects: 1992 - 2012. August 2020, Medical Library Association Annual meeting. Virtual.

Dunn K. NLM Associate Fellows Spark Library Alchemy. Musings from the Mezzanine [blog] February 21, 2017.

Dunn K, Deardorff A, Foster ED, Harris LE. Pilot implementation of a leadership framework in the National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship Program. Library Leadership & Management 2016; 31(1): 8. 

Hanke MK, Benzer MJ. Training at the postgraduate level for medical librarians: a review. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1979 Jan;67(1):42-6.

Jones HW. SHOULD THE MEDICAL LIBRARY BE A TEACHING INSTITUTION? Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1941 Jun;29(4) :202-3. PubMed PMID: 16016508; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC233464.

KENNEDY M. An Internship. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1961 Jul;49:423-5. PubMed PMID: 13752519; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC200610

Lanier D, Henderson CL. Library residencies and internships as indicators of success: evidence from three programs. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1999 Apr;87(2):192-9.

The National Library of Medicine post-graduate library associate training program in biomedical communications. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, 1969.

Stavri PZ. Rapp BA. Qualitative Evaluation of the National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship Program. Poster at the Medical Library Association Annual meeting 2008. 


Last Reviewed: August 10, 2017