News Release

Monday, March 14, 2011

National Library of Medicine celebrates 175 years of information innovation

2011 marks the 175th anniversary of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), part of the National Institutes of Health. The world’s largest medical library and the producer of electronic information resources used by millions of people every day, NLM has changed the way scientific and medical information is organized, stored, accessed, and disseminated. From its founding in 1836 as the library of the U.S. Army Surgeon General to its present position at NIH, NLM's hallmark has been information innovation, leading to exciting scientific discoveries that ultimately improve the public health.

"When you look at the Library’s history, you see a fantastic voyage," said Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., NLM director since 1984. “Each leg of the journey has brought us closer to our goal of providing access to biomedical information — anytime, anywhere — for scientists, health professionals, and the public. In the time I’ve been here, we’ve embraced the Internet as the primary mode of delivering our services,” he continued. "We have also expanded our portfolio to include genetic sequence data, high-resolution anatomic images, clinical trials information, and a wide array of high-quality information for consumers. We look forward to whatever astonishing developments the next 175 years might bring."

The Library has planned a number of special programs in support of its mission. These include:

  • A disaster information outreach symposium, March 29-30(;
  • A workshop on long-term preservation and management of electronic health records, April 6-7 (;
  • A symposium on the future of clinical trials, June 6-7;
  • Training for journalists in the use of NLM resources and research, October (details to be announced);
  • An NLM Extramural Programs "Greatest Hits" symposium, with presentations about the various grant mechanisms, Nov. 9;
  • Contests to recognize original short videos that promote awareness of NLM’s information products and services, and creative applications that demonstrate the greatest potential to deliver information to the public using NLM data resources; and
  • Special speakers, seminars and other activities throughout the year.

Key advances in the Library’s history include:

  • NLM has made it easy to find and search the biomedical literature.
  • Index Medicus, a groundbreaking index of medical journal articles first published in 1879, evolved into MEDLINE, the first marriage of online search technology and nationwide telecommunications, in 1971.
  • In its current form, PubMed/MEDLINE connects indexed references to many kinds of related information, including gene sequences, chemical information, and the full text of articles stored on publishers’ websites, or at NLM itself. Freely available via the Internet since 1997, PubMed/MEDLINE is the most frequently consulted scientific/medical database in the world.
  • NLM established librarian training programs and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine in the late 1960s to equalize access to the biomedical literature across the country. Now with nearly 6,000 members, NLM and this network of academic, hospital, and public libraries partner with community-based organizations to bring high-quality information services to health professionals and the public — regardless of geographic location, socioeconomic status, or level of access to computers and telecommunications.
  • NLM has conducted and supported training programs and groundbreaking informatics research and development for more than 40 years. The Library, its grantees, and its former trainees continue to play essential roles in the development of electronic health records, health data standards, and the exchange of health information.
  • NLM is home to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), established in 1988 as a national resource for molecular biology information. Today, NCBI is an indispensible international repository and software tool developer for genetic sequences and other scientific data, and a pioneer and leader in linking data and published research results to promote new scientific discoveries.
  • NLM began intensive development of Web health information services for the general public in 1998 with the release of Now available in English and Spanish, MedlinePlus is one of many NLM consumer health information products also available on mobile devices such as smartphones
  • NLM released in 2000. It is now the world’s largest source of information about clinical trials recruiting for patients and healthy volunteers, and also provides summary results of some trials long before they appear in the published literature.
  • NLM began providing toxicology and environmental health data for use in emergency response and disaster management in the mid-1960s. Today, it produces information services to help health professionals, disaster information specialists, and the general public cope with emergencies and disasters. Topics addressed range from children swallowing household cleaners to overturned trucks carrying hazardous materials to the widespread effects of hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and oil spills.
  • NLM has a state-of-the-art data center, to ensure uninterrupted access to essential information services that are accessed billions of times each year. This center has maximized the utilization of available computing resources by introducing centralized shared data storage, energy efficiency initiatives, and the establishment of an offsite redundant data center for disaster recovery.

For details on NLM’s history, its programs and services, and its anniversary year calendar, visit the 175th anniversary website:

To read about NLM staff members’ special numerical salute to the 175th anniversary, go to: That photo, which is in the public domain, is also available at

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is the world’s largest library of the health sciences and collections, organizes and makes available biomedical science information to scientists, health professionals and the public. For more information, visit the website at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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