An historical overview of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, 1985–2015

Susan L. Speaker

Abstract


The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), established as the Regional Medical Library Program in 1965, has a rich and remarkable history. The network’s first twenty years were documented in a detailed 1987 history by Alison Bunting, AHIP, FMLA. This article traces the major trends in the network’s development since then: reconceiving the Regional Medical Library staff as a “field force” for developing, marketing, and distributing a growing number of National Library of Medicine (NLM) products and services; subsequent expansion of outreach to health professionals who are unaffiliated with academic medical centers, particularly those in public health; the advent of the Internet during the 1990s, which brought the migration of NLM and NNLM resources and services to the World Wide Web, and a mandate to encourage and facilitate Internet connectivity in the network; and the further expansion of the NLM and NNLM mission to include providing consumer health resources to satisfy growing public demand. The concluding section discusses the many challenges that NNLM staff faced as they transformed the network from a system that served mainly academic medical researchers to a larger, denser organization that offers health information resources to everyone.

 This article has been approved for the Medical Library Association’s Independent Reading Program.


Keywords


National Network of Libraries of Medicine; Regional Medical Libraries; National Library of Medicine

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jmla.2018.297

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