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About Smithsonian Libraries

Situated at the center of the world’s largest museum complex, the Smithsonian   Institution Libraries (SIL) forms a vital part of the research, exhibition,   and educational enterprise of the Institution. Each Smithsonian scholar engages   in an individual “voyage of discovery,” using the artifacts and specimens   of the National Collections in conjunction with the written and illustrated   record of the past. The Libraries is uniquely positioned to help visitors understand   the continuing vitality of this relationship.

Today, the Smithsonian Libraries participates in the advancement of science   and the arts, just as we have done from the inception of the Institution. Our   role vis-à-vis the Institution, the federal government, universities,   and the American people has grown, changing to meet the needs of the times.   Acting as both public and academic library, as both scholarly resource and general   information service, the Libraries offers a galaxy of resources and the help   of informed staff to anyone via the Internet or in person.

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries unites 20 libraries into one system supported by an online catalog of the combined collections. We maintain publication   exchanges with more than 4,000 institutions worldwide that supply Smithsonian   scientists and curators with current periodicals, exhibition catalogs, and professional   society publications. Through preservation treatments, experts work to save   the Smithsonian’s 1.5 million printed books and manuscripts for future generations.   Skilled catalogers apply new “metadata” rules to make websites as   accessible as books on the shelf. Our Imaging Center creates electronic versions   of rare books and other distinctive collections, as well as exhibitions and   specialized finding aids. The Libraries offers its treasures to the nation through   book exhibitions, lectures, special tours, and a well-designed public website.


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