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Inside this Section YOU ARE HERE> SIL Home Page: Giving to the Libraries: Partners in Discovery Campaign
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Partners in Discovery Campaign

A technician digitizes a rare book in the Libraries' Imaging CenterA Heritage of Excellence

Situated at the center of the world's largest museum complex, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries is a vital part of the research, exhibition, and educational enterprise of the Institution. Using the artifacts or specimens of the national collections in conjunction with the written and illustrated record of the past, each Smithsonian scholar engages in an individual voyage of discovery. The continuing vitality of their endeavors depends on a healthy library system able to meet their needs and capable of meeting the needs of a growing number of users in the future.

It's About the World's Largest Museum Library System

  • 22 libraries in the nation's capital, Maryland, New York, and Panama
  • 1.5 million volumes, including 40,000 rare books and manuscripts
  • Nationally recognized collections of World's Fair literature and commercial catalogs documenting American industrial and consumer culture
  • Significant collections strength in natural history, anthropology, American Indian history and culture, the history of science and technology, American history, environmental management and tropical biology, aviation history and space flight, contemporary art, museum conservation and management, design and decorative arts, contemporary art, and the arts of America, Africa and Asia
  • A growing array of electronic journals, databases, and other digital resources
  • A book conservation laboratory and an imaging center
  • Easy access from personal computers to the Libraries' collections and reference services through the Internet

The Smithsonian Libraries participates today in the advancement of science and the arts, just as it has done from the inception of the institution. The Libraries' role with respect to 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 and as both scholarly resource and general information service, the Libraries informed staff offer a galaxy of services and resources available to anyone via the Internet or in person.

Witty, Humorous and Merry Thoughts, David Bryce, [1895?]The Smithsonian Institution Libraries serves its users through a unified system supported by an online catalog of the combined collections. For worldwide access via the Internet, a new imaging center creates electronic versions of rare books and other distinctive collections, as well as online exhibitions and specialized resource guides and finding aids. Our skilled cataloguers apply new "metadata" rules to make Web sites as accessible as books on the shelf. We maintain publication exchanges with the more than 6,400 institutions worldwide that supply Smithsonian scientists and historians with current periodicals and other publications. Through reformatting, microfilming, paper and binding restoration, and other preservation treatments, our preservation experts work to save the Smithsonian's collection of 1.5 million printed books and well thousands of manuscripts for future generations.

New audiences discover our national treasures through exhibitions, lectures, educational programs, special tours, and a user-friendly public Web site at

The Libraries' traditional constituency, Smithsonian staff, has expanded to include visiting fellows and interns; docents and volunteers; scholars across the nation and the globe; corporate and legal researchers; publishers; book and artifact collectors in many disciplines; other libraries, museums, and nonprofit organizations; government agencies; university faculty; students with relevant research interests; antiquarians and historic preservation specialists; and the public.

next: Improving Constituent Service

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