NIH Press Advisory
National Library of Medicine

Friday, November 20, 1998

Bob Mehnert
Kathy Gardner

National Library of Medicine's Main Reading Room Prepares for 21st Century
Brief shutdown to bring long-lasting improvements

(Bethesda, Md.)-The National Library of Medicine will be preparing its exhibition hall and Main Reading Room for the 21st century when it embarks on a series of upgrades beginning the morning of Friday, December 18, 1998. The Library will be closed to the public from that date until it re-opens at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, January 4th, 1999. The Library will also suspend its public tours, normally offered weekdays at 1:00 p.m., during this period.

Improvements will include the installation of additional computer terminals for online searching, a new raised floor system for computer wire management, and new carpeting and other enhancements to the appearance of the Main Reading Room and the Rotunda (Exhibit Hall). Although NLM will be closed to walk-in patrons during the renovation, researchers can still telephone (1-888-FIND-NLM) or e-mail ( the NLM staff and place interlibrary loan requests through the 4,500 medical libraries nationwide in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.

"Of course, we never want to prevent our patrons from being able to visit us and take advantage of our resources," observed Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg, Director of NLM, "But our building, which opened in 1962, obviously was not designed with the Internet and computerized catalogs in mind. The new technical capabilities resulting from this project will allow much more flexibility and versatility for our computer network, and that translates into better service for our visitors."

Eve-Marie Lacroix, Chief of the Library's Public Services Division, concurs. "We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this upgrade may cause our local patrons. The only consolation is that we will have a much more 'user-friendly' and attractive facility to offer the public when we resume operations."

If you are curious about the status of the renovation, check the Library's renovation web page at Questions about the renovation, and what services will be available from December 18th through January 4th, can be answered by calling 1-888-FIND-NLM between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. EST, or by sending an e-mail message to

The National Library of Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health, is the largest medical library in the world, with more than five million books, journals, audiovisuals and artworks in its collections.