The Smithsonian Institution Libraries
(SIL) system comprises 20 libraries serving the various Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...
museums and research centers. SIL's holdings include 1.5 million volumes as well as a wide array of digital resources. The collections focus primarily on science, art, history and culture, and museology. SIL is continuously analyzing its mission and goals in order to best meet the information and knowledge needs of new generations of users, to strengthen research, and to reach through cyberspace those unable to visit the Museums personally.
The SIL Catalog is part of the Smithsonian Research Information System (SIRIS) from which one can search 1.89 million records of text, images, video and sound files from across the SI. In 2008, SIL celebrated its 40th anniversary. Since 1997, the Director has been Nancy E. Gwinn, Ph.D.
Most of the Smithsonian's libraries are located in the Washington, DC, area, where most of the Smithsonian Institution's museums and research centers are. Other locations include New York City, Suitland, Md., Edgewater, Md., and the Republic of Panama.
General collections locations are:
- Washington, D.C.
- Anacostia Community Museum Library (Washington, D.C.)
- Botany and Horticulture Library (Washington, D.C.)
- Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Library (Washington, D.C.)
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Library (Washington, D.C.)
- John Wesley Powell Library of Anthropology (Washington, D.C.)
- Museum Studies Reference Library (Washington, D.C.)
- National Air and Space Museum Library (Washington, D.C.)
- National Museum of American History Library (Washington, D.C.)
- National Museum of Natural History Library (Washington, D.C.)
- National Museum of Natural History Library, Invertebrate Zoology (Washington, D.C.)
- National Museum of Natural History Library, Vertebrate Zoology (Washington, D.C.)
- National Postal Museum Library (Washington, D.C.)
- National Zoological Park Library (Washington, D.C.)
- Smithsonian American Art Museum / National Portrait Gallery Library (Washington, D.C.)
- Vine Deloria, Jr. Library, National Museum of the American Indian (Suitland, Maryland)
- Warren M. Robbins Library, National Museum of African Art (Washington, D.C.)
- Edgewater, Maryland
- Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Library (Edgewater, Maryland)
- New York City, New York
- Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library (New York, New York)
- Suitland, Maryland
- Republic of Panama
- Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Library (Republic of Panama)
There are two primary Special Collections libraries within Smithsonian Institution Libraries. According to its mission statement, "The Special Collections Department arranges, describes, houses, and provides access to the rare books, manuscripts, and special collections held in the two dedicated special collections libraries of Smithsonian Institution Libraries: the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology and the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History. Access is provided to Smithsonian Institution curators, researchers, and other staff as well as outside scholars by appointment.
Additional special collections materials are held within the other library locations.
Rare book libraries include:
The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology
It contains 35,000 books and 2,000 manuscripts in the history of science and technology. Established in 1976 with a donation from Bern Dibner
Bern Dibner was an electrical engineer, industrialist, and historian of science and technology.Dibner was born near Kiev, Ukraine in 1897. He moved to the United States with his family at the age of 7. In 1921, he graduated from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn with a degree in Electrical...
, the Library is housed in the National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center collects, preserves and displays the heritage of the United States in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Among the items on display are the original Star-Spangled Banner and Archie Bunker's...
, which reopened in 2008 after a major renovation.
The Cullman Library of Natural History
Included are some 10,000 volumes dated pre-1840 in the fields of anthropology and natural sciences.
There are several digital initiatives, conducted by increasingly cross-disciplinary teams that include staff from Digital Services, Metadata/Cataloging, Reader Services, and other Libraries departments. They include publications, images, collections and objects such as online exhibits, webcasts, finding aids, digital versions of print editions, bibliographies, etc. Examples include:
- The Biodiversity Heritage Library
The Biodiversity Heritage Library is a project for the digitization of literature on biodiversity. It was founded in 2005 and was initially formed by ten United States and British libraries....
, part of the Encyclopedia of Life
The Encyclopedia of Life is a free, online collaborative encyclopedia intended to document all of the 1.9 million living species known to science. It is compiled from existing databases and from contributions by experts and non-experts throughout the world...
- Smithsonian Research Online
Smithsonian Research Online is a database of bibliographic citations and full texts of publications by Smithsonian Institution scholars. It is managed by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Access to the database is free....
, a database of citations and full texts of publications by Smithsonian scholars
- Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web
Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web is an international database of online exhibitions which is a service of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.-Overview:...
, a database of online exhibitions worldwide
- Art and Artist Files in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries
- Galaxy of Images, a database of images from the Libraries' book and manuscript collections
Smithsonian Libraries 2.0
Among the ongoing initiatives are a blog, Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...
Flickr is an image hosting and video hosting website, web services suite, and online community that was created by Ludicorp in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to...
page, and a Twitter
Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as "tweets".Twitter was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched that July...
Fellowships and internships
SIL offers fellowships for historians, librarians, doctoral and post-doctoral scholars wishing to conduct research in the history of science and technology or in areas pertaining to other special collections. Also offered are internships opportunities for students and others.
The Smithsonian Institution Libraries Fact Sheet states that the "Smithsonian Libraries, though a plural noun, is consistently followed by a singular verb because it is considered a system of libraries, with individual locations operating under the aegis of a central administration and adhering to a common mission.