About Us

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At the center of research across the Smithsonian are the specialized branches and librarians of the Smithsonian Libraries. The contents and staff of the Libraries play a key role in helping the Smithsonian’s research and curatorial staff makes sense of the museums’ almost innumerable, often unique, objects and their cultural and historical contexts. The Smithsonian Libraries are a hidden national treasure, where experts come to test and expand knowledge and where America and the world can turn for authentic answers.

Behind the amazing museum exhibits and definitive writings of the Smithsonian Institution, there are over 1,500 research and curatorial staff, many of whom are leading authorities in their fields of science, history, culture, and the arts. Behind the walls and websites of the Smithsonian’s museums these researchers and curators have access to the resources they need to ensure the accuracy of their work and to advance knowledge in their fields. These essential resources are embodied in the collections and staff of the Smithsonian Libraries.

The Smithsonian Libraries is a network of 20 specialized research libraries supporting each of the Institution’s museums and initiatives. The subjects comprehended by this globally unique complex of libraries and librarians are as diverse and deep as the collections, exhibits, and scholarship they support. They truly span the range of scientific and cultural pursuits of humanity from aerospace, anthropology, astronomy, astrophysics, and art history to biology and botany, to cultural history, portraiture, philately, zoology, and much, much more.

While sharing the values, methods, and efficiencies of a unified network, each library in the system nonetheless is unique in itself. Each one supports the work of its own community of interest comprising specialized researchers and curators of the museums, as well as visiting scholars, educators, students, and others pursuing or advancing knowledge in their fields.

The Smithsonian Libraries and its highly qualified librarians help each of their communities by not only collecting, preserving and sharing the often original materials needed to source and verify facts. They also provide valuable guidance and support, directing users to the most relevant on-site or on-line sources and helping them frame and execute productive research strategies.

Individually each of these libraries is among the world’s greatest repositories of knowledge for the specialized fields they support. Collectively they are among America’s greatest scientific and cultural treasures. They belong to the nation, and through their expanding on-line presence and digitalization initiatives more and more people from across the country and around the world are able to access their vast resources.

Not surprisingly, as information technologies compound the ability and need to share knowledge, the demands on this unique and valuable source of knowledge are constantly growing. However, the financial resources required to meet these demands are increasingly constrained.

We invite you to get involved and to support the Smithsonian Libraries, contributing within your capacities either to the central initiatives of the Libraries or to a specific library whose collections and work aligns with your own interests and curiosity.

Come discover and explore the amazing resources of the Smithsonian Libraries and support the important role they play in maintaining and extending America’s place in the world’s scientific and cultural forums. 

Click to view a profile on the Smithsonian Libraries in Authors Guild: View the PDF

Learn more about the Smithsonian Libraries in our Fact Sheet.