National Zoological Park Library

The evolution of the Libraries’ outreach at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park (NZP) and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) reflects how profoundly American zoos have changed in the last 50 years. What used to be called wildlife management is now conservation biology, and the traditional study of animals based on physical characteristics has evolved into investigation based on genetic distinctiveness. As the care and study of wild animals become increasingly sophisticated, the Libraries’ expanding collections and evolving services are more critically needed than ever before.

Located on the grounds of the 160-acre Zoo in Washington, D.C. and the 3,100-acre campus of SCBI in Front Royal, Virginia, the Libraries supports research into species survival as well as the daily care and feeding of more than 1,800 animals of 300 different species. Opened in 1898, the library is one of the oldest in continuing existence at the Smithsonian. The Libraries’ print and online collections focus on topics such as genetics, comparative reproductive physiology, animal cognition, endocrinology, sustainability of endangered animal populations, conservation medicine, and biological diversity. Librarians also offer extensive training for staff on searching complex online databases that house medical and scientific publications.

In 1975, the zoo launched several long-term breeding programs which evolved over the years to include an endocrine research lab, a molecular genetics lab, and a global health program. At each phase of expansion, the library accelerated its acquisitions of state-of-the-art information resources in those areas. Presently the SCBI serves as an umbrella for the Smithsonian’s global effort to conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. As NZP has evolved so have the services provided by the Libraries. Now in addition to supporting the on-site animal care and research activities, librarians regularly provide the researchers conducting studies from locations worldwide with the information and scholarly support services they need using advanced technology for collaboration.