Access Options for the Smithsonian Community

The Libraries offers a wide variety of physical and electronic services and collections to the Smithsonian Community. This page outlines the options for the Smithsonian Community about how to access and borrow these materials.

Electronic Access | Types of Accounts | Borrowing and Requesting Materials | Renewing or Returning Materials | Recalls | Fines and Lost Books

Electronic Access

The Libraries maintains subscription access for the Smithsonian Community to a wide variety of electronic databases, journals, and e-books. These can be accessed when anyone is connected to the Smithsonian network.

Types of Accounts

A Library Account is used to check out items from the Libraries’ branches. Information about the types of library accounts and how to request them can be found on Get a Library Account.
An ILLiad account is used to request items from the Libraries’ branch locations and via Interlibrary Loan from outside institutions, print and electronic. A Library Account is needed to create an ILLiad account

Borrowing and Requesting Materials

From Smithsonian Libraries’ Branches:

  • Most of the Libraries’ branches allow lending of materials to Smithsonian Community members for use on Smithsonian property. Libraries’ collections materials should be treated like any Smithsonian collection items and are covered by Smithsonian Directive 600.
  • It is not necessary to visit the library branch. Obtain books, book chapters, or articles from another Smithsonian Libraries branch by submitting an ILLiad request. Many physical items can be delivered directly to your Smithsonian office via interoffice mail. Scans/PDFs are delivered electronically to your ILLiad account.
  • Each library branch has its own policies regarding what materials may be checked out and for how long. Generally, you can borrow as many items as you need for the following loan periods:
Material   Permanent Smithsonian Community Members Non-permanent Smithsonian Community Members
Books     Six months One month
Microforms and Audiovisual Materials One month One month
Bound Journals One week One week

From beyond the Smithsonian Libraries, Interlibrary Loan:

  • Anyone with a Smithsonian Library Account is eligible to request materials. Badge holders must have no fewer than 30 days remaining before separation in order to request materials from other libraries.
  • Submit an ILLiad request for articles, book chapters, books, and other materials from other libraries around the world. Use the “Get it from another library via ILLiad” link from OneSearch and many of our databases to automatically complete the ILLiad request form.
  • For more information, see the ILLiad User Guide.
  • Questions about Interlibrary Loan? Contact the librarian at your selected library branch, or the Resource Sharing & Delivery department at 202-633-1245 or

Renewing or Returning Materials

You are expected to renew or return the books as soon as possible after receiving notification. You will receive notices by email. 

  • Return all physical library materials on or before the due date to any Smithsonian Libraries branch location or at the Smithsonian Archives reference desk in Capital Gallery.
    • Smithsonian Libraries books can also be returned through interoffice mail to any Smithsonian Libraries branch.
    • Books with a colored paper band around the front cover indicate it is an Interlibrary Loan book. Interlibrary Loan books may not be sent via Smithsonian interoffice mail. These materials which have been borrowed from other institutions must be returned by hand directly to Smithsonian Libraries or Smithsonian Archives locations.
  • Renew Smithsonian Libraries books by contacting a library branch or, or you can easily renew items yourself online. From the library catalog:
    • Click the tab labeled “My Account” and log in using your library card number.
    • Click “Items Out” from the Account Overview or “Checked Out” from the top menu bar.
    • Check the box next to the item(s) and click the “Renew” button. You should notice the due dates changing on the right-hand side.
  • Renew Interlibrary Loan books from other library systems by submitting a request via ILLiad or by contacting the Resource Sharing & Delivery department at 202-633-1245 or
    • Lending libraries lend materials for a wide range of periods, from 30 days to 4 months. Loan periods, renewals, and restrictions for use are determined by the lending library.
    • Requests to renew material must be made at least 4 days prior to the due date. There is no limit to the number of times you may renew books, but in some circumstances, a renewal may not be possible.


  • If you receive a notice that an item you have is being recalled, the notice will indicate the new due date for that item. 
  • All books are subject to recall after they have been checked out for 14 days.
  • If an item is checked out and you need it sooner than its current due date, submit an interlibrary loan request via the ILLiad Request Form.

Fines and Lost Books

  • Smithsonian Libraries does not charge overdue fines. You are encouraged to renew before it is due.
  • If a book is lost or damaged beyond repair, a processing fee of $50.00 will be charged. Additionally, you have the option of replacing the book with one acceptable to the branch librarian or, if replacement is not possible, a charge of $150.00 will be levied.