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United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Fact Sheet
Public Services Division

The Public Services Division (PSD) offers a range of services for accessing the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) collection and information resources. Through our onsite service and an interlibrary loan network, PSD provides access to the world's largest collection of biomedical literature. Our information specialists offer reference and customer service assistance to health professionals, researchers, educators and others in need of biomedical information. We organize NLM information for access through the World Wide Web at We also offer authoritative health information for consumers, in both English and Spanish, through MedlinePlus® at and for older Americans through NIHSeniorHealth at The PSD staff carry out our mission to preserve the NLM collection of printed literature and non-print media for future generations.

Reference and Web Services Section

As the primary contact point for the public, Reference and Web Services staff respond to requests for help with all the services and programs of the Library. We receive questions through e-mail at, telephone ((888) FIND-NLM), postal mail, fax and in person from individuals and organizations in the United States and abroad. The NLM Web site provides responses to hundreds of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's).

Reference librarians help researchers in the main Reading Room during our regular hours. We help these customers use NLM LocatorPlus™, MedlinePlus, PubMed®, and a variety of electronic and print resources. (See Fact Sheet, Reference Services.) The NLM Main Reading Room has an extensive reference collection of key directories, indexes, textbooks and atlases. In addition, we provide a five-year collection of major medical journals for self-service. Equipment to view materials from NLM’s audiovisual collection is also available in the Reading Room (See Fact Sheet, Access to Audiovisual Materials)

The Reference and Web Services Section staff provide leadership and support in technology and health content for the Library and many key products . The Section's primary responsibilities include MedlinePlus, the library's consumer health Web site, the MedlinePlus GoLocal site; and, in partnership with the National Institute of Aging, and other NIH Institutes the NIHSeniorHealth Web site. The Section also leads the design and content management of the NLM Web site.

Collection Access Section

Access to NLM's collection of printed journal literature published after 1870 and books published after 1913, as well as more than 30,000 current audiovisual materials, is available through the Collection Access Section. (Earlier materials are managed by the History of Medicine Division.) Onsite patrons are provided materials through an onsite stack retrieval service (stacks are not open to the public). Photocopiers, microfilm and microfiche readers are available for patron use in the Reading Room.

Offsite health professionals can access NLM's materials offsite through the interlibrary loan service. Requests for copies of journal articles and loans of books or audiovisuals must be made through local and regional libraries. Requests are forwarded to NLM when the material is not available elsewhere in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine® (NN/LM®).

NLM's Collection Access Section also manages DOCLINE®, NLM's automated interlibrary loan request, routing, and referral system. More than 3,000 health science libraries across the U.S. and Canada, and many libraries abroad, use DOCLINE to send and receive document requests. DOCLINE is also linked to PubMed through a feature called Loansome Doc®. This enables health professionals to send requests for articles to their library electronically. (See Fact Sheets, Interlibrary Loan Policy, DOCLINE and Loansome Doc.) All requests are processed within four days of receipt; most are processed within one day. Clinical emergency requests are processed and transmitted electronically within two hours of receipt. (Actual physical volumes are not loaned outside the United States.)

Preservation and Collection Management Section

The Preservation and Collection Management Section is responsible for ensuring that NLM's collection remains accessible and in useable condition and that the information in older, deteriorating materials is preserved for future users. Preservation functions include binding, conservation treatment and book repair, reformatting deteriorated print and audiovisual materials, preserving digital images, disaster prevention and recovery, monitoring collection storage conditions and preservation awareness and training for staff and users. Collection management functions include collection inventories, shelving, shelfreading, shifting, collection security, space planning and identifying materials in need of treatment or replacement. Section staff evaluate developments in preservation methods, equipment, supplies and services and provide consultation to other biomedical libraries on their preservation needs. (See Fact Sheet, Preservation Program.)

A complete list of NLM Fact Sheets is available at:
(alphabetical list)
(subject list):

Or write to:

Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Library of Medicine 
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20894 

Phone: (301) 496-6308
Fax: (301) 496-4450

Last updated: 29 October 2005
First published: 27 December 2000
Metadata| Permanence level: Permanent: Stable Content
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