United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Fact Sheet
Preservation and Collection Management Program

In response to its mandate to preserve and provide access to the biomedical literature, the National Library of  Medicine (NLM) has developed an extensive preservation program.  Elements of the program include:


  • Reformatting fragile and deteriorated materials
  • Binding
  • Book repair and conservation
  • Disaster prevention and recovery
  • Environmental monitoring of collection storage areas
  • Preserving digital formats

Collection Management

Reformatting Program

Condition surveys conducted in 1985 and 2000 indicated that 12% of NLM's print collection was on acidic paper that has become brittle over time. In 1986, the Library began an ambitious program of microfilming brittle serials and monographs in core medical subjects. First priority was given to serials indexed in Index Medicus® and the Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General’s Office. Second priority was given to monographs in deteriorated condition. Between 1986 and 2006 when the microfilming program ended, the Library microfilmed approximately 105,000 volumes. Within copyright restrictions, the Library permits purchase of microfilm copies of the titles it has filmed. For order information consult the Microfilm Sales Program Fact Sheet.

In 2003, NLM began digitizing back issues of some of the journals in PubMed Central® (PMC). For more information see www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/about/scanning.html. In 2007, NLM began a new preservation reformatting program to convert other deteriorated print materials to digital form. NLM also reformats motion pictures and videos that are of historical value and in deteriorating condition or in formats that are becoming obsolete.

Library Binding

NLM contractors prepare and bind approximately 20,000 serial and monograph volumes per year. Preservation and Collection Management staff members work closely with the contractors to ensure that preservation quality standards are met.

Conservation and Book Repair

NLM has a long-standing program for the conservation of valuable materials in its History of Medicine Division collection. HMD staff manage contracts for off-site conservation services. In addition, NLM has an on-site lab for simple repair of volumes from the general collection and treatment of historical print and photographic materials.

Disaster Prevention and Recovery

The library has in place a comprehensive plan for protecting the collection and salvaging materials should they become damaged by flood or fire. Staff have been assigned to teams and trained in collection recovery procedures. An extensive collection of disaster supplies and equipment is kept on hand.

Environmental Monitoring

Maintaining stable cool and dry conditions in storage areas is the single most effective way to ensure the longevity of library collections. NLM has placed temperature and relative humidity measuring equipment throughout the stacks and monitors conditions at all times.

Journal Donation Program

The Journal Donation Program is designed to encourage libraries to donate print journals, indexes, and other serials they no longer wish to retain.  If you are a DOCLINE library, use the Web based system found at www.nlm.nih.gov/journaldonation/ to find out what NLM needs.  You can find this link from the NLM Home Page at www.nlm.nih.gov under "Librarians."  If you are not a DOCLINE library, please contact us.  This system allows you to donate volumes that are not already in our collection.  (For pre-1871 journal volumes, the History of Medicine Division also is interested in replacing deteriorating volumes.  For more information go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/about/donate.html.)

NLM will pay shipping for volumes we need.

To contact the Journal Donation Program, please call (301) 496-0081 or send an email to NLMJournalDonation@mail.nih.gov

Preserving Digital Formats

PubMed Central is NLM’s digital archive of life sciences journal literature in electronic form. See www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/about/intro.html. In 2007, NLM staff drafted requirements and began working on creating a repository for other digital materials in the collection. The Library also has developed a system of permanence ratings that indicate to users whether the location, content or availability of resources on NLM’s main web site are subject to change and created an online archive for permanent NLM web site resources that have become outdated.

Collection Management

NLM staff and contractors shelve and shelf read the collection, identify and resolve problems with missing or damaged materials, oversee collection security procedures, conduct collection inventories, analyze space needs and develop plans to accommodate collection growth.

 For further information please contact:

Preservation and Collection Management Section
National Library of Medicine
Rm B1E21
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
Phone: (301) 496-8124
Fax: (301) 435-2922



A complete list of NLM Fact Sheets is available at:
(alphabetical list) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/factsheets.html
(subject list): http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/factsubj.html

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
email: publicinfo@nlm.nih.gov

Last reviewed: 09 March 2009
Last updated: 09 March 2009
First published: 01 September 1985
Metadata| Permanence level: Permanent: Stable Content
Previous version