What is the National Network of Libraries of Medicine?

What is the National Network of Libraries of Medicine?

Coordinators from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) hear that question a lot. NNLM is a government program, coordinated by the National Library of Medicine, and carried out through a nationwide network of health science libraries and information centers. Its mission is to advance the progress of medicine and improve the public health by providing access to biomedical and health information. NNLM has been around in one form or another for over 40 years. To understand what it does now, it helps to have some background knowledge of where it came from.

National Library of Medicine

In 1836 the Library of the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army was established in Washington D.C., with a budget of $150 for medical books. Over the next century, this library went through several moves and name changes, and was finally rechristened the National Library of Medicine in 1956. The largest biomedical library in the world, it is one of the National Institutes of Health located in Bethesda, Maryland and the building is roughly the size of four football fields.

The Regional Medical Library Program

In 1965, The Medical Library Assistance Act authorized the National Library of Medicine to develop a national system of Regional Medical Libraries. Eleven regional health science libraries were funded to provide resource sharing and interlibrary loan services via DOCLINE across US medical school libraries. By the late 1980s the mission of the program included outreach to health professionals and a focus on regional needs.

The National Network of Libraries of Medicine

The Regional Medical Library Program was renamed the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) in 1991. At this time, the network was configured into 8 regions that remain today. In the years since, the National Library of Medicine has gone through many different changes that have been echoed in the work of NNLM. When the National Library of Medicine began making its collection available online via PubMed and MedlinePlus, NNLM began providing outreach and training to the public on these resources through public libraries, community, and faith-based organizations. The charge of NNLM was expanded to include a focus on outreach to special and underserved populations and this was implemented by offering funding to network members and exhibiting at conferences and events.

The MidContinental Region

The MidContinental Region (MCR) of NNLM includes Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming. It is administered through the University of Utah’s Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, but each state in the region has a dedicated outreach coordinator. In addition to its focus on health information outreach, the MCR also concentrates on areas such as community and library engagement, education, research enterprise, rural health, and technology.


All courses and webinars offered by NNLM are free of charge and many offer free continuing education credits through the Medical Library Association. The MidContinental Region hosts a monthly information webinar called Breezing Along with the RML that features a variety of topics relevant to librarianship, health sciences, technology, research, and community outreach. Additional webinars, as well as in-person and online courses, are frequently made available from the MCR and other regions of NNLM. Visit the national Training Schedule for a list of all upcoming training opportunities.


To help Network members better serve the health needs of their community, NNLM offers funding for projects that improve access to health information, increase engagement with research and data, expand professional knowledge, and support outreach that promotes awareness and use of NLM resources in local communities.

Your State Coordinator

Each state in the MidContinental Region has an embedded state outreach coordinator. In Colorado, Dana Abbey works out of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Library. She is happy to serve as a resource for any health information needs throughout the state of Colorado or in the Denver Metro area. She can be reached at dana.abbey@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2110. Dana also exhibits at CALCON each year, so please stop by and say “hi”!

NNLM Membership

Membership in the National Network of Libraries of Medicine is free and easy. You don’t have to be a medical library to join, you don’t even have to be a library. Any organization that shares health information is welcome to sign up and take advantage of our training and funding opportunities and join our community. Benefits of Network membership include a certificate of recognition, training opportunities, eligibility for project funding, document delivery services, emergency preparedness planning and response, and partnerships with other NNLM members.