Smithsonian Libraries (SIL), formerly known as Smithsonian Institution Libraries, is a library system comprising 20 branch libraries serving the various Smithsonian Institution museums and research centers, as well as central support services which include a Book Conservation Laboratory and an Imaging Center. The Libraries serve Smithsonian Institution staff as well as the scholarly community and general public with information and reference support. Its collections number over 1.5 million volumes including 40,000 rare books and 2,000 manuscripts. The Libraries also holds the nation’s largest trade literature collection, which includes over 300,000 commercial catalogs dating from the early nineteenth century and representing more than 30,000 companies.
The Libraries’ collections focus primarily on science, art, history and culture, and museology. SIL is continuously analyzing its mission and goals in order to best meet the information and knowledge needs of new generations of users, to strengthen research, and to reach through cyberspace those unable to visit the Smithsonian museums and research centers in person.
The shared SIL Catalog is part of the Smithsonian Research Information System (SIRIS) from which one can search 1.89 million records of text, images, video and sound files from across the Smithsonian Institution.
In 2008, SIL celebrated its 40th anniversary. Since 1997, the Director has been Nancy E. Gwinn, Ph.D.
Inside the Smithsonian museums and research centers in Washington, D.C., New York City, and the Republic of Panama you’ll find the Smithsonian Libraries—a network of 21 research libraries whose rich content and knowledgeable staff are available to researchers, curators, educators, and other inquisitive people across America and around the world.
Each library has its own focus, feeding intellectual curiosity in subjects ranging from natural history, geology and biodiversity, to aviation, astronomy and astrophysics, to archaeology and world cultures, to American art, and the African American experience, to philately, zoology, and much more.
Today, through its digital and educational initiatives, the Smithsonian Libraries is providing broader and deeper access to its extensive collections to scholars and the general public around the world. Discover and explore this unique American resource.