Special Library in Focus: The American Museum of Natural History Library
Background Info on the Museum & Library: Luckily for me, I was able to visit the library of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) with a staff group. I did not realize that their library is open to the public, and I was not aware of the amount of empirical research that goes on in the museum. The museum is focused on the natural sciences, the earth and animals. There are about 200 scientists that work for the museum, and the library is a METRO member. The library is a special library and academic library. There is a graduate school attached to the museum in which students study comparative biology. The museum publishes three journals.
Online library: There are many databases available electronically, either with no restrictions on location of access (world symbol) or available on site in the Research Library of the AMNH.
- AMNH Library catalog
- AMNH Digital Library
- AMNH Library Citation & Full Text Database
- AMNH Library Online Reference Shelf
- AMNH Research Sites
- NASA Astrophysics Data System
- AMNH / Scholastic – Journey into Space
Education department online resources:
Physical library: The physical library is open to the public Tuesday through Thursday 2 p.m.-5 p.m. High school students (or any student group) could have a tour of the library if they would like. The public is welcome to use the materials in the library. They cannot borrow books. Photocopying for the newer books is available for 25 cents per page. For older materials, the library staff asks that customers bookmark which pages they would like photocopied, and the staff will photocopy the pages for them. Materials in the closed stacks can be paged by filling out a call slip and submitting it to staff. Items can be placed on reserve to facilitate access to materials at a later time. There is mainly information on earth science, zoology, astronomy, astrophysics, anthropology and animal natural sciences in the library, some in foreign languages, including German and French. Users of the library include PhD and postdoctoral students, as well as staff of the museum.
The library consists of 14 full-time staff, including the director, reference librarian, a conservator, acquisitions, cataloging and special collections departments (Special collections includes non-print materials such as photographs, moving images, archives and manuscripts, and art and museum memorabilia). The library is very open, spacious, and inviting. There are tables where people can work and comfortable chairs to sit in. Wi-fi access is present. There are display cases with artifacts and framed photographs decorate the library. It is a beautiful facility that is useful for those doing advanced research in the natural sciences. The library consists mainly of books (e.g., dog breeds) and journals relating to the natural sciences (e.g., zoology), but also including a fair amount of reference books, including a Chinese-English dictionary. There are also five computers for database access.
The museum does have an off-site storage facility, and there are libraries in the specific research departments, which are often small and highly specialized. The library is working towards adding all of the materials in the department libraries to the online catalog to increase accessibility of the items. The library enhances its collections through donations and grants. The library is also a part of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is an effort to digitize materials relating to the biological sciences and make them free to users to prevent extinction and make the material accessible to users who do not live in large urban areas.
My experience working in a medical library: I have relatives in medical professions, including two nurse aunts and two medical physicists (an uncle and a sister). I also had the occasion to work in the library of a medical communications company. We worked to digitize our journal collection there. I also worked on augmenting a database we had that consisted of medical meetings and journals. The company had staff that worked with professors at universities to publish their manuscripts as articles in medical journals.
- American Association of Museums
- Special Library Association
- Journals on natural history
- Databases on natural history
- NYPL books on natural history
- Science, Industry, Business Library of NYPL