National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world, started in 1818 as a shelf of books the office of the Surgeon General
The National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world, began in 1818 as the US Army Medical Library, in Washington, DC, essentially a shelf of books in the office of Joseph Lovell, then Surgeon General and the head of the Army Medical Department. By the time of the Civil War the book collection consisted of about 2000 volumes and, no longer fitting in the office, was moved to a bank building.
The library, then as now, was constantly running out of space.
In 1962, the library would move to a large new building in Bethesda. There were more than 50 miles of underground bookshelves, and a roof in the shape of a hyperbolic paraboloid. The roof was intended to collapse in the event of an atom bomb, thus protecting the books, if not, perhaps, the librarians.
By 1972, librarians used MEDLINE searches about 140 000 times; today, the annual number of searches of its descendent, MEDLINE/PubMed, is over 2 billion.
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Information on a global scale: the National Library of Medicine : The Lancet http://buff.ly/1r19FmF
Image source: OpenClipArt.org (public domain).