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About the Countway Library

Picture of Countway LibraryThe Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine,
an alliance of the Boston Medical Library and Harvard Medical School, is one of the largest medical libraries in the world and serves the Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston Medical Library, and the Massachusetts Medical Society. The Countway Library holds more than 630,000 volumes, subscribes to 3,500 current journal titles and houses over 10,000 non-current biomedical journal titles. The library also houses one of the world's leading medical history collections, and provides access to many electronic information resources.

The Countway hosts the Center for the History of Medicine, which includes the Archives and Records Management Program for the schools of the Harvard medical area, and the Warren Anatomical Museum.




The first Boston Medical Library (BML) was founded by Doctors John C. Warren and James Jackson in 1805. The Boston Medical Library was formally organized in 1875 by Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes who served as its President. In 1960, the Boston Medical Library and the Harvard Medical School Library entered into an agreement to combine their collections and administration in a new building known as The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Each of the two original institutions continue collecting and ownership of its holdings. The combined library ranks as one of the largest medical libraries in the world. 

The Boston Medical Library is a physicians' non-profit organization incorporated in 1877. The BML mission, revised in 2004, is "to be a Library for the dissemination of medical knowledge, the promotion of medical education and scholarship, and the preservation and celebration of medical history, and thereby to advance the quality of health and healthcare of the people." Membership includes 300 fellows. The Boston Medical Library serves as a resource for the medical school faculties and medical students of Harvard Medical School, Boston University Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. In 1946, the Boston Medical Library formally became the library for the Massachusetts Medical Society

A Board of Trustees manages the BML. This group meets regularly and has fiduciary responsibility for a significant endowment which provides partial support for the Countway Library as a whole. 

The Boston Medical Library is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization.

For further reading see McCord, David (ed.) Bibliotheca Medica: Physician for Tomorrow, Boston: Harvard Medical School, 1966.

Read more background in a PDF.

Click Here to view the 2016 President's Annual Report

The Boston Medical Library presents: Less Medicine, More Health - 41st Annual Garland Lecture. View event video here


Joint Library Committee (2016 - 2017)

Charge: the Joint Committee of the Countway Medical Library (JLC) has the governance responsibility to review and approve as appropriate general regulations regarding library use; review Countway policies continually so that the combined libraries of the Boston Medical Library and the Harvard Medical Library furnish optimum service to all constituents and recommend to BML and Harvard any necessary policy changes; establish acquisition and deaccessioning programs and policies; communicate the meeting minutes promptly to the HMS Dean and the BML Board for approval or rejection of JLC decisions; review and approve as appropriate the budget prepared by the Countway Librarian and the Librarian’s periodic expense report for final approval by Harvard and the BML Trustees.  The committee meets about 4 times a year and is composed of five members from the HMS faculty, five members appointed by the Boston Medical Library and the Countway Librarian serving ex-officio. The members are as follows:

Dr. Subramanyan Jayasankar, Chair 

HMS members

Dr. Stuart Mushlin
Dr. Paul Russell
Dr. Ronald Silvestri
Dr. Thomas Byrne

BML members

Dr. Subramanyan Jayasankar
Dr. Mary Jane Houlihan
Dr. Edith Jolin
Dr. Rick Pieters
Dr. Michele Pugnaire

Ex-officio members

Dr. Sarah E. Thomas, Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian
Dr. Elaine Martin, Director and Chief Administrative Officer, Countway Library of Medicine

Invited guests

Dr. Scott Podolsky, Director, Center for the History of Medicine

Recording secretary
Kerry O’Connor, Recording Secretary