About the Library Collections

Circulating Books

The circulating books are located on the 12th floor of the library. Included in these collections are approximately 20,000 textbooks on a variety of health care topics, dating from the 1960s to the present time.

All of these books can be checked out of the library for 56 days with an option to renew for an additional 28 days. Students, faculty and staff of the Boston University, the Boston Medical Center, and members of the Boston Library Consortium are eligible to check out books from the library. Click for more information on the library’s circulation services or to search the Library Catalog.

Electronic Books

The library offers access to multiple health-related ebook packages, as well as the one million+ electronic books available through the BU Libraries System.

Please note that electronic book access is often restricted to faculty, staff and students of Boston University. Please contact a reference librarian for information on subscription restrictions.

History of Medicine

The History of Medicine collection is located on the 12th floor of the library. This collection is comprised of older, historically relevant texts as well as current texts on the history of medicine and healthcare. Many of the textbooks in the History of Medicine collection circulate outside the library. These are designated as “Medical History” in the Library Catalog. Those texts that are extremely fragile or valuable are part of the archival collection.

[See Archives]

Reference Books

Reference books are housed on the 12th floor of the library, behind the Reference Desk. They are identified by the “Medical Reference” designation in the Library Catalog. The reference area consists primarily of directories, indexes, encyclopedias, dictionaries and bibliographies. Reference books do not normally circulate outside the library, but patrons are welcome to use them in-house.

Reserve Books

Books on Reserve are located behind the Circulation desk in the Reserve area. Reserve books are designated as “Medical Reserve” in the Library Catalog and do not normally circulate outside the library. The reserve collections include the most popular, current editions of clinical biomedical textbooks. Because reserve texts are so popular, use is limited to 2 hours per person.

Electronic Journals

The library purchases many health-related e-journals and journal packages, as well as providing access to the 150,000 electronic journal titles available in the Journals Subset of the BU Libraries System.

Please note that electronic journal subscriptions are often restricted to faculty, staff and students of Boston University. Please contact a reference librarian for information on subscription restrictions.

Print Journals

All current journal subscriptions are purchased in electronic format.

Older issues of both current and discontinued titles are shelved in offsite storage. Interlibrary loan requests can retrieve desired articles at no charge. Journals can be identified in the Library Catalog by doing a “title” search for the journal title. Please ask at the front desk if you have questions.

Print journals are identified by the “Medical Library Journal” designation in the Library Catalog. Journal collections include professional, health-related titles only. Journals do not circulate outside the library.

3D Models

The following 3D anatomical models are located behind the Circulation desk in the Reserve area:

3D models are available for in-library use only, and may be checked out for up to two hours (renewals are allowed if no other students have requested the model).


Included in the archival collection are rare, valuable or fragile historical texts, as well as memorabilia such as photographs, graduation records, school catalogs, department newsletters, annual reports, medical instrumentation, and other materials representative of the Boston University Medical Campus’s activities and achievements. Archives are located in a secured area, and are available to the public by appointment only. Contact A’Llyn Ettien at (617) 358-4488 or for more information about archival materials. Information about specific collections may be found on this ArchivesSpace finding aid, though it is not a complete listing of archival holdings.

Archives Online: The majority of the Medical Library’s collection of historical and modern publications from Boston University, the BU School of Medicine and the BU Medical Campus has been digitized and is available online in the digital repository OpenBU. Photos of some physical artifacts from the archives are visible at this link.

Click to view timelines for the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and Boston University Medical Center, the Goldman School of Dental Medicine, or Boston University as a whole. Click for a list of Deans of the School of Medicine.

Click here to view an online copy of Rebecca Lee Crumpler’s A Book of Medical Discourses : in Two Parts hosted by the National Library of Medicine. Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler (click for a BU Medicine tribute) holds a place in American history as the first African-American woman to receive an MD. Rebecca Lee received a Doctress of Medicine degree in 1864 from the New England Female Medical College, which merged with Boston University and became the BU School of Medicine in 1873.


The library provides access to over 200 electronic databases. Access to a variety of databases, including PubMed, CINAHL, ERIC, PsycInfo, Web of Science, and many others, is available to eligible users. Paid subscription databases require authentication using BU login information.

Print Indexes

The library owns a number of historical print indexes including Index Medicus and others. Some indexes are shelved on the 12th floor and some are held in offsite storage (see location information in catalog listings). Please ask a librarian if you have questions about access to these materials.

[See Databases, above, for information about electronic indexes.]