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Unveiling the rich heritage and modern services of the Royal Society of Medicine Library

Library of the Week: 3rd July : The Royal Society of Medicine Library! Find out more about the historical legacy of the RSM library as well as their current services, extensive collections, Archival treasures, rare books and much more. Thank you to Polly Clint, Customer Services Manager at the RSM Library for this brilliant post. 

The Royal Society of Medicine library, affectionately known as the RSM library, embodies a remarkable legacy and dedication to providing continuing professional development to healthcare professionals.

Established in 1805, the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) aims to be the leading provider of continuing learning to healthcare professionals. The RSM library, boasting a wealth of rare and historical books, and a comprehensive collection of current medical literature, has become a cherished resource.

The historical legacy

The society’s library holds immense historical significance. It houses an extraordinary collection of medical literature, rare books, and invaluable archives, attracting eminent medical practitioners, scientists, and scholars.

RSM library, 1st floor

The RSM library’s rare books collection comprises notable works, including early medical texts that showcase the evolution of medical knowledge. These treasures provide a glimpse into the foundations of modern medicine, offering insights into the pioneering minds that shaped the field.

Famous fellows

The RSM has welcomed illustrious fellows who have significantly contributed to the medical world throughout its history. Among the esteemed members are renowned figures such as Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, naturalist and biologist Charles Darwin, and inventor of the smallpox vaccination Edward Jenner. These distinguished fellows have left a lasting mark on medical history, their work representing the RSM’s commitment to fostering excellence and innovation. Their contributions continue to inspire generations of healthcare professionals and researchers.

Current services and offerings

RSM library, gallery

The RSM library stands at the forefront of medical information and research support, offering its members and visitors a comprehensive range of modern services.

  1. Comprehensive collection and online access: The library’s extensive collection houses over half a million volumes, including books, tracts, reports and portraits dating back to the 15th century. From contemporary publications to rare texts, the collection reflects the RSM’s dedication to multidisciplinary collaboration. Additionally, the library provides online access to many e-books, e-journals, and databases, ensuring members can explore medical literature remotely.
  2. Archival treasures and rare books: The RSM library’s archive and rare books collection preserves historical records, manuscripts, and ephemera, offering a glimpse into the medical past. With its oldest book dating back to 1471, these rare materials provide a unique opportunity for researchers to delve into the fascinating development of medical knowledge and explore the lives and works of influential figures.
  3. Study spaces and facilities: The library provides an ideal environment for study and research, equipped with quiet study spaces, group study rooms, computer workstations, and VR-powered learning. Amenities such as Wi-Fi access, printing facilities, and online resources enhance the learning experience.
  4. Research support and training: Recognising the vital role of research in advancing medical knowledge, the RSM library offers comprehensive research support services. These include assistance with complex literature searches, guidance on systematic reviews, and training sessions on effectively using the digital library and medical databases such as Medline and EMBASE.
  5. Engaging events and lectures: The RSM hosts a vibrant array of events and lectures throughout the year, with added support from the library. These gatherings bring together leading experts and practitioners to discuss cutting-edge medical topics, fostering knowledge exchange and networking opportunities among members.
RSM library, 1st floor

With its rich heritage and modern services, the RSM library remains an invaluable resource for medical professionals, students, and researchers. By preserving the past and embracing the future, the library promotes excellence in medical knowledge and education. With its comprehensive collection, online resources, study spaces, and support and training, the RSM library remains an indispensable resource, inspiring generations and shaping the future of healthcare.

Polly Clint – Customer Services Manager

All images copyright of the Royal Society of Medicine library, reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder.

Visit the RSM website, explore the collections through the RSM Library Search Hub, or contact the team at

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