The mission of the Countway Library is to cultivate and advance education, research, scholarship and professional growth in the health and biomedical sciences by facilitating access to scholarly information and knowledge, preserving a historical record, and creating a stimulating and synergistic setting for intellectual growth.
Countway provides information and services to students and staff of:
As a department, Countway houses:
- Center for the History of Medicine
- Brigham and Women's Hospital Archives
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Archives
- Warren Anatomical Museum
The History of Countway
The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine was established in 1958. Francis Countway, was the bookkeeper for Lever Brothers, a local soap company, then became president in 1913. He supported his sister, Gussanda "Sanda" Countway, throughout her school years. When Francis died, Sanda Countway created the Countway Charitable Foundation in his memory. The funds collected by this foundation, including Sanda’s own donation, allowed Harvard University to build the Countway Library at the Harvard Medical School.
In 1960, The Boston Medical Library (BML) and the Harvard Medical School Library agreed to combine their collections and administration. This agreement led to the creation of The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. The library opened in 1965. Countway ranks as one of the largest medical libraries in the world. It serves as a resource in clinical medicine, the biomedical sciences, dentistry, and public health.
Libraries around the world are adapting to meet the fast-changing needs of the information ecosystem. As part of this evolution and following a thorough reassessment of their opportunities and priorities, HMS and BML announced in March 2022 that they are separating their collections to each pursue their individual goals. Both HMS and BML remain committed, first and foremost, to finding the best ways to serve practicing physicians and dentists, public health professionals, students, scientists, and scholars, while safeguarding these world-class collections for generations to come.
One of the most comprehensive academic health research libraries in the country and a leader in special collections and the support of historical research, the Countway Library advances the health and biomedical sciences through its robust circulating, online, and history of medicine and public health collections. It champions open knowledge and access to advance education, research, teaching, and professional growth.
For the Countway, this represents a new era of opportunity and impact. For its circulating and subscription collections, Countway is poised to more effectively participate in Harvard-wide collaborative collection development, better deploy its research and instruction team in the service of the Harvard community, and explore new ways to integrate instructional spaces in the Countway building. Its Center for the History of Medicine, which hosts an incomparable collection of research records and professional papers of Harvard’s medical, dental, and public health faculty, is now positioned to strategically augment its holdings based in part on the demonstrated shift in researcher use of its 20th and 21st century collections.
For more information about the BML, including information about access to and availability of BML materials and services, visit their website. HMS is grateful for the decades-long relationship with the BML that benefitted both institutions.