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United States National Agricultural Library (NAL)


The United States National Agricultural Library (NAL) is one of the world's largest agricultural research libraries and serves as a national library of the United States and as the library of the United States Department of Agriculture. Located in Beltsville, Maryland, it is one of five national libraries of the United States (along with the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, the National Transportation Library, and the National Library of Education). It is also the coordinator for the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC), a national network of state land-grant institutions and coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) field libraries. NAL was established on May 15, 1862, by the signing of the Organic Act by Abraham Lincoln. It served as a departmental library until 1962, when the Secretary of Agriculture officially designated it as the National Agricultural Library. The first librarian, appointed in 1867, was Aaron B. Grosh. The National Agricultural Library houses one of the world's largest collections devoted to agriculture and its related sciences.⁽¹⁾⁽³⁾ NAL already provides access to all items in its collection through its physical location, but the Library is continually working toward delivering its collections to customers anywhere and anytime using the global reach of the Internet and the flexibility of digital formats. The NAL Digital Collections offers one avenue by which customers can use collection materials available in digital format, whether those materials originated in that format or were converted to it later. The NAL Digital Collections offers rich searching, browsing, and retrieval of digital materials and collections and provides reliable, long-term online access to selected publications⁽⁴⁾. 


  • Location, Facilities, and Street View
  • Library Hours
  • Special Collections Hours
  • National Agricultural Library Images
  • History of the National Agricultural Library
  • Metadata Formats Accepted at the National Agricultural Library



The National Agricultural Library is located in Beltsville, Maryland, 15 miles northeast of Washington, DC, near the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Interstates 95 and 495 (Beltway Exit 25-North).

National Agricultural Library 10301 Baltimore Avenue Beltsville, MD 20705


The main library is housed in the Abraham Lincoln Building, a seventeen-story facility on the grounds of the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland. NAL also operates a Washington, D.C., branch known as the DC Reference Center, which is located in the USDA's South Building.

Street View


  • 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday - Friday
  • Closed on Federal holidays


  • 8:30 AM to Noon and 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Monday - Friday
  • By appointment only


United States National Agricultural Library (NAL)
Abraham Lincoln Building of the United States National Agricultural Library 
(Image credit: USDA-ARS, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

United States National Agricultural Library (NAL)
Lobby of the United States National Agricultural Library in 2018 
(Image credit: Antony-22, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

United States National Agricultural Library (NAL)
United States National Agricultural Library (NAL)
(Image credit: Steve Evans, via Flickr)


NAL was established as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Library on May 15, 1862, by the signing of the Organic Act by Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, the library's collection comprised 1,000 volumes that had been transferred from the U.S. Patent Office's Agricultural Division. By 1889, the library's collection had increased to 20,000 volumes, and a librarian from Amherst College was hired to create a classification system for the library's collection. At this time, the library was located on the second floor of the Department of Agriculture's main building. In 1893, William Cutter was hired as Librarian of the Department, and he began a reorganization effort to modernize the library and improve its effectiveness. His primary achievement was consolidating the library's collection of 38,000 volumes into one central library; previously, more than half of the library's collection was held in divisional libraries across the United States. By 1900, the library's collection contained 68,000 volumes, and in 1915, the library was moved to a larger facility in the Bieber Office Building at 1358 B Street SW, Washington, DC. The library moved again in 1932 to facilities in the USDA's South Building on Independence Avenue. In 1934, the collection reached 250,000 volumes in size, and the library began participating in the Bibliofilm Service, which, along with the American Documentation Institute and the Science Service, supplied microfilm copies of articles to scientists. This was the first large-scale attempt by a library to provide copies of library materials to patrons rather than the original documents, and during its first year, over 300,000 copies were distributed. During World War II, the Department of Agriculture underwent reorganization to address wartime needs. The library, which had been decentralized since 1920, was consolidated into a central facility under the direction of Department Librarian Ralph R. Shaw. On May 23, 1962, the 100th anniversary of the library's establishment, Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman officially designated the library as the National Agricultural Library, making it the third national library in the United States. In 1964, funds were appropriated by Congress to begin planning for a new library facility in Beltsville, Maryland, on the grounds of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Construction on the new facility began in 1965, and it first opened in 1969. In 2000, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman designated the building as the Abraham Lincoln Building.⁽¹⁾


Publishers have the option of submitting metadata in one of the three formats noted below. The preferred format is MODS, unless the publisher has already created records in JATS or NLM DTD.  MODS records require the least amount of preprocessing by NAL staff and will be available in AGRICOLA more rapidly than those in either or JATS or the NLM DTD.   Templates and sample records are provided in attachments below⁽²⁾.

Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS)

Publisher data formatted in MODS will be processed more rapidly.

Journal Article Tag Suite (JATS)

JATS Journal Archiving and Interchange Tag Suite Version 1.0 will be accepted as will its predecessor NLM DTD 3.0. However, the current version of JATS is preferred.


This was the original NLM template for submitting metadata for Medline/PubMed. All Versions of the NLM DTD up to 2.6 will be accepted.



1. Wikipedia, "United States National Agricultural Library," (accessed November 8, 2020).

2. National Agricultural Library, "What metadata formats will be accepted?," (accessed November 8, 2020).

3. National Agricultural Library,  (accessed November 8, 2020).

4. National Agricultural Library, "National Agricultural Library Digital Collections Policy," (accessed November 8, 2020).