NLM Leader Retires After Long Career

Donald A.B. Lindberg’58 retired after 31 years heading the world’s largest medical library, the National Library of Medicine at the NIH. He was the library’s longest-serving director and one of the longest-serving NIH leaders.

In March 2015, health leaders from across the NIH and others honored Donald Lindberg as he retired as NLM director after more than three decades.

A March 2015 NIH tribute attended by librarians, informatics researchers, and health providers from across the country included video highlights from his 1984 swearing-in ceremony speech, during which he made predictions about the future of medical information that became reality. He predicted a time when “the book or journal on the shelf will become increasingly too remote for immediate patient-care decisions,” and he said medical informatics would emerge as a formal research field and academic discipline.

“I hope you saw how true and prescient his observations were,” noted NIH director Francis Collins at the tribute. “Don created programs that transformed our approach to information.”

Don trained as a pathologist before becoming a pioneer in the use of computers and medicine and the founding president of the American Medical Informatics Association. During his time at the NLM, the public, health providers, and scientists gained new or improved access to medical literature via PubMed and PubMed Central, to clinical trials and their results via, and to consumer health information via MedlinePlus. Establishment of the National Center for Biotechnology Information to provide access to biomedical and genomic information has been called his crowning achievement.

Donald Lindberg was sworn in as the 19th director of the National Library of Medicine in 1984. Former NIH director James Wyngaarden administered the oath. Mary Lindberg and one of the Lindbergs’ three sons, Jonathan, participated in the ceremony. 

Days before the March tribute, the NLM hosted its own farewell to Dr. and Mrs. Lindberg. “I’ve loved every day here,” Don told the group assembled. “I think you’ll continue to serve the country and the world well.”