The National Library of Medicine's Reference and Web Services Section welcomes applications for its volunteer program, from:

  • undergraduate students in any discipline,
  • graduate students in library science or information studies, and
  • other qualified individuals of any age and background who want to offer their experiences and skills.

The RWS volunteer program offers real-world, hands-on, and results-oriented experience in the largest medical library in the world with one of the finest medical collections and online resources. NLM/RWS is an Official Certifying Organization for the President's Volunteer Service Awards, an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Individuals who participate in this program can expect a valuable introduction to a unique part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS rated in the Top-20 in The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.

Under the direct supervision of permanent library staff, selected volunteers will undertake projects, or a combination of projects based on their interests, skills, and the needs of the National Library of Medicine.

We offer volunteer opportunities in the following administrative and program areas:

  • Circulation and Reference Desk Assistance
  • Clerical and Administrative Assistance
  • Collection Development and Management
  • Data Mining and Analysis
  • Social Media and Publicity
  • Instruction and Outreach
  • Research and Writing
  • Web Support and Development


You can apply to volunteer with us if you are at least 18 years old, able to work any time between 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday, and you are:

  • offering your services on your own time,
  • donating your service as a member of a volunteer or charitable organization,
  • receiving fellowship or stipend support from outside organizations with whom you have non-employment relationships,
  • working at outside organizations, on a sabbatical, or a leave of absence, or
  • volunteering services unrelated to your official duties and responsibilities (if a federal government employee), and outside of your normal work hours.

Bring your government- or school-issued identification with you. Also, you must have your own health insurance and show proof of coverage.

If you are a permanent resident, the NIH Division of International Services (DIS), Office of Research Services (ORS) must approve you to volunteer. Contact the NIH DIS/ORS at 301-496-6166.

Special requirements for non-immigrant foreign nationals: You must have appropriate visas that support activities at NIH.

Unfortunately, due to regulations, volunteer services may not be accepted from individuals who are:

  • Commissioned Officers in the U.S. Public Health Service or members of other uniformed services, or
  • Paid employees of outside organizations who are not on sabbaticals or leaves of absence, unless their volunteer service is on their own time


Pay: You will not be paid to volunteer.

Learning Credit: Students who want course credit for volunteering should arrange this with their academic advisors.

Time Commitment: Depending on needs of the RWS and matching with candidate availability, and always between 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday - Friday.

Transhare: You can apply for Transhare to help with the costs of getting to and from the Library.

How to Apply

Interested persons should send the following materials via the contact form to Reference and Web Services in the Public Services Division:

  • a cover letter explaining your:
    • interests, skills, and expertise and the NLM/RWS program area(s) of specific interest, including how your background would benefit the program area(s) of specific interest,
    • availability, including how many hours per week could be offered, and for how long (e.g. 3 months, 6 months, etc.), and
  • your current resume.

The NLM highly encourages applicants from diverse backgrounds to apply.

Please note that NLM/RWS volunteer opportunities do not result in employment with the NLM.

For questions about the History of Medicine Volunteer program, click here.